April 19, 2006

Softball Looks to Take Two From Big East Rival

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After riding a hot streak in which the Red took three-of-four games from Ivy League rivals Penn and Princeton and six out of its last eight games overall, the softball team will look to continue its winning ways this evening as it takes on Syracuse in a double header at Nieman-Robinson Field.

Despite losing its star leadoff hitter – sophomore Ashley Wolf – to a broken wrist in a game against Canisius last week, Cornell (21-18, 6-2 Ivy) has overcome the loss of Wolfe’s productucion thanks to strong performances from its talented pitchering staff. The Red’s recent success has vaulted the team into second place in the Ivy League standings – just two games behind first place Princeton.

The team has been plagued by inconsistency both at the plate and in the field all year long, and a talented Syracuse team will provide a good test for the squad’s concentration, as it prepares for four Ivy League games this weekend.

The Orange (27-16, 11-3 Big East) has proven to be feisty competitors this season, taking down many nationally-ranked teams – most notably a sweep of No. 25 DePaul on April 9 – and are currently in third place in the Big East conference.

Syracuse has also been very hot of late as well, winning 13 of its last 15 games the longest winning streak in club history – and boasting its best start ever against league competition (11-3).

On offense, the Orange is led by the dynamic duo of senior Alexis Switenko and freshman Heather Kim. Switenko leads the team in batting average (.392), runs (33), home runs (14), RBIs (31) and slugging percentage (.817) while Kim also sports a .382 batting average with 30 RBI on the season.

The Orange lineup is not completely reliant on its two stars, however, as it has five hitters batting over .300 on the year; in comparison the Red has only one active player – junior Erin Murtha (.333) – who has accomplished this feat.

Syracuse’s dominance on the mound has been in large part due to the efforts of sophomore Erin Downey. Downey has a 2.81 ERA and leads the team in innings pitched (189.1), wins (17), shut outs (5) and strike outs (218); her 218 strikeouts not only lead the Big East conference but also is the highest strikeout tally in Syracuse history.

Cornell will counter with its talented pitching staff of sophomore Jenn Meunier, senior co-captain Whitney Smith and freshman Haley Mirrer. Meunier is coming off performances which earned her Ivy League Pitcher of the Week recognition, collecting three complete-game wins in her last three starts while allowing only four runs – good enough for a 1.33 ERA.

Even more impressive is the fact that Meunier’s last victory came against first place Princeton, a game in which she carried Cornell into sole possession of second place by allowing only two runs on eight hits while striking out eight Tigers over seven innings.

The Red offensive attack is led by Murtha – who leads the team with a .333 average – and freshman Meghan Risica – who supplies most of the lineup’s power with four home runs and 21 RBIs on the year.

The team will also need sophomore Jenna Campagnolo – who has replaced Wolf in the leadoff spot – to step up her level of play the rest of the season. Campagnolo is not unfamiliar with the role, however, as she was the Red’s table setter last season, and her performance last weekend – 7-15, 2 RBIs, 2 runs – suggests she’s up to the challenge.

Archived article by Lance Williams
Sun Staff Writer