The baseball team completed its first home stand yesterday at the newly renovated Hoy Field on a promising note, beating rival Brown, 5-4, to improve its Ivy League record to 3-1, tops in the conference. Junior Walker Toma — who pitched the first two innings of Sunday’s rained-out game — threw five solid innings to pick up his third win of the year while sophomore Nathan Ford collected two hits and two RBI to lead the Red’s (9-11, 3-1 Ivy) offense.
“[Winning three out of four games in the Ivy League] feels great,” said head coach Tom Ford. “We haven’t done this in a while and we’ve played some quality opponents too, so I’m really proud of the way the guys are competing out there.”
Brown (7-13, 2-2) drew first blood when a double, a wild pitch and a throwing error allowed one unearned run to score in the top of the first. Cornell responded immediately, however, when junior tri-captain Brian Kaufman reached on an error by Bear second baseman Bryan Tews. Kaufman proceeded to steal his team-leading ninth base and moved to third on Ford’s single to right. Freshman Justin Milo’s triple to left-center then plated both base runners, putting the Red on top, 2-1. Milo — who also played in 24 games this winter for the hockey team — has made an immediate impact for the Red since filling in for slumping sophomore tri-captain Brant McKown as the team’s designated hitter.
“[Milo] got a late start to the season because of his commitment to hockey and we kind of snuck him into the lineup this weekend,” Ford said. “Obviously he is a great athlete and can really swing the bat. … He’s just on fire right now so it’s going to be hard to take him out of the lineup.”
With Kaufman acting as the catalyst, Cornell tacked on another run in the fifth make the score 3-1. The second team All-Ivy outfielder hit a two-out double to left-center, stole third base and scored on Ford’s single to center.
“A big part of Kaufman’s game is to get on base and create problems for opposing teams on the base paths,” Ford said. “We have given him a green light to steal and because of that he is always a threat; he takes opposing pitchers completely out of their rhythm.”
Brown cut the lead to 3-2 in the top of the sixth to knock Toma out of the game, but the Red answered back in the bottom half of the frame. After junior Ry Kagan smoked a double down the left-field line and sophomore Domenic DiRicco walked, junior Jimmy Heinz lofted a triple to right-center to plate both runners and extend the Cornell lead to 5-2.
“[Heinz] has been real consistent in the No. 2 spot in the lineup,” Ford said. “He has a high on-base percentage and has come through with some clutch hits for us — like his triple today.”
Toma left the game after pitching five plaus innings, while giving up one earned run on four hits with four strikeouts.
“It was a real gutsy performance by Toma,” Ford said. “After pitching two innings the day before, no one knew how he was going to hold up today, but he wanted the ball and showed a lot of courage to give us five solid innings. … When he gets all four of his pitches over [fastball, slider, curveball, changeup] he’s very tough to face.”
Brown showed its resiliency by coaxing a walk, then stringing together a single, a double and a triple to cut the lead back to one in the seventh inning. Senior Blake Hamilton would stop the bleeding from there, however, pitching a scoreless final two innings to pick up his second save in as many days. On the afternoon, Hamilton pitched the final four innings, giving up five hits, two earned runs punching out five batters.
Ford identified the performance of the Red bullpen — which faltered on the Spring Break road trip to start the season — as the key to the team’s success in its first home series of the young season.
“The difference has really been the ability of guy’s coming out of the pen to close some games for us,” he said. “Blake [Hamilton] and [sophomore] Steven Osterer have been able to take some pressure off of our offense by closing the door on teams this weekend.”