Heading into the seventh inning of yesterday’s first game with Princeton, the Cornell softball team (16-13, 2-2 Ivy) was in prime position to place itself firmly atop the league standings.
The Red was leading the Tigers, 3-0, heading into the final inning and junior pitcher Whitney Smith had been holding the Tigers at bay. Unfortunately for the Red, Princeton finally got to Smith, scoring four runs and shutting down the heart of the Red’s order in the bottom half of the inning to earn a 4-3 win. The Tigers’ momentum was enough to send it to a 2-0 win in the second game and put Cornell at 2-2 for the weekend after sweeping a doubleheader against Penn on Saturday behind three homers from senior co-captain Lauren May.
“[This weekend] was the best softball we played all year,” said Cornell head coach Dick Blood. “Unfortunately, [yesterday] we came up against the best pitching staff in the league.”
In the day’s first game, the Red seemed unfazed by the prospect of facing perhaps the league’s best pitcher, Princeton junior Erin Snyder, as it built up a three run lead by the fourth inning. Fueled by an RBI from sophomore Erin Murtha and senior co-captain Erin Kizer, Smith sailed through six relatively harmless innings before taking the mound in the top of the seventh. In that inning, Smith gave up two singles and allowed Snyder to reach base on a soft grounder that just skipped off her glove.
“It’s a different game if [Smith] catches that one cleanly,” Blood said. “We would have two outs and only two runners on.”
As it was, the error loaded the bases for Princeton sophomore Calli Varner, who hit Smith’s next pitch over the fence for a grand-slam homer.
“[Princeton] really earned their win in the seventh,” Kizer said.
The loss took most of the wind out of the Red’s sails, as it was stymied at the plate for much of the second game and Princeton was able to get just enough runs off Cornell starter, freshman Jenn Meunier, to earn the victory.
“We were just trying to stay up [after the first game],” Kizer said. “It’s really hard after a loss like that and we ended up coming out a little flat.”
While Meunier was sharp, giving up only five hits over seven innings, the Red could manage only four hits of its own and was unable to come through with runners in scoring position.
“I thought we pitched really well and played good defense,” Kizer said. “We just got unlucky in some key spots.”
On Saturday, it had been an altogether different story for the Red as senior co-captain Lauren May had a Ruthian day at the plate to fuel Cornell’s two wins.
Junior Caitlin Warren started the Red’s scoring barrage in the first inning of the day’s first game by driving May in with her second homer of the year. Much as she would do in Sunday’s game, Smith shut down opposing batters and only gave up two fourth-inning runs.
“[Smith’s] change-up was really effective today,” Blood said. “I think the off-speed stuff really helped us today.”
With the score tied in the bottom of the sixth inning, Kizer laid down a suicide squeeze bunt and scored May to put Cornell ahead for good, 3-2.
The day’s second game would not be so hotly contested, however, as Meunier gave up only three hits and May went 4-for-4 with three homers and seven RBI as the Red raced to an 11-1 victory. Murtha also added to the Red’s offensive attack by going 3-for-3 with a homer and two RBI.
While the offense stole the show, Blood cited the team’s defense as an area that helped secure the win.
“Penn is a very scrappy ball club and they put the ball in play effectively,” Blood said. “We were able to get two double-plays on line drives and made a big play at the plate [in the second game] that was critical to getting out of the first inning with the bases loaded and nobody out.”
Archived article by Matt Gorman
Sun Staff Writer