Though last week’s snowstorm stranded the softball team (18-6) in Ithaca for an extra day, the Red made it to sunny Florida with a hectic schedule of stiff competition, facing eight different teams over 14 games in the span of only a week. The Red had mixed results over the recess, going 8-6 but also getting valuable experience in preparation for the Ivy season.
Head coach Dick Blood was especially pleased with the level of pitching that the Red faced during the break, as Cornell saw each team’s No. 1 or No. 2 pitcher in nearly every contest. The Red also got a preview of Ivy rival Princeton, as it competed in the Stetson Classic.
The Red opened its first tournament, the Stetson Invitational in Deland, Fla., on March 19. The team began Spring Break with a victory over in-state rival Syracuse, 5-3. Junior Ashley Wolf, winner of last year’s Ivy batting title, set the tone with a leadoff single and a steal, scoring after a single by freshman Alyson Intihar and a sacrifice fly to center field by freshman Elise Menaker.
The Red next defeated Elon, 2-1. After four innings of scoreless play, Elon took a one-run lead in the fifth, but the Red fought back. Junior Jenna Campagnolo notched an RBI and then scored on a single by senior Sarah Ruben. Ruben, Campagnolo and Wolf impressed Blood with their hitting over the break.
“The competition was excellent,” Blood said. “They just really pounded the ball this week, and it’s exciting to see if they can keep it up.”
With those victories, the Red extended its best start in program history to 12-0 before falling to host Stetson, 11-3, in the last game of the tripleheader. Intihar started off the game with a bang, hitting a two-run homer in the first inning.
Since veterans junior Jenn Meunier (10-3) and sophomore Haley Mirrer (8-2) had pitched 84 and 68 innings to date and faced Syracuse and Elon, respectively, Blood called on freshman Dana Robbins to pitch against Stetson — her first start of the year.
The Hatters took advantage of the freshman’s inexperience, as Robbins gave up eight hits in three innings pitched, while fellow rookie Izzy Pines came in for the final inning and gave up three hits. With the depth of the Red’s pitching roster in question, Meunier and Mirrer pitched the majority of the week and will probably pitch the majority of the season as well.
“[Problems arising from lack of pitching depth are] clearly a concern. We just hope it doesn’t become a reality,” Blood said.
The next day, the team had a shaky start at the Rebel Spring Games in Kissimmee, Fla. droppong its first game to Wagner, 2-1. Meunier recorded her first loss of the season after pitching a complete game with eight strikeouts.
“You just do what you have to do,” Meunier said. “You do the best you can, but sometimes you can’t do as well as you’d like.”
The Red, however, sent a message in the second game of the double-header with a clutch offensive display. Sophomore Jessy Berkey’s second inning-shot over the left field fence established a lead for the Red, but Wagner fought back and the hard-hitting teams exchanged leads several times.
With Wagner ahead, 9-4, in the bottom of the seventh, the Red came back to win the game, 10-9, in dramatic fashion when Intihar hit a walk-off grand slam. With a team-leading four home runs and 20 RBI, the infielder has seen time at both first and second base.
“That was a big highlight of the week and really gave us some confidence,” Blood said.
The team then had convincing 8-4 and 3-0 wins over Central Connecticut State on Wednesday. Intihar and fellow freshman Menaker hit back-to-back home runs in the second game of the doubleheader.
“They’re both pretty good contact hitters with power … with very calm demeanors,” Blood said.
The team split with Bethune Cookman in Daytona Beach the next day. The Red grabbed an early lead in the first game when Menaker hit her second home run of the week, driving in Intihar. Despite a second-inning offensive outburst with RBI by reigning Ivy home run champion sophomore Meghan Risica and junior Samantha Hare, the Red dropped the game, 6-4.
Menaker, however, also triggered the Red’s scoring in the second game. Her two singles and two RBI jump-started a monster second inning in which the Red scored seven runs on five hits. The Wildcats could never catch up and eventually lost, 11-2.
On Friday, the Red’s first day of the Stetson Classic echoed the Stetson Invitational earlier in the week. Meunier got her tenth win of the season in the Red’s 7-4 defeat of Kent State, and sophomore catcher Nicole Cheever hit her first home run of the season en route to a 5-3 victory over Lipscomb. Cornell, however, fell again to the host team Stetson at the end of the day.
The matchup was much closer this time around though. Stetson broke a scoreless tie in the fifth inning with a deep two-run home run. The Red tied it up in the top of the seventh, however, taking the game to an eighth inning. But the Hatters drove in the winning run in the eighth for a final score of 3-2.
“The last two games we played against [Stetson] were going very well until a certain point,” Meunier said.
Saturday afternoon, the Red lost a rematch against Kent State, 6-0. Robbins came in for Mirrer and pitched two innings of relief to finish the game. With Saturday night’s loss to Stetson, the Red’s record against the Hatters settled to 0-3. The Red’s final game of the Stetson Classic, and its whole Spring Break road trip, was a 9-4 heartbreaker in which the team couldn’t overcome a five run Stetson rally in the sixth inning.