March 16, 2007

Baseball Team Heads South

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After playing its first seven games on the still-cold fields of Philadelphia, the baseball team will get a chance to play in some warm weather when it heads down to Davidson, N.C., for six games, including three this weekend. The Red (3-4) is set to face Lehigh (3-7-1) and Davidson (10-6, 2-1 Southern) tomorrow, followed by a re-match with Davidson on Sunday.

“We’re definitely excited to get down there and play in a little bit warmer weather,” said junior Brian Kaufman. “We were able to get on our field, but it was still half-covered in snow. One thing that’s always nice about the spring trip is that you get to go down there and play in the warm weather. Hopefully by the time we get back to campus we’ll be ready to go on our field.”

Regardless of the weather, the hottest thing in Davidson this weekend may just be Kaufman’s bat. The centerfielder propelled the Red to a 2-1 weekend, including a double-header sweep of LaSalle. Kaufman hit .857 (6-for-7), including two doubles, two triples and 7 RBI. The big weekend earned Kaufman the Ivy League Player of the Week award.

“It means a lot. Its recognition from the league and it’s a great honor.” Kaufman said. “It really means a lot. Its fun to go out and win some ballgames and to get a little recognition for it too, so hopefully there will be a few more of those to co me.”

Kaufman currently leads the Red with a .455 batting average and 9 RBI.

Sophomore Domenic Di Ricco has been a key spark-plug for the Red, batting .450 at the top of the lineup and getting on base at a .521 clip. While the top of the Red lineup has been very strong, the bottom half has struggled.

“I think we need to see some offense from the bottom half of our lineup,” said assistant coach Scott Marsh. “We think that [sophomore] Kyle Groth and [junior] Ryan Michael should be able to give us some depth.”

Davidson, however, is no stranger to offensive baseball either. The Wildcats feature an offense that has been averaging over nine runs per game, posing a stiff challenge to the Red pitching staff. Of its eight regular starters, seven are currently batting above .324. Sophomore Zach Kayne, the laggard of the group with a .324 average, leads the team in home runs (4) and RBI (20). The Red’s hot regulars will try and feast off a Wildcat’s pitching staff that has been suspect, with a team ERA of 7.19.

Lehigh will come into Davidson led by sophomore third baseman Matt Reitz, whose .379 average leads the team. The Mountain Hawks pitching staff has been inconsistent, and sports a 5.62 team ERA.

Pitching consistency has also been a problem for the Red. While senior Jim Hyland (1-1, 2.77 ERA) and freshman Tony Bertucci (0-0, 3.60) have been leading Cornell’s starters admirably, there remains uncertainty about the back end of the rotation.

Depth in the bullpen is also a question; while senior Tom Laughlin has been reliable, the Red coaching staff is hoping to see a few players behind him step up.

“We need to have depth emerge in the bullpen,” Marsh said. “We’ve been trying some different people out. [Sophomore] Stephen Osterer came in for a couple of innings against Villanova and looked pretty good. Tom Laughlin will of course be back there, but we need to see one or two more guys who can come in and keep us in games, because so far we have lost some close games at the end.”

Following the three weekend games, Cornell will continue its North Carolina swing with games against UNC Greensboro and North Carolina A&T, followed by a three game series at Army next weekend.

“Our number one goal is to come back from our spring trip with a winning record,” Kaufman said. “We want to go down and play some good baseball and learn more about ourselves as a team as we continue to play together.”