May 2, 2005

Baseball Wins Gehrig Division Crown

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Seth Gordon will now have a new name — hero. With the baseball team needing a single win to earn its first-ever Gehrig Division title, the junior second baseman broke a 3-3 tie with a game-winning RBI-single in the bottom of the sixth inning yesterday, to lift the Red to a 4-3 victory over Princeton. Cornell will now play a three-game series against Harvard or Brown next weekend, with a chance to capture its first Ivy League championship since 1977.

“It indescribable, I can’t put it into words what I feel right now,” said senior Matt Miller. “My whole body is shaking. It hasn’t hit me quite yet but when it does, it is something that I am going to cherish for the rest of my life — in my senior season on my senior day here, and I get to celebrate with my teammates on the field. Gehrig Division champions, first time ever.”

Despite heading into the four-game series with a one-game lead over the Tigers, the Red still had to win a pair of games against the squad that had won nine consecutive division titles. In Friday’s action at Clarke Field, Cornell split the doubleheader, winning the first game, 5-3, and falling in the nightcap, 8-3. The team returned home yesterday and didn’t waste any time in sealing the division crown behind Gordon’s heroics. The Red lost game two at Hoy Field, 7-6, in 10 innings.

In the opening contest yesterday, junior Rocky Collis got the start for Cornell, allowing three runs and six hits in 5 1/3 innings of work. The Tigers opened the scoring in the third off of Collis, taking a 1-0 lead, despite not recording a hit.

The Red responded one-inning later, posting a three-run fourth. After three consecutive singles to lead off the inning, freshman Jimmy Heinz tied the game at one, with a sacrifice fly to right field. With runners on second and third, Cornell head coach Tom Ford called upon Ry Kagan to lay down a suicide squeeze, which the freshman executed to perfection to put Cornell ahead. Junior Josh Foster drove in the third run of the inning with a triple down the left field line, staking the Red to a 3-1 advantage.

After Collis cruised through the fifth inning, the Red was only six outs away from the title. However, after the leadoff man was retired in the sixth, the Princeton offense came to life, as the Tigers loaded the bases with only one out. Adam Balkan promptly delivered a two-run single to left field — tying the game at three apiece.

“[Collis] was up a little bit in the zone [all day], I thought, but the son of the gun, he battled,” Ford said. “He kept us right in the game and he did everything he possibly could do keep us there.”

With two runners on, Ford called upon sophomore reliever Jim Hyland to get the Red out of the jam. Hyland did just that, inducing a fly out and picking off Balkan at first base — as Miller tagged him moments before the runner on third was able to cross home plate.

In the bottom half of the sixth inning, Princeton starter Erik Stiller retired the first two men he faced. With two outs and nobody on, Foster worked out a walk and on the very first pitch to Gordon, stole second base. With the go-ahead run in scoring position, Gordon fouled off several tough pitches, before nailing the sixth offering of the at bat to center field, driving in Foster and putting Cornell ahead, 4-3.

“I have played with Seth for three years and I don’t know if I’ve ever played along side a kid who works harder, battles, and has a stronger desire for winning,” Miller said. “As soon as Josh got into scoring position, I knew [Gordon] was going to come through.”

Hyland stayed in the game for the seventh inning, but ran into trouble, even after setting aside the first two hitters. The Cornell hurler put a pair of runners on base — via a walk and a hit batsman — and the Tigers quickly had the tying run in scoring position. Will Venable came up to the plate and lined a ball to right field off of Hyland that looked as if it was going to drop in the gap for a hit. However, fortunately for the Red, freshman Brian Kaufman was able to run it down, and end the ball game.

“As soon as I caught the ball, it was unbelievable,” Kaufman said. “Coming in here I knew we were going to be good … but we have a shot to play in the Ivy League championship and that’s not something that I thought was going to happen in the fall.”

Cornell put itself in position to clinch the division crown with a 5-3 victory over the Tigers on Friday. Senior Tad Bardenwerper pitched his second consecutive complete game to earn the victory. In contrast, Princeton starter Gavin Fabian struggled, lasting only four innings and surrendering five runs. Gordon, Kaufman, Miller, and junior Michael Weiss all delivered RBI hits, as the Red scored all of its runs in the third inning.

In the nightcap on Friday, senior Dan Gala got the start for the Red, but was tagged with the loss after allowing five runs in his 6 2/3 innings of work. Offensively, Cornell was only able to muster five hits off the Tigers, as Miller and senior Conor Kelly delivered the only run-scoring hits.

All in all, a four-game split was all the Red needed, as it will now prepare for the most important series in the last 25 plus years of the program.

“We’ll stay after it like we have been, ” Ford said. “We have some certain drills that we have been doing hitting wise the last couple weeks that have seemed to help the guys, so we will stay after that. We just got to keep sharp and get ready to go next weekend.”

Archived article by ryan Pepper
Sun Assistant Sports Editor