March 17, 2006

Baseball Faces Full Slate on Florida Trip

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Spanish explorer Hernando de Sota came to the area now known as Bradenton, Fla., searching for El Dorado – the lost city of gold. The baseball team would settle for a couple of wins against quality competition during its seven-game Spring Break voyage.

With just six games under its belt this season, the Red (2-4) is looking forward to this trip as a chance to sort out some the remaining questions in its lineup and sharpen its skills.

“It’s very important to get in as many games as we can to answer some questions about the team, but even more importantly for the guys to get in their rhythm to get in their game mode as well,” said head coach Tom Ford.

Cornell will open its stay in Florida’s Manatee County with a doubleheader tomorrow, facing Eastern Kentucky in Game 1, and Bradley in Game 2. Tomorrow’s opener will be the first meeting between the Red and Eastern Kentucky (7-7), which is hitting .287 as a team while giving up on average 5.05 earned runs a game to opponents.

“They’re very athletic from what we understand and what I’ve followed in the past years,” Ford said. “We’ve never played them before, but I know they’re going to be very good.”

Bradley boasts a 6-7 record. The Braves’ batters have combined for a team average of .254 at the plate this year and opposing pitchers are holding Bradley to just 4.38 runs per game.

After its doubleheader, the Red will then square off against a Vermont team on Sunday, which returns 15 letter-winners from its 2005 squad, which went 29-19. The Catamounts finished second in the America East standings and conference championship, but are winless in their first six games with a team ERA of 9.29.

Cornell will close out the rest of its Spring Break with four games against two Big Ten opponents, playing Ohio State (6-4) on Monday and Tuesday and doing battle with Illinois (4-6) on Thursday and Friday. The Red faced both squads for the first time during last year’s Spring Break trip to Bradenton and was outscored 45-to-8 while dropping four games to the Buckeyes and Illini last spring.

“They’re both very good clubs, they have some very good arms on their pitching staff and guys that can swing it,” Ford said.

While Ford would love to come away from Spring Break with a winning record, his primary focus for the week will be answering his remaining lineup questions and improving the consistency of his team’s performance. Specifically, Ford hopes to have his starting rotation set by the time his team returns home from Bradenton – just in time for the Red’s April 1 Ivy opener against Dartmouth.

“We’re still at the point that we feel there are those six guys or so that are going to get the bulk of the innings, but we’re still not quite sure about where each will pitch,” Ford said.

“But we should know by the end of the spring trip. It’ll be a tough week for us but we’re certainly looking forward to it.”

Archived article by Paul Testa
Sun Assistant Sports Editor