Everybody complains about the weather in Ithaca, but for the softball team it’s much more serious than walking through the wind and snow to make it to class. The Red (3-4) have yet to practice outdoors — and more importantly, have been unable to get practice in game situations that could make or break the season once Ivy League play begins. To solve this problem, the Red will travel to Kissimmee, Fla., for spring break, where the team will face 12 opponents in eight days.
“Everything that we’ve done [and] everything that we do over the next two weeks is preparation for Ivies,” head coach Dick Blood said. “We’re trying to get our returning players back on comfortable ground and trying to get our freshmen enough at bats or enough innings on the mound or enough innings on defense so they feel comfortable. That’s the real goal right now.”
The Red’s first chance to hone its game will come in the Stetson Invitational, where it will face Alabama A&M, Stetson (15-9), and Iona (2-1). Iona, another New York school struggling with the weather, will be facing the same difficulties as Cornell due to lacking of field experience this year. Alabama A&M — which has already played more than 20 games this season — and Stetson will have an edge over their snowed-in opponents.
“Those schools will have been outside a great deal,” Blood said. “A couple years ago when we played Stetson, they were 28-4, and it was our first day on turf. The northern teams will always be present by that challenge.”
The Rebel Games will give Cornell a level playing field later in the week. With over 150 teams from across the country competing at the Kissimmee complex over five weeks each spring, the Rebel Games give teams like Cornell a chance to rack up innings. The Red will face familiar competition, as Hartford (0-0), Siena (3-1), Niagara (3-1), Vermont (3-0), and Albany (2-3) are all making their way south to get in time outdoors.
“They’ll all have the same challenge as we do with respect to the weather and with respect to games played,” Blood said. “The level playing field is weather. Probably none of these clubs have been outside.”
This cannot be said for Troy State (21-10) and Bethune-Cookman (20-14), both of whom the Red will also face at the Rebel Games. Bethune-Cookman has six players who have already stepped up to the plate more than 90 times this season. With only seven games played, Cornell players are nowhere near that number — a fact that Blood believes has prevented his players from working out preseason kinks.
“We’re trying to get our returning players back on comfortable ground and trying to get our freshmen enough at bats or enough innings on the mound or enough innings on defense so the feel comfortable,” he said. “That’s the real goal right now.”
The opportunity to play 16 games over the vacation will give the Red a chance to settle in on the mound and at the plate.
“This gives our pitchers a chance to get on the mound,” Blood said. “They’re going to throw a lot. Who’s going to be our closer, which of the three is going to be our starter — that’s something we’ll determine.”
Junior Whitney Smith and freshmen Jenn Lesczinski and Jen Meunier will take turns in the circle for the Red. Smith is 1-2 on the year, while Lesczinski earned her first career win over Delaware last weekend. Meunier provided solid support in the doubleheader against Delaware, giving up a single hit in 3.2 innings in the second game.
The sheer number of games will give Blood plenty of chances to play with the lineup and see what works best for the team.
“In terms of the lineup, we still have a lot of question marks as to who’s going to play where,” he said. “The freshmen have shown us they can run, so there’ll be a lot of toying with the lineup.”
Although the Red is short on field experience thus far, Blood is happy with what the team has produced to date, pointing to solid defense in both the infield and outfield. The players are eager to leave the snowy fields of Ithaca behind and get the season underway.
“They’re not out there to pace themselves, they’re out there to give it all they’ve got every time we play,” Blood said.
Archived article by Olivia Dwyer
Sun Assistant Sports Editor