May 6, 2005

Baseball Battles for Ivy Crown

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It would be a bit of a reach to compare the baseball team to the Boston Red Sox. After all, the defending champion Sox were without a major league title since 1918. Cornell’s last Ivy League crown came in 1977 — when bell bottoms were the rage, not the Armistice.

Nevertheless, Cornell’s men of the diamond are hungry to break the decades-old curse. And this weekend, after years of disappointment, the Red finds itself with a chance.

Tomorrow, Cornell (17-22, 11-9 Ivy) will battle Red Rolfe Division champion Harvard (24-15, 15-5 Ivy) in the Ivy League Championship Series at the Crimson’s O’Donnell Field in Boston. The two teams square off in the best-of-three series with a doubleheader tomorrow beginning at noon and a third game scheduled for Sunday, if necessary.

“Everyone is really excited about this weekend,” said rookie outfielder Brian Kaufman. “We have a chance to do something that Cornell has not done in a while. We’re going to be ready to play.”

Cornell will have its work cut out for it against Harvard, a squad with the best overall record in the Ivies this season. The only time the Red and the Crimson met this year — a doubleheader on April 9 at Harvard — the home team swept both games by a close margin. Harvard’s revered pitching staff — second in the league this season with a 4.76 team ERA — held the Cornell lineup to only seven hits and two runs in the two-game series.

On the opposing mound, the Red will likely face a combination of Harvard starters Shawn Haviland (5-1), Frank Herrmann (4-1) and Mike Morgalis (5-0). Haviland, a rookie left-hander with a team-leading 3.18 ERA in 51 innings, helped clinch the Crimson’s division title last Sunday by limiting Dartmouth to seven hits in Harvard’s 10-6 victory. Herrmann, a junior right-hander with a 3.40 ERA, leads his squad with two complete games and an opponent’s batting average of just .209. Morgalis is undefeated in eight appearances for the Crimson this season and leads the team in strikeouts with 35.

Harvard has used a number of effective closers out of the bullpen, including rookie right-hander Steffan Wilson (five saves, 1.93 ERA) and junior Matt Brunning (four saves, 4.37 ERA).

“Their pitchers do a nice job of working both sides of the plates,” said Cornell head coach Tom Ford. “We can’t go chasing after balls and we’re going to have to hit well with two strikes.”

The Crimson’s lineup is as balanced as any in the Ancient Eight, with six everyday starters batting over .290. Wilson leads the attack at the plate with a .362 average, team-high 50 hits and 28 RBIs. Junior Zak Farkes, this week’s Ivy League Player of the Week, boasts a .361 average and 27 RBIs — 12 of which he recorded this past weekend against the Green. Junior first baseman Josh Klimkiewicz adds power with nine home runs and 34 RBIs on the season, while rookie centerfielder Matt Vance sparkplugs the Crimson offense (33 runs scored, 12 stolen bases).

Cornell enters the playoff weekend on the heels of two back-to-back losses to non-league foe LeMoyne on Wednesday. Kaufman — the Ivy leader in triples with five — smacked his second career homer in the first game for the Red’s only run of the series. Ford and his team are hoping the Red’s bats will be a little more lifelike tomorrow.

“This team is pretty good about bouncing back,” Ford said. “They have confidence in their abilities. We try to learn from our mistakes and move forward.”

In game one tomorrow, Cornell will send junior Rocky Collis to the mound with senior Dan Gala following up in game two. If necessary, the Red will give the ball to either senior Tad Bardenwerper or sophomore Blake Hamilton on Sunday.

Archived article by Kyle Sheahen
Sun Senior Editor