April 18, 2007

Softball Plays Two With Ivy Rival Penn

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When New York Yankee Andy Phillips’ mother was in a life-threatening car accident during spring training, he left Florida to be with her. But after he returned to Legends Field, having missed the first ten days of exhibition games, his timing never came back and he eventually lost the backup first baseman slot to Josh Phelps.
Junior co-captain Samantha Hare was in a similar situation this past weekend but with very different results. Though she missed a weeks worth of games on account of a family emergency, Hare returned on Saturday to lead the softball team to a resounding victory, 4-0, and a heartbreaking loss, 6-5, against Ivy rival Penn.
“She really came back big for us,” said senior co-captain Lauren Battaglia. “In the first game [of the doubleheader on Saturday], Penn got two runners on base really quickly. She made two plays almost back-to-back that really turned the tide and slowed them down.” [img_assist|nid=22975|title=The windup.|desc=Junior pitcher Jenn Meunier — who is scheduled to start both games against Penn today — hurls a pitch against Siena|link=node|align=left|width=100|height=69]
Hare will get a chance to prove herself even further this afternoon when Cornell (27-8, 8-2 Ivy) plays two more games against Penn (19-13, 10-4 Ivy) to make up for the doubleheader originally scheduled for Sunday. The teams’ head coaches had originally rescheduled the game for yesterday at noon, but continuing inclement weather led to another postponement.
The softball team is back in Philadelphia today. However, it looks like conditions in the “city of brotherly love” will be more favorable the second time around as the Red is looking to strength its position atop the Ancient Eight standings.
“I expect that the games [today] will be very similar [to the games on Saturday],” said head coach Dick Blood. “Both teams are capable of putting a lot of runs on the board. The pitchers kept it low-scoring [on Saturday]. The offenses are a little more familiar with the pitchers … but I expect that the games will be similar.”
Junior Jenn Meunier (15-3) — who is expected to pitch in both games of today’s doubleheader — was dominant on the mound in the first game on Saturday. She had seven strikeouts and allowed only four hits. Penn’s offensive standouts, juniors Annie Kinsey and Christina Khosravi, never became a threat in the first game, although they combined for three home runs in the second.
“The big letdown was our hitting,” Battaglia said. “We all knew we should have put some more runs on the board. … We only started scoring later in the game.”
The Red’s offense was slow to get started on Saturday. In the first game, the team scored three of its four runs in the seventh inning. An inability to score early was also a deciding factor in the second game. Penn’s 6-3 lead in the seventh proved to be insurmountable, despite a two-run Cornell inning.
The Red’s lineup will attempt a different approach in today’s doubleheader, hopefully learning from its mistakes over the weekend. The team made some minor adjustments in practices since Saturday, getting players more familiar with off-speed pitches.
“We need to start scoring a lot of runs earlier in the game,” Battaglia said. “It’s really important to put pressure on the other team. …We struggled against their pitchers. I think they throw a lot slower than we’re used to hitting. It’s just a matter of adjusting.”
This past weekend was also supposed to be the first time that the Red would face the same team four times in one weekend according to the Ivy League’s new divisional format. But with a divisional title and resulting spot in the Ivy championship game on the line, Battaglia points out the good side of rescheduling games.
“In that sense, it was a good thing [that the second doubleheader was postponed, since we get] a couple days in between doubleheaders,” she said. “It’s harder to beat a team four times in a weekend … and since these are really big games, [having a break] should help us.”
Making a run for the Ivy title, the Red is entering crunch time. Hare, for one, sees any nervousness about her return to the field as an advantage.
“It helps that you’re not too relaxed … to keep you focused,” Hare said.
She also believes that her teammates will play with that same edge today.
“After that loss in the second game, everyone’s going to have that extra incentive to come out early and score as much as we can to not give [Penn] a chance,” she said.