May 1, 2007

Baseball’s Six Seniors’ Careers Come to a Close

Print More

With the game tied at four in the top of the ninth, senior reliever Blake Hamilton got into a jam. A leadoff double, a hit batter and a single to right field had loaded the bases for Princeton. Hamilton was faced with ending his Cornell career with a loss, but instead — like he had been doing all day — he bore down and got the job done. Hamilton struck out two batters and induced the third to fly out, preserving the tie game, which Cornell would eventually go on to win 5-4 in 12 innings, ruining Princeton’s playoff dreams.
“I think that is an incredible way to go out for him. Baseball has been such a big part of his life, and he’s put so much time into the team,” said fellow senior Jim Hyland. “Once he got into the bullpen, he has been awesome for us. Yesterday just kind of capped it all off for us when he loaded up the bases with no outs and struck a couple guys out to get out of the inning. His curveball is as good as anyone’s that I have seen in college baseball, and yesterday he had all his pitches working.”
Hamilton pitched 5 1/3 innings of scoreless relief for the Red, striking out seven while allowing just four hits. Game 2 of Sunday’s doubleheader marked the end of the season for the Red, and the end of Cornell careers for the team’s six seniors.
Hyland (4-5), who has been Cornell’s No. 1 starter all season, also played his last game in a Cornell uniform over the weekend. The 6-3 right-hander, who led the team with a 3.98 ERA, five complete games and two shut-outs, will leave a gaping hole at the top of the rotation.
“When your pitching staff loses its No. 1, which Jim has clearly been for us, that is a big loss and it his position will obviously be tough to fill,” said assistant coach Scott Marsh. “He is a guy that, especially early on this season, was absolutely a go-to guy that we could give the ball to and know that he would pitch a great game — like when he threw the two shut-outs in a row against Army and then Yale. Those are efforts that you can’t turn to another pitcher and just say, ‘Go ahead and duplicate that.’”
Yesterday, Hyland reflected on his time at Cornell and with the Red.
“It has been a great experience overall,” Hyland said. “The best part is probably the groups of guys I got to play with, my best friends on campus. The most memorable point is when we won the Gehrig division, my sophomore year. That is something I will always remember.”
Hyland, though, may not be finished just yet with baseball. The Pittsburgh native has garnered some interest from Major League scouts, and could be a late-round pick in June’s amateur draft.
“He has been seen by several scouts and there have been some scouts that have contacted us, so I don’t know for sure whether he’ll be drafted, but he is certainly a kid that from a prospect standpoint, has a big body and a nice live arm, and stacks up very well,” Marsh said. “Hopefully he’ll be drafted, but it’s hard to predict.”
While Hyland and Hamilton were the two major contributors from the senior class on a young Red team, Cornell will lose the services of relievers Tom Laughlin, Willie Meier and Adam Loeding. Kaleb Hutchinson, who hit .217 with one home run and seven RBI, was the only senior position player on the roster.
“Those guys didn’t get as many chances to pitch or play, but baseball is very much a team game, and you need reliable pitchers that you can bring out of the bullpen to get the job done, regardless of the situation,” Marsh said. “I don’t think the numbers tell the whole story; they are hardworking guys that really valued the team and were always excited to help the team win. They worked hard and were always prepared.”
With such a small senior class, the future is indeed very bright for the Red, who will return every position player save Hutchinson. A talented group of young pitchers will welcome a highly touted incoming class of freshmen in the fall. Combine those elements with sparkling new facilities, and the face of Cornell baseball is changing.
“There are plenty of high school kids out there who are excited by the prospect of coming to Cornell and playing in such nice facilities,” Marsh said. “We are excited, and we think we are going to be one of the top teams in the Ivy League next year, but we need to keep working hard and putting in the effort.”