After usurping the defending Ivy League champion Princeton Tigers and claiming its first ever Gehrig Division title in a heart-stopping weekend series, the baseball team will return to a more familiar — and considerably less dramatic — setting in today’s doubleheader at Le Moyne College. Cornell hopes to fine-tune its game plan during these final two non-league outings in preparation for the Ivy League Championship Series slated to begin Saturday at Harvard’s O’Donnell Field in Boston.
The Red (17-20, 11-9 Ivy) galloped into the battle for the league championship on the strength of a 7-2 streak in its final nine league games, including a four-game sweep of division-rival Penn. As a team, Cornell has posted a .251 batting average and 4.92 ERA for the season thus far.
“We are still pretty pleased about the accomplishment,” said head coach Tom Ford. “I am so happy for the players. To see them get the reward they have been working for all season is a special feeling you don’t get everyday.”
The Red has also been bolstered by a range of exceptional performances on the mound and at the plate, with significant contributions coming from each class year. Senior shortstop Matt Miller leads the offensive charge with a .376 batting average, .560 slugging percentage and three home runs. Rookie outfielder Brian Kaufman has ceaselessly failed to disappoint with his bat, having recorded team-highs in RBIs (20) and doubles (12). Second baseman Seth Gordon has also proved to be priceless in the clutch — with his 3-for-3, game-winning RBI effort against Princeton on Sunday, the junior is hitting .324 for the season with a team-leading 29 runs scored.
“The thing that we are seeing is getting production from so many guys,” Ford said. “It helps to get some balance in the lineup.”
Yet, championship-caliber teams never rely solely on their offense, and the Red’s pitching staff has more than held up its end of the deal lately. Senior Tad Bardenwerper (4-3) leads the staff in victories after tossing his second consecutive complete-game victory on Friday, this time dispatching the Tigers with a three-run, eight-hit outing to preserve Cornell’s 5-3 game-one win.
On Sunday, junior right-hander Rocky Collis (2-3) kept Princeton at bay with six strong innings before handing the ball to sophomore Jim Hyland (3-0), a Pittsburgh native who effectively crushed the Tigers’ title hopes with 1 1/13 innings of shutout ball.
“Going into the season, we thought our pitching staff was one of our strengths — and we still feel that way,” Ford said.
However, Cornell will not overlook today’s challenge posed by MAAC contender Le Moyne (19-15, 12-4 MAAC), a squad which burned the Red for 14 runs during an April 12 doubleheader at Hoy Field. The Red and the Dolphins split the earlier series, with Le Moyne prevailing 14-2 in the opener before falling to the home team, 2-0, in the nightcap. The Dolphins lead the all-time series between the two squads, 25-11, dating back to 1964.
“Anytime you play someone, you had better be playing to win,” Ford said. “Otherwise just stay home and practice.”
Le Moyne currently resides in third place in the MAAC standings and leads its league in team ERA with a 4.39 season mark. The Dolphins’ staff is anchored by sophomore lefty T.J. Sheridan (5-0), a starter / reliever with a 0.71 ERA in nine appearances this season. Today, Cornell may see LeMoyne weekday starter Jon Maduro (1-2), a junior with a 3.45 ERA and 20 strikeouts.
The Dolphins’ batting lineup boasts significant power, as six different hitters have bombed three or more home runs and the team as a whole has combined for 200 RBIs on the season (the Red has posted 129). Senior Aaron Buckley leads his team with a .370 batting average while junior Andre Enriquez adds the fireworks (seven home runs, 36 RBIs).
The forecast at LeMoyne’s Dick Rockwell Field in Syracuse tomorrow calls for partly cloudy skies with a high of 53 degrees. The first game is set to begin at 2:30 p.m.
Archived article by Kyle Sheahen
Sun Senior Editor