May 1, 2007

With Ivy Title Gone, Red Vie for Bragging Rights

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The softball team’s Ivy League season is over. Having finished one game behind Penn in the South Division, the Red just missed the chance to play for the Ivy title. Instead of an Ancient Eight showdown, however, Cornell will get a chance to topple an Empire 8 powerhouse as it hosts cross-town rival Ithaca College today at 3:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. at Niemand-Robison Field.
The two teams were supposed to face off last Wednesday, but the doubleheader was rained out. With openings in both teams’ schedules today, an opportunity presented itself to reschedule the much-anticipated matchup.
“Year in year out we play [Ithaca] the last week or next-to-last week,” said head coach Dick Blood. “They always get themselves geared up to play us, and I’d like to think that we understand that they’re a ranked Division-III school, and hopefully we’ll be geared up for them as well.”
Ithaca (30-4) is ranked third in Division-III softball and has a perfect 12-0 conference record. The Bombers are on a hot streak heading into the Empire 8 Championship tournament this Friday, having won their last 18 games. Ithaca allowed only one run in two doubleheaders this past weekend. The lone run came in a 16-1 pounding against Elmira on Saturday after the first game ended with a score of 8-0. Ithaca swept SUNY Geneseo on the next day, 8-0 and 4-0.
Cornell (32-13, 13-7 Ivy), on the other hand, is coming off a heartbreaker of a weekend. After splitting doubleheaders with Princeton at home and on the road, the Red fell one game short of the top spot in the standings for the third year in a row.
“Each of the last three years we’ve been right there at the end, and it’s exciting to be in the race playing for something on the last day of the season,” Blood said. “We still had wind in our sails even though we split on Saturday. I felt that our team was excited about going down to play Princeton, knowing the task at hand was going to be doubly difficult with Kristen Schaus on the mound. She handled us pretty well in Game 1 up here and she handled us pretty well in Game 1 down there. We put the ball into play a little bit. We didn’t strike out as much as we could have, but we didn’t really put ourselves in a position to win because we didn’t score. … It was difficult but we’ve got to keep on pushing, keep on working. … We’re going to play hard and give some players an opportunity [to get in the game] who maybe haven’t gotten to play as much.”
The Red will employ its regular starters in the first game but might mix it up a little for the second game, depending on how the game is going. The atmosphere should be a mix of focus and fun, according to senior Sarah Ruben.
“It is a matter of pride. We’re still playing our hometown rivals,” Ruben said. “There will be intensity in the game, but it’s going to definitely be more relaxed and more like, ‘Hey, let’s end the season with a bang.’”
For the Red, this last week of games is not about having detailed goals. It’s about the big picture — maintaining the high effort level that drove the team throughout the Ivy season in spite of the disappointing final results.
“We have a commitment and a contract to other universities,” Blood said. “We always honor that commitment and contract. … Some universities will call up and say we have classes, we’ve got a lot of things going on, since we’re out of league play or we didn’t make it in our tournament we don’t want to play anymore. Well we’re going to honor that commitment. … I know [the players] were hurting pretty badly after the doubleheader [Sunday]. Even though we played very, very well in the second game, which made us feel a little bit better, but it’s tough. You work, you train all year long … with that cherished Ivy League championship as a goal. It’s very, very difficult. Only one team’s going to get there. So you just have to kind of move forward. It’s not easy, but we’re big people. We can handle it.”