April 16, 2007

Baseball Drops Out of First

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The baseball team’s confidence took a shot this weekend, as the team lost two games to rival Penn on Saturday at Hoy Field, 4-2 and 5-4, to fall from first place into a tie for second place in the Gehrig Divison Ivy League standings — two games behind the Quakers. The Red (14-14, 5-5 Ivy) has now lost four straight Ancient Eight contests and five of its last eight games overall. Cornell’s two scheduled games yesterday were postponed due to inclement weather.
“We had an opportunity to show how good we are and we just played good — not great,” said junior tri-captain Brian Kaufman. “We were a few key hits away from winning both games. … [Penn] didn’t win the games, we let them slip away.”
In Game 1, the Red built a one-run lead in both the first and third innings but could not hold off Penn (15-14, 9-5), who scored two runs in the top of the fifth to take a 4-2 lead it never relinquished. Cornell scored the first run of the game in the bottom of the first when sophomore Domenic DiRicco — who reached base after being hit by a pitch and then proceeded to steal second — scored on freshman Justin Milo’s two-out single to center.[img_assist|nid=22910|title=Check it up.|desc=Senior Kaleb Hutchinson checks his swing during the Red’s 5-4 loss to Penn on Saturday in the second game of its doubleheader.|link=node|align=left|width=100|height=60]
After the Quakers responded with a run in the top of the second to even the score at 1, DiRicco again jump-started the Red offense in the third by stroking a triple to right field, eventually scoring on Kaufman’s RBI groundout. Penn took control of the game from that point, however, scoring a run on a sacrifice fly in the following inning and tacking on two more runs in the fifth after loading the bases with one out to take a 4-2 lead.
That was all the run support starter Todd Roth needed, as the freshman pitched a complete-game, five-hit, seven-strikeout gem for his fifth victory of the year. Coming into the contest, Roth had pitched two consecutive complete game shutouts for a scoreless streak of 16 2/3 innings to earn two Ivy League Pitcher of the Week awards.
Senior hurler Jimmy Hyland took his third loss of the year after pitching five innings while surrendering four earned runs on six hits and two walks.
“He pitched decently. [Penn] had a few cheap hits off of him, including one with two outs to take the lead,” Kaufman said. “We just can’t expect him to throw a complete game shutout every time he pitches. We needed to get him some more run support.”
In Game 2, the Quakers drew blood in the first inning when freshman William Gordon hit a two-out home run over the left-field fence. Penn added another run with a sacrifice fly by junior Michael Gatti, scoring classmate Kyle Armeny.
Cornell cut the lead to one in the bottom half of the inning when junior Jimmy Heinz led off with a double to left-center and scored on a two-out single by sophomore Kyle Groth. When Penn got the run back in the top of the third, the Red looked poised to respond in a big way in the bottom half of the inning. Scott Hardinger led off with a solo shot, pulling a 3-2 pitch over the left-field wall and into the Cornell bullpen. DiRicco then proceeded to line a single to center, and both Kaufman and sophomore Nathan Ford walked to load the bases for sophomore tri-captain and designated hitter Brant McKown. McKown struck out swinging, however, before Heinz lined a pitch directly to shortstop William Gordon, who proceeded to turn a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning.
“Jimmy smoked the ball right at the shortstop,” Kaufman said. “He did everything he could or should have done in that situation; if it was just two more feet to the left, two runs would have scored and it would have been a different game.”
Penn chased freshman starter Tony Bertucci from the game by scoring two more runs in the top of the seventh to take a 5-2 lead. Bertucci’s final line was 6 1/3 innings, eight hits five earned runs and three punch-outs.
Cornell had another chance to make a comeback in the bottom of the eighth inning, as a hit by Nathan Ford and walks by Milo and Heinz once again loaded the bases with no one out. Although senior Kaleb Hutchinson proceeded to pop out to second and freshman Steven Dannaway struck out looking, junior Ryan Michael hit a routine grounder to second baseman Steve Gable. The Red caught a break when Gable’s throw sailed over the head of Penn’s first baseman, allowing Ford and Milo to score and cut the Quaker lead to one run, 5-4. But sophomore Scott Hardinger struck out on a full count pitch to end the inning.
“We didn’t swing the bats like we should have,” Kaufman said. “We need to be more aggressive in punishing pitchers’ mistakes while at the same time, laying off bad pitches. We give pitchers too many strikes on swings and misses on bad pitches.”
Penn junior Andy Console shut down the Red in the final 2 2/3 innings to seal the victory and first place in the Gehrig Division for his team, his second save of the year.
Despite the losses, Kaufman is still confident the Red has a good shot at winning the division.
“I think it’s anyone’s division right now, we took a little step back but we’re still right in the thick of it,” he said. “If we play like I know we can play, we can win-out. I’m not too concerned, we’re just as competitive as anyone in this league.”