Finally, the moment every Ivy League softball team has been waiting for. Cornell, the 2004 champions, will welcome its first challenger this weekend as the perennially mercurial league race gets underway.
The Red (14-11) will face Penn (9-12, 0-2 Ivy) tomorrow, and Princeton (19-7, 2-0) on Sunday at Niemand-Robison Field.
“Our first challenge will be gearing up for [Penn],” said head coach Dick Blood. “We romped them a little bit last year. [Penn] is a new club, they had 10 or 11 freshmen last year. Most of those kids are sophomores now along with some more freshmen. They’ll be tough … They’ll be very similar to Cornell this year. Their pitchers are getting hit and their hitters are hitting — that’s what we’ve been doing.”
The Quakers dropped two shutouts to the Tigers earlier this week in their first Ivy League games. In the two games, Penn managed just six hits off of Princeton’s Erin Snyder. Penn will look to rekindle its offense against the Red, led by Annie Kinsey, who is hitting .372 and has 10 RBI this season. Ann Ferracane, Lindsey Permar, and Olivia Maura have been handling pitching duties for the Quakers, throwing their way to a cumulative 3.16 ERA. Ferracane leads the way with a 5-5 record and 46 strikeouts.
The Red will need new faces to step up this year, as last season’s sweep of the Quakers came on the strength of hitting from Erin Sweeney ’04 and Kate Varde ’04 and solid pitching from Sarah Sterman ’04. But Blood has no doubt the offense will be able to produce when it counts.
“Our offense has done a nice job, I think, so far,” he said. “We had some times when we’re not all clicking … but the freshmen outfielders have been pretty consistent all year — they’re batting .240, .260, and .330. They’ve done some nice things for us. I think we have a fairly decent seven or eight or nine hitters in the lineup, where we should be able to make inroads against other ball clubs.”
Generating offense will be crucial in Sunday’s game against the Tigers. Before the Red was even practicing outside, Blood knew Princeton had the “big stud” of the league on the mound — Snyder. Snyder was just named Ivy League Pitcher of the Week following her first perfect game of her collegiate career against Fairfield, in which she struck out 10 batters. She is also batting .260 and is second on the team with 16 RBI.
“Princeton will be a big challenge for us,” Blood said. “We’ve got to find a way to shut down their offense, which isn’t their strength. Their strength is their pitching and catching. Their pitchers and catchers don’t allow anybody to steal, and they don’t allow anybody to get hits. They allow a few to get on base. Our challenge will be to score some runs and shut them down.”
Blood feels the secret for success this weekend lies in solid performances from the Red’s pitching corps.
“Right now, the biggest challenge we have is on the hill,” he said. “We don’t have a pitcher with an ERA under three. If the ball’s put in play that often, it really challenges your defense many, many times. We’ve got to make some adjustments on the mound. We’ve got to hit better spots, we’ve got to keep people off balance a little bit better. Our kids are working at it. Right now, we’re struggling with it a little bit.”
Cornell freshman Jenn Meunier is leading the way on the mound in her rookie campaign with an 8-2 record and a 3.03 ERA. Junior Whitney Smith and rookie Jen Lesczinski have also seen significant playing time for the Red.
“Matching their pitching — I don’t think we can do that,” Blood said. “We just have to play outstanding defense and make quality pitches — get them to hit hitters’ pitches or swing and miss. We know they’re going to hit us, we need to get them to hit our pitches.”
Archived article by Olivia Dwyer
Sun Assistant Sports Editor