March 7, 2008

Cornell to Compete In Villanova Classic

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This weekend Cornell will travel to the city of brotherly love, cheesesteaks, hot pretzels with mustard and Rocky Balboa to compete against three of Philly’s big five perennial roundball powerhouses. But, fortunately, this weekend, the roundball is baseball, not basketball. So, put away the smelling salts and take a collective sigh of relief, because La Salle, Temple and Villanova are not nearly the same threat on the baseball diamond as they are on the basketball court.
Today, the baseball team will open up on the road with a doubleheader against La Salle in the first round of the Villanova Classic. Aptly named the Explorers, La Salle (0-9, 0-0 Atlantic-10) is still searching for its first victory of the season.
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Freshman right-handed pitcher Corey Pappel (1-0, 0.00 ERA) will take the mound in the first game for the Red (1-3, 0-0 Ivy) and look to snap Cornell’s three-game losing streak. Pappel has yet to allow an earned run after tossing six scoreless innings of four-hit ball and striking out six batters against Siena in the Red’s season-opener last week.
“He’s got so much movement and he’s so dynamic that he can get away with pitches that are mistakes,” said senior co-captain Adam Jacobs. “I wouldn’t put it past him to shutout the next team again. He’s good.”
Sophomore outfielder John Malloy paces the Explorers’ early season offense. He has a .324 average, and with a pair of homeruns is one of La Salle’s few longball threats.
“La Salle does not hit the ball out of the ballpark that much, but they do a lot of spray hitting, so they’ll hit a lot of singles to all parts of the field,” Jacobs said. “They’re pretty disciplined hitters although they don’t seem to walk that much as a team in general. They’re a pretty good team. Obviously, I think we have better talent, but it will be interesting to see how we match up against a team like them.”
Weather permitting, against Temple tomorrow afternoon, Cornell sophomore southpaw Matt Hill (0-0, 1.93 ERA) will oppose junior right-handed pitcher Matt Mongiardini (1-0, 2.08 ERA), last week’s Atlantic-10 Pitcher of the Week. Although this contest has all the makings of a pitchers duel, head coach Tom Ford would like to see more firepower from his offense.
“We’re still working on things that we would always work on at this time of year, nothing out of the ordinary,” Ford said. “We’re just trying to make sure that we stay a little more consistent at the plate and be a little more aggressive as well.”
However, offense may be at a premium tomorrow as the Owls are a ballclub that specializes in small ball.
“Temple has a lot of team speed, so I think they’re going to look to try to slap the ball and beat it out a lot,” Jacobs said. “They didn’t seem to have too much power either. I think they’re going to try to steal a lot when they get on first base. I also think they’re going to bunt a lot and try to put the pressure on us as a defense.”
After committing four errors in its final game against Virginia last Sunday, Cornell has stressed fundamental defense this week in practice.
“For three of the games last weekend we played pretty good defense,” Ford said. “But in one of them we booted it around a little bit. So, we’re working on those things anyway, but just maybe with a little extra emphasis on defense this week.”
If weather allows Saturday’s game against Temple to be played, Cornell will cap the road trip on Sunday by sending senior left-handed pitcher Bryce Klinesteker (0-0, 1.69 ERA) to the hill against Villanova. If the Red can’t play on Saturday, it will face Temple on Sunday. The Wildcats sport a bloated team earned run average of 10.30, but compensate with a potent top half of the batting order.
“Villanova has speed at the top of the order, power in the middle of the lineup and the rest of the guys are just kind of average hitters, Jacobs said. “When you think about a baseball lineup, that’s kind of how they’re built.”
While the Red strives to improve upon a disappointing 1-3 opening quartet of games last weekend, it must adapt to three different styles of play in order to be successful.
“We’re basically playing three teams that have completely different styles of baseball,” Jacobs said. “So it will be interesting to see how our style of baseball matches up against their style.”
While these schools traditionally regard baseball season as a sort of transitional period bridging the conclusion of March Madness to the start of summer basketball workouts, it is strictly their play on the baseball diamond that is of utmost importance to Cornell.