April 22, 2005

Baseball Beats Brown

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The 2005 baseball season has been very much like a rollercoaster ride. While the Red has enjoyed success — most notably a 3-1 series victory over Columbia last weekend — it has also suffered several hard-fought defeats against some of the tougher Rolfe Division teams. However, entering Wednesday’s doubleheader against Brown, the Red (11-16, 5-7 Ivy) sat only two games behind Gehrig Division-leader Princeton. After a 16-5 loss in the first game of the twin bill, the Red’s up-and-down season continued, with a thrilling 8-6 come-from-behind win in game two. Cornell has again cut Princeton’s lead atop the standings down to two.

“[The win] certainly at least keeps us at some sort of pace with the way the league goes,” said head coach Tom Ford. “A loss today would have been tough to come back from, but these guys are pretty resilient. They really bought into just worrying about one game at a time.”

The second contest against the Bears began at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, but was not completed until a little after noon yesterday. Inclement weather caused the suspension of the game — the fourth time this season that the annual doubleheader between the two squads was rescheduled.

The game was restarted in the top of the eighth inning, with Brown threatening to break open the 5-5 game. The Bears had runners on first and second with only one out and a 3-2 count on the hitter, Bryan Tews. On his very first pitch of the afternoon, Cornell sophomore reliever Jim Hyland induced a fly ball to centerfield for the second out, followed by weakly hit fly ball to retire the side.

After working his way out of the jam, Hyland jump-started the Red’s offense in the eighth inning with a leadoff single. After junior Josh Foster struck out trying to bunt Hyland over to second base, junior Seth Gordon doubled to left field. With runners on second and third, freshman Brian Kaufman stepped to the plate and delivered a two-strike single to left to put Cornell ahead for good.

“We are starting to swing the bats like we did earlier on in the season,” said assistant coach Bill Walkenbach. “When we do that, the pitching staff will continue to give us a chance to win every single game. It is a nice momentum builder to see the way some guys are coming around.”

The Red added another run in the eighth on an RBI single by freshman Jimmy Heinz, staking Cornell to an 8-5 advantage. Hyland closed out the game in the ninth, allowing the last Brown run on a homer by Danny Hughes.

In Wednesday’s portion of the contest, freshman Walker Toma made his first career start. In the first inning, Toma was knocked around by the potent Brown offense, allowing three runs on four hits. Toma recovered from the rocky opening frame, baffling the Brown hitters by consistently spotting his fastball and breaking ball. His only mistake came in the seventh inning, when he served up a two-run shot to Paul Christian, who leads the league with eight homers.

After falling behind 3-0, the Red fought back with runs in the fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh innings to tie the game up at five. Cornell led 4-3 after the sixth inning, before Christian delivered his two-run blast.

The Red will try to keep its momentum going this weekend, when it hosts Penn (11-22, 7-9 Ivy) for a pair of doubleheaders tomorrow and Sunday. The Red is currently tied for second place in the Gehrig Division standings with the Quakers and will need to play well in order to keep pace with Princeton, who battles last-place Columbia this weekend. Last season, Cornell split its four games with Penn — sweeping the Sunday doubleheader.

“Well, certainly we would like to win the next two series [against Penn and Princeton],” Ford said. “We feel that will give us a good chance, depending on what Princeton does against Columbia. Certainly, we would like to get three out of four [this weekend]. But, we try to not to talk about that too much with the team. We just worry about winning our next game … We need to take care of it a game at a time.”

Penn is currently in the midst of a four-game losing streak, including two defeats at the hands of Princeton. In their last game on Wednesday, the Quakers were crushed by Lehigh, 20-2, as the Penn pitching staff allowed an astonishing 27 hits. However, this season, the Quakers are third in the Ivy League with a team ERA of 5.29.

“They have a couple starters that are going to be a challenge for us,” Walkenbach said. “If we continue to hit the ball like we have the last week, I think we are going to have a good chance.”

As for the offensive attack, senior Nate Moffie bats third for Penn, and stands fourth in the league in hits (40) and fifth in runs scored (27). Junior Sean Abate is fifth in the league in RBIs (26).

“It sounds like they have a few guys in the lineup that are surprising people with their bats,” Walkenbach said. “We always expect them to hit well.”

But, regardless of the opponent, the Red will have to play at a high level if it wants to walk away with a few wins this weekend.

“We are always going to have to pitch well,” Walkenbach said. “As long as we can set the tone early with our pitching and defense, we feel like we can get some timely hits during the game to give us a chance to win.”

Archived article by Bryan Pepper
Sun Assistant Sports Editor