September 19, 2007

Baseball Returns Many Key Players

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The fall sports season is officially upon us, and September, true to form, has been a very active month — both at Cornell and around the nation. Red football kicked off its season against Bucknell this Saturday, the ticket process for the highly anticipated hockey line was unveiled last week, Roger Federer recently won his 4th consecutive U.S. Open championship and Major League Baseball’s hunt for october is in full gear. Of course, it can’t be too early to talk about the Cornell baseball squad, whose schedule was released on Sept. 6.
The Red will open its season in Charlottesville for the University of Virginia Tournament, facing both Siena and highly regarded Virginia in late February. After a pair of tournaments in Philadelphia and Palm Beach in March, the team hosts its home opener versus Harvard on March 28.
Despite the departures of first baseman Justin Milo — who transferred to Vermont — and senior pitcher Jim Hyland, a solid freshman crop plus the return of the eight other position players can potentially offset these two losses. Junior captain Casey Brett is guardedly optimistic about the upcoming season: “[We’ve had] two improving seasons, but haven’t yet seen the success we want.”
The type of success Brett is referring to is an Ivy League championship, which Cornell hasn’t attained in over thirty years. With the exception of Brown, who won the tournament last year, Harvard and Princeton have claimed the title every year since 1995. Cornell’s record in 2006 was 10-29 (6-14 Ivy), and last season was 15-23 (8-12 Ivy).
One strength Brett points to is the promise of the incoming freshmen, seven of whom are pitchers. The most notable of these players are Corey Pappel, a former pitcher for Team Canada who was almost drafted out of high school, and Mike Carroll, who was heavily recruited by several east coast schools. Cornell also returns many key contributors from last season. Senior second baseman Jimmy Heinz — who led the team in home runs last year (4) — is looking to build on that success and be a leader in the infield. Junior Domenic Di Ricco — who performed well last year in the leadoff spot — will likely swith posititions in the outfield and try to make more of an impact in 2007.
“He is coming off a pretty stellar season last year,” Brett said. Other players that will be assuming leadership roles next season include senior pitcher Walker Toma and co-captain Adam Jacobs.
With a host of new players and a revamped group of pitchers (possibly including a few freshmen), plenty of practice is in order for the squad to produce results.
“All of the guys have to step up,” Brett said.