April 12, 2007

Softball Faces Bonnies

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In comedian Bill Murray’s 1993 movie Groundhog Day, Murray’s weatherman alter ego is forced to relive one blizzard-ridden day over and over again. So if the forecasts come true and bad weather strikes, the softball team may feel some déjà vu of its own in regards to the weather when the Red takes the field against in-state rival St. Bonaventure this afternoon.
Cornell faced St. Bonaventure in April last year for the Red’s home opener of the 2006 season. Harassed by below-freezing temperatures and even snow, Cornell saw its home field advantage disappear as it dropped both games.
“[St. Bonaventure] beat us the last four contests,” said head coach Dick Blood. “They’ve had our number the past two years.”
In the two teams’ last meeting, the Red had standout performances from several players, especially junior Ashley Wolf. The right fielder went 5-for-7 in the doubleheader and her leadoff single propelled the Red to an early 2-0 lead in the first game.
The Bonnies, however, powered ahead on the strength of Joelle Brunetto’s two-out, two-run homer in the top of the third. Though junior center fielder Jenna Campagnolo robbed Kristin Brunetto of a home run, the Red was never able to catch up in St. Bonaventure’s 7-5 win.
“They muscled us around offensively,” Blood said.
In the second game, St. Bonaventure again didn’t take the lead until the top of the third. Another two-out, two-run homer — this one by Brianna Bricker — once again set the tone for the Bonnies’ offense. But this time, the Red responded, taking the game to extra innings.
A Cornell error in the top of the eight led to a run for St. Bonaventure and Bricker had an RBI triple to bring the score to 7-5. The Red made it a one-run game with no outs but three successive fly-outs ended Cornell’s chances at finally defeating the Bonnies.
“Things just didn’t come together for us [last year],” Wolf said. “And I remember it being really cold and snowy.”
Though harsh field conditions are expected again this year, the team has another result in mind. This time the Bonnies (8-10) are struggling while the Red (26-7) is riding a five-game winning streak and sitting atop the Ivy League standings.
“We were struggling [last year], about .500,” said senior co-captain Lauren Battaglia. “We felt we should have won those games. We weren’t playing the type of softball we knew we should be playing. … We’re a lot more consistent this year.”
Battaglia, last week’s Ivy League Player of the Week, feels that this increased consistency will tip the balance today.
In the outfield, the veteran trio of sophomore Meghan Risica in left, Campagnolo in center and Wolf in right will start. Junior Jenn Meunier will pitch in the first game, while sophomore Haley Mirrer will take the mound for the second. Freshmen Alyson Intihar and Caitlin Hutchinson will man second and third, respectively.
Junior Samantha Hare returns to her spot at shortstop after missing last week’s games due to a family emergency. After hitting .556 with a perfect fielding percentage in 35 chances while starting all four games over the weekend at first base, Battaglia won the starting job at first again. Rounding out the infield, freshman Vanessa Leonhard will get a chance to get some game experience at catcher.
In the second game, the Red will also take advantage of having a non-league opponent by getting a variety of players into the game. Blood wanted to make similar changes in the doubleheader against Siena last Wednesday, but the second game was rained out.
“[St. Bonaventure has] been getting rained out,” Blood said. “That’s frustrating them a little bit too.”
Nine of St. Bonaventure’s last ten scheduled games did not go well for the Bonnies, with four losses and five games cancelled due to inclement weather. Nevertheless, the perennial western New York powerhouse is coming off a 13-11 victory over Dayton last Friday.
“They’re a very solid ball club [with an] outstanding coach,” Blood said. “They play solid, hard-nosed softball. … They’re a very tough team to play and they play a good schedule.”
The team wants to stay focused, especially considering how much of a distraction the cold weather might become.
“For those of us who were on the team last year, that was a rough point in our season,” Battaglia said. “So it would be nice to come back and get some revenge.”