March 9, 2007

Baseball Heads South to Battle La Salle, Villanova

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The baseball team will escape the frigid upstate New York weather this weekend and head south to Philadelphia to take on La Salle in a twin-bill tomorrow afternoon and match up against Villanova the following day. After dropping three of four games to Bucknell last weekend due to inconsistent offensive production, the Red (1-4) hopes to work on gaining consistency before Ivy league play begins in just over three weeks.

“Last weekend it was a tale of two offenses for us,” said head coach Tom Ford. “We just need to create more opportunities for ourselves offensively and be more aggressive at the plate. … It is a game of constant adjustments so it’s a matter of our players making those adjustments during the game.”
[img_assist|nid=22002|title=A yellow submariner|desc=Senior pitcher Adam Loeding and the baseball team will try to get back to .500 with three wins this weekend against La Salle and Villanova.|link=none|align=left|width=91|height=100]
Junior outfielder Brian Kaufman also identified consistency as the key to this weekend’s games.

“The first two games [last weekend] we had great pitching and the other two we had great hitting,” he said. “We really need to put those two together to be successful.”

Senior Jim Hyland will get the nod on the mound for Cornell’s first game tomorrow. Hyland is coming off a strong performance in the Red’s season-opener, pitching six innings with four strikeouts, and yielding only one earned run on three hits and two walks.

Freshman Tony Bertucci and junior Walker Toma will start the other two games for Cornell. According to Ford, Toma’s effectiveness against the Bison out of the bullpen earned him a starting spot this weekend. He earned the lone win for the Red over the weekend by hurling 4 2/3 innings of scoreless ball while giving up only one hit and recording three strikeouts.

“At this point in the season, we are still searching for the right guys to put in our starting rotation,” Ford said. “[Toma] had a great outing his last time out so we wanted to give him another shot to prove himself this weekend.”

La Salle (5-5) has hovered around .500 all year, most recently dropping a 7-2 decision to No. 11 Miami on Wednesday. The Explorers are led on offense by junior John Rickards, who has hit a torrid .583 so far this season with two homeruns, two doubles and seven RBI. The La Salle lineup also gets significant contributions up and down the order, with six regulars hitting above .300 this season.

The pitching has not been quite as strong, however, as the staff has given up five or more runs in seven of 10 games this season. Senior closer Gerard Breslin — who was not only an Atlantic 10 All-Conference first team pick last season but also has a career ERA that currently ranks second all-time at La Salle — anchors the staff with a 2.08 ERA, six strikeouts and a save in three appearances this season.

Villanova’s (6-5) 2007 campaign has been very similar to La Salle’s, with inconsistent pitching performances preventing the Wildcats from rising significantly above the .500 mark. The squad has been hot as of late however, winning three of its last four despite a 10-9 heartbreaking loss to Boston College on Wednesday.

The Wildcat offense — which was forced to replace the production of its top-three hitters last season, all of whom were lost to graduation — is led by junior right fielder James Dolbier. He was selected the Philadelphia Big Five Baseball Player of the Week last week as he led Villanova to two wins with a .417 average, a home run, three RBI, three runs and two stolen bases.

Ford views the upcoming games not just as opportunities to get the Red back to .500, but also as chances to experiment with his roster in order to better understand his team.

“We obviously want to win, but there are things we need to find out about the team,” he said. “At this point in the season, I need to put together some different lineups and rotations to see what works best.”