April 13, 2007

Red Faces Penn in Weekend Matchups

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The baseball team will begin the divisional portion of its schedule this weekend with a four-game home stand against Penn (13-14, 7-5 Ivy). Although Cornell (12-14, 5-3) maintains a slim percentage-points lead in the Gehrig division, the Quakers are effectively tied atop the standings meaning that the Red will have an opportunity this weekend to separate itself from the competition.
“This four game stand could potentially put one team at the top and one team at the bottom,” said junior Brian Kaufman, who is second on the team with 19 RBI. “Our division is really close right now and every game is important. Its going to be important for us to at least win the series, or even did what we did when I was a freshman and sweep.”
Last year, the Red was 1-7 against the Rolfe division, the Ivy League’s four northern teams. This season, Cornell has posted a 5-3 record.
The Red comes into this weekend following a 3-0 midweek victory over in-state rival Binghamton. The Red features an offense that has averaged just over five runs per game. It all starts at the top, with sophomore leadoff man Domenic Di Ricco, who has a .304 batting average and a remarkable team-leading .443 on-base percentage.
“Dom has been having a great year,” Kaufman said. “It can’t be an easy job to step in for Seth Gordon ’06 from last year. He was kind of a staple at the top of our lineup, but Dom has come in and done everything and more. It’s great that we have him at the top of a lineup. He is a steady bat and does a great job of working the count and getting on base.”
Junior Jimmy Heinz (.314, 3 HR, 19 RBI) has been having a splendid season batting second, while junior Brian Kaufman (.256, 3, 19) and sophomore Nathan Ford (.337, 2, 20) continue to put up fantastic numbers in the middle of the lineup for the Red.
The Red pitching staff is led by senior Jim Hyland, who has thrown three consecutive complete games and has a 4-2 record and 2.52 ERA, both of which lead the team. Freshman Matt Hill is coming off his first collegiate start, in which he threw five innings of shutout baseball to earn the win.
With four batters hitting over .297, Penn features a balanced and dangerous offense that will challenge the Red pitchers. Led by junior outfielder Jarron Smith, who boasts a .348 average and a daunting .476 on-base percentage and classmate Kyle Armeny, who leads the team with five home runs and 20 RBI, the Quaker offense has been potent of late, averaging over eight runs per game in its last five games.
On the mound, Penn will likely turn to its outstanding freshman Todd Roth, who has a 4-1 record and 1.78 ERA while pitching complete games in four of his six starts. Roth has struck out an average of one batter per inning this season, and the Red will have to adjust the 6-2 right-hander.
“Those are good numbers, but were going to approach the game like we do every game,” Kaufman said. “Don’t forget that we beat a left-handed pitcher at Army [Nick Hill] who played for Team USA. We’re just going to be aggressive at the plate and swing at good pitches. We have a good lineup this year, and we won’t change our approach until he’s proven we have to.”