April 25, 2007

Softball Fights for Bragging Rights With D-III Ithaca

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Each weekend, the softball team struggles for supremacy in the Ivy League, but a different kind of bragging rights is on the line in today’s midweek matchup — the right to be called the best team in Ithaca. The Red will have home field advantage when it faces the third-ranked Division III squad Ithaca College (24-4), at 3:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. this afternoon at Niemand Robison Field.
“This is really a game about town pride,” said senior co-captain Lauren Battaglia. “We just really want to go out and send a message and sweep.”
Coming off a three-win weekend against division-rival Columbia, the Red (30-11, 11-5 Ivy) is one game behind Penn in the Ancient Eight’s South Division.
The last time Cornell won the Ivy title, in 2004, the team was led by Lauren May ’05. The All-Ivy shortstop, a two-time Ivy League Player of the Year, set 20 school records, including season and career RBI, home runs and batting average.
[img_assist|nid=23163|title=Low and away|desc=Freshman third baseman Elise Menaker reaches for a pitch in the first game of an April 22 doubleheader against Columbia. The Red lost 4-2.|link=node|align=left|width=79|height=100]Though May’s graduation was a blow to Cornell’s program, she’s not far from her former team’s thoughts. The Red will see a fam­iliar face in Ithaca’s dugout today since May is serving as an assistant softball coach for the Bombers while she works towards a Masters in Sports Management at Ithaca.
“Lauren May is Cornell softball,” Battaglia said. “It’s going to be tough to see her in blue and white. … There will be plenty of trash-talking if we sweep tomorrow.”
Erin Kizer ’05, a part-time assistant coach for the Red, was a teammate of May’s for four years.
“We have a pretty friendly rivalry going on,” Kizer said. “That intensity [that we share] … pushed us to make us better as players, and I think it’ll carry over as coaches [so that we will] push our own players. … It’ll be an exciting match-up. We’ve been playing really well the past few weekends, and [Ithaca is] a powerhouse in Division III so … we definitely need to not take them lightly.”
The Bombers were riding a twelve-game winning streak going into yesterday’s doubleheader against conference foe Alfred.
“They’ll present us with a formidable challenge,” Blood said. “They’re ranked fourth in the country now. Last year we were fortunate to even split with them. We hit a home run in the first inning and didn’t score for the rest of the game.”
Cornell came out strong in the first game of the teams’ doubleheader last year. In the top of the first inning, the Red got a three-run homer from then-freshman Meghan Risica. Senior Sarah Ruben then drove in another run with a two-out double. The Red didn’t score again.
Though Ithaca got on the board in the bottom of the fifth with a two-run homer by Jenn Marro, junior Jenn Meunier contained the Bombers’ bats, striking out four in a complete game performance.
The second game of the doubleheader, however, saw a complete reversal on the mound. Then-sophomore Carly Myers pitched a shutout win, allowing only six hits in seven innings. Ithaca got an RBI triple from senior catcher Hannah Shalett in the third and a two-run shot over the fence in the fifth from junior Stacy Pelesz.
Myers returns this year along with classmate Nicole Cade, and Shalett leads the team this season with 19 RBI and was just named the Empire 8 Softball Player of the Week.
In addition to Shallett and Pelesz, Ithaca’s offense is led by junior second baseman Jessica Stangarone, junior shortstop Erica Cutspec and senior outfielder Marro, a 2006 NCAA Regional All-Tournament selection. The Bombers will again be a threat at the plate in today’s match-up, especially with May in their corner.