March 16, 2005

Baseball's Freshmen Play Strong Roles

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The baseball team is only three games into its 25-contest schedule, having taken two-out-of-three against West Virginia last weekend. However, the fact that it is so early in the season, makes the rapid progress of the freshman class a very positive sign. In just three games, the freshman trio of Brian Kaufman, Ry Kagan, and Jimmy Heinz, have started in a combined six of them, with each already contributing to the team’s success.

“Obviously it is hard to tell from just three games,” said Cornell head coach Tom Ford. “But we still look at that and the way each has been performing in practice. So far, all three have been progressing well … They seem to have hit the ground running and don’t seem to be intimidated by anything.”

Thus far, Kaufman is the most accomplished of the group, starting all three contests in the outfield and batting in the number two hole in front of senior shortstop Matt Miller. In his first collegiate contest last Saturday, Kaufman collected a walk and an RBI, without registering a hit. However, in the second game of the doubleheader, he showed a glimpse of what can be expected for the rest of the season, as the freshman went 2-4 with two runs, including a one-out triple in the third inning. Both of Kaufman’s runs proved to be crucial for the Red, as the team held on for a 7-5 victory.

“Brian has done a nice job so far hitting up in the lineup,” Ford said. “He has gotten some hits and some walks and is really working the count well. He can also run and he uses all of his tools to his advantage. With his defense and offense, we expect Brian to stay at the top of the order.”

Along with Kaufman, Kagan has started a pair of games in the outfield, and was substituted into the game as a defensive replacement in the third. In his first collegiate at-bat, Kagan stepped to the plate with runners on second and third with one-out, and stoked an RBI single to center to give the Red to a 1-0 lead. He later came around to score in the inning, as Cornell put together a four run inning. For the day, Kagan was 1-2 with two runs and a RBI. For his strong play, he was rewarded with a start in centerfield in game two of Saturday’s doubleheader.

“We expect to have Ry’s bat in the lineup,” Ford said. “We need to make sure he keeps his strikeouts to a minimum. We have been working on some things with his swing and we think he is going to be a guy that is going to add to our offense.”

As for Heinz, he will battling for the third base job with sophomore Jim Hyland. For now, the two will form a platoon, as Heinz started the second game last Saturday, collecting a hit in four at-bats.

“[Hyland and Heinz] are both quite accomplished defensively,” Ford said. “Jim Hyland will also be pitching for us so we will need Heinz to play third when he is on the mound.”

Ford will definitely learn a little more about his freshmen trio next week when the baseball team travels Bradenton, Fla. for eight games in as many days.

“All three of them are competitors and want to be in the lineup, just like everyone else,” Ford said. “We need to see some things out. The important part of our season is yet to come and we need to get some guys some at-bats. We need to make sure we have the right combination going into league play. We are still going into the games [in Florida] to win.”

Archived article by Bryan Pepper
Sun Assistant Sports Editor