May 1, 2006

Red Drops Final Four to Tigers, Loses Gehrig Title

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Needing to win 3-of-4 of its final games to capture its second straight Gehrig Division title, the baseball team was swept by Princeton over the weekend – losing both games of Friday’s doubleheader at Hoy Field, 3-0 and 12-8, and falling 4-3 in nine innings and 12-2 in yesterday’s action at Princeton.

“It was unfortunate the way it turned out,” said senior catcher William Pauly. “I thought we came out with a lot of energy and everyone played really hard, but it just didn’t turn out the way we wanted it.”

With the sweep, Cornell (10-29, 6-14 Ivy) fell from one game behind Princeton to finish in a tie for last place with Columbia in the Gehrig division, while Princeton (16-22, 11-9) captured its 10th division title in 11 years.

Friday’s opener settled into a classic pitchers’ duel between senior co-captain Rocky Collis and Princeton’s Erik Stiller. Collis pitched a complete game six-hitter, allowing three runs while striking out eight.

But Collis’ performance was overshadowed by Stiller, who allowed only three hits while fanning 11 batters on his way to shutting out the Red.

“I think the secret to success was being able to keep the fast balls down in the zone,” Stiller said. “The changeup worked well, that’s been the go-to pitch all year.”

The matchup was a repeat of the deciding game for last year’s Gehrig Division title race, in which the Red touched Stiller for four runs on eight hits to clinch first in the division.

“Stiller pitched a great game,” said Cornell head coach Tom Ford. “He’s gained a little velocity since last year, and his changeup is just a great pitch. He’s one of the better pitchers we’ve faced this year.”

Senior Matt Goodson and freshmen Nathan Ford and Domenic Di Ricco had the only hits of the game for the Red.

Needing to win three straight after its Game 1 loss, Cornell dug itself a hole in the first inning of Game 2, giving up four runs – all with two outs. Junior Blake Hamilton started the game, going just 2 2/3 innings, allowing five runs, before being relieved by sophomore Walker Toma.

The Red continued to battle, clawing to within one run, 5-4, of the Tigers in the third inning thanks to a two-run homer by Pauly, and taking the lead, 7-5, in the fourth off a three-run shot from sophomore Brian Kaufman.

Kaufman paced the Red, going 2-for-4 at the plate with four runs and four RBI. Sal Iacono led the way for Princeton, going 4-for-4 with four runs and four RBI.

“I think the world of [Kaufman],” said Princeton head coach Scott Bradley. “He should be a real strong candidate for Player of the Year in the league this year.”

Toma looked strong in relief for the Red, allowing only four runs in 5 2/3 innings of work to keep Cornell’s title hopes alive.

“[Toma] did a great job coming in and shutting them right down. He threw up a lot of zeroes again,” Ford said. “We just couldn’t hold onto it.”

Princeton tied the game at seven-all in the top of the fifth inning. Neither side could break the tie until the top of the ninth, when Princeton capitalized on five singles and two Cornell errors to put five runs up on the scoreboard. Kaufman smacked his second homer of the game in the bottom of the ninth, but it wasn’t enough as Princeton’s Brad Gemberling closed out the contest to give the Tigers the 12-8 win and the division title.

“We stopped scoring, and, shoot, they got a couple balls through the infield. We made a couple of errors, and ball game,” Ford said. “It’s disappointing, but things that have hurt us during the season hurt us [in these games]. You’ve got to make plays.”

Cornell finished up its season with a doubleheader yesterday in Princeton, N.J.

Despite tying the game, 3-3, with a RBI-single from freshman Brant McKown in the last inning of regulation, the Red fell in extra innings.

Junior Tom Laughlin gave up a leadoff homer to the Tigers’ Spencer Lucian in the ninth to pick up the loss. Junior Jim Hyland pitched eight innings of six-hit ball, allowing only three runs while striking out seven.

Game 2 was a less pretty affair as Princeton exploded for seven runs in the eighth to put the game out of Cornell’s reach.

“You’ve got to make plays,” Ford said. “But you know what, guys played hard and stayed in it and played for each other, and I’m proud of them.”

Archived article by Paul Testa
Sun Assistant Sports Editor