After ending its 2005 campaign as Gehrig Division champions – one series victory away from a berth in the NCAA tournament – the Cornell baseball team took the first step towards exceeding last year’s run through the Ivy League – summer league baseball. The Red players used the summer games as a means for improvement and staying sharp during the offseason.
“The big thing is the guys are playing against strong competition,” said head coach Tom Ford. “All of them individually had things to work on, but again its that experience and the ability to make the adjustment to playing with wood bats.”
While approximately 80 percent of the team participated in competition of some kind, several of the Red players were accepted into more prestigious collegiate leagues.
Brian Kaufman, who will be entering his second season as a member of the Red outfield, batted leadoff for the Pittsfield Dukes of the New England Collegiate Baseball Summer League. Pittsfield – one of 12 teams in a league that runs through six New England states – plays its home games at Wahconah Park and is owned by former Boston Red Sox general manager Dan Duquette. The Dukes are one of the most popular clubs in the league, drawing close to 1,500 fans per home game.
The large crowds only inspired Kaufman’s performance. After an outstanding rookie campaign for Cornell, in which he was twice named Ivy League Rookie of the Week, Kaufman continued his strong play with the Dukes, leading the team in batting average (.301, 17th NECBL), on-base percentage (.390, 10th NECBL) and hits (37). He played in all but four of Pittsfield’s games, collecting four doubles and nine multi-hit contests.
For his efforts, he was named to the NEBCL All-Star game, played in Newport, R.I. on July 24th. The Southern Division squad emerged victorious, 7-2, as Kaufman pitched in with an RBI for the winning team.
Just over a month prior to the all-star game, Kaufman got the rare opportunity of competing against two of his Red teammates – senior second baseman Seth Gordon and junior pitcher Blake Hamilton – as his Dukes lost a pair of games to the Holyoke Giants in a home-and-home series. Both Gordon and Hamilton played integral roles on a Giants team that finished the summer second in the Northern Division standings.
Hamilton finished the season with a 2-2 record and a 3.83 ERA in nine appearances – eight of which were starts. In his 40 innings of work, he allowed 39 hits and struck out 36. Gordon started 33-of-35 games, batting .188 in 112 at-bats. Despite his low average, Gordon maintained a .301 on-base percentage, thanks to 14 walks and five hit batsmen.
“Blake threw pretty well again,” Ford said. “Seth had a rough start with the bat – but he finished pretty well.”
In addition to the three aforementioned players, senior pitcher Rocky Collis also competed in the Coastal Plain League for the Asheboro Copperheads. Collis posted a 2.84 ERA, producing a tough-luck 1-6 record for the summer. In his 63 1/3 innings, he compiled a league-best 64 punchouts against 31 walks.
“Rocky had a pretty good summer,” Ford said. “By the second or third start he was back to being healthy and he pitched well.”
Ford and the rest of the baseball coaching staff will be evaluating how well the team improved beginning this weekend, when the squad holds the first of 12 workouts of the fall semester. The Ivy League restricts the number of on-the-field practices a team can hold before the season starts in the spring, however, the Red will also participate in voluntary mini-practices and workouts in the weight room throughout the winter months.
“[The 12 workouts] will include a lot of scrimmages,” Ford said. “It is a crucial time for us to evaluate our talent and see how the older guys have progressed by practicing in game situations.”
Archived article by Bryan Pepper
Sun Assistant Sports Editor