As the softball team battled through the blistering cold and steady downfall of light snow yesterday, its recent hot streak seemed to cool down with the weather. The Red’s effort to gain momentum as it heads into Ivy League play this weekend was foiled twice in its home opener, losing both ends of a doubleheader to St. Bonaventure (9-12) in heartbreaking fashion, by the scores of 7-5 and 7-6 (8 innings), respectively.
“This is the most disappointed I have been as the head coach of Cornell softball,” said head coach Dick Blood. “We didn’t really do anything right; there were no tough breaks, just poor, poor softball.”
After riding a three-game winning streak coming into the day’s actions, Cornell (14-15) now finds itself under .500 for the fourth time this season and left with big question marks around its Ivy campaign.
The stories of the day were inconsistent and passive hitting as well as all-around shaky defense according to Blood – problem that have plagued the Red, who has averaged over two errors a game this season, all year long.
“You simply can’t give a team 26 outs like we did today and expect to win. We had balls falling in the gaps in the outfield and everyone just seemed to be playing tentative defense – it was an all-around lackluster effort,” Blood said.
In the first game of the doubleheader, the Red jumped out to an early lead, but faded away as the game wore on and elements began to take its toll, eventually falling to the Bonnies by the tally of 7-5.
In bottom of the first inning sophomore Ashley Wolf – who leads the team in batting average – led off the game with a single and advanced to second on a sac bunt by classmate Samantha Hare.
Junior Erin Murtha quickly put Cornell on top with a sharp double to the outfield scoring Wolf, and due to a throwing error by the St. Bonaventure catcher, eventually came home herself to make the game 2-0.
However, the Bonnies stopped the bleeding by making an immediate pitching change after the first inning to sophomore Brianna Bricker, who shut down the Red bats for the next three innings. Meanwhile the St. Bonaventure lineup put together seven unanswered runs of its own, scoring multiple times in the third, fourth and fifth innings.
Unwilling to the let the game slip away, Cornell counter-punched with a two-run fifth. Murtha led off the inning with a single and advanced to third on senior co-captain Caitlin Warren’s double down the right field line.
Murtha was able to score on a wild pitch and Warren was driven in by freshman Meghan Risica’s shallow sac fly to left field. The Red was able to tack on yet another run in the following inning, as Wolf stroked an RBI single to drive in junior Lauren Battaglia.
When the team was down by two going into the bottom half of the last frame, Cornell’s 3-4-5 hitters couldn’t get the ball out of the infield, as they were retired in order to end the game.
In the second game Cornell once again jumped off to an early lead, only to lose it in extra frames with poor defensive play and untimely hitting.
Wolf smoked a double to lead off the first and was driven in along with Warren by a Risica two-RBI triple. Wolf – as one of the few bright spots for the team on the day – went 7-for-9 from the leadoff spot, while scoring two runs and picking up two RBIs.
“She did a wonderful job, just as she has done all season long for us. Unfortunately no one was there today behind her to drive her in,” Blood said.
Although the Bonnies scored two runs of their own in the second, the Red answered back by stringing together four consecutive singles in the bottom of the frame from freshman Jessica Berkey, Battaglia, Wolf and Hare, scoring one run and loading the bases for the heart of its order.
However, as was the story all day long for the team, its big hitters did not come through in the clutch as Murtha flied out to right field and clean-up hitter Warren popped out weakly to left to end the threat. Warren alone left seven runners in scoring position on the day while the team stranded a total of 13 on the day.
“Today was just a perfect example of pass the buck hitting,” Blood said. “Everyone was taking too many strikes, and no one wanted to go up there, be aggressive and just pull the trigger. The middle of our order really needs to step it up or else we are going to be in a lot of trouble.”
The inability of Red hitters to drive in runs in big situations reared its ugly head once again in the fourth inning. Berkey led off the frame with a single and advanced to second when Battaglia reached on an error. Wolf subsequently stroked an RBI single to drive in Berkey, but after Hare singled to load the bases, both Murtha and Warren flied out to end the frame.
After both teams battled six innings to a 5-5 tie, the contest went to extra innings where the Bonnies struck first, notching two runs in the top of the eighth. Needing two runs to tie and three runs to win, Cornell had its work cut out for it.
Due to extra inning college softball regulations, the team started the inning with Battaglia placed on second base and took advantage of it, subsequently loading the bases with a Wolf single and a Hare fielder’s choice.
The next batter, Murtha, singled through the left side to drive in Battaglia, and place the winning run on second base with no one out, but Warren, Risica, and Campagnolo all flied out to end the game on a very sour note.
St. Bonaventure’s Bricker hit for the cycle on the day while Meunier took the loss for the Red, giving up two earned runs in six innings of work with six strikeouts.
“This team has a lot of grit but it is very clear that we need to hit in a consistent fashion if we want to continue winning,” Blood said. “It’s as simple as that.”
Archived article by Lance Williams
Sun Staff Writer