March 25, 2008

Red Baseball Team Goes .500 in Florida

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From Major League Baseball Spring Training to little league talent and everything in between, Florida is a magnet for competitive baseball. The Red experienced this firsthand last week, as the baseball team went 4-4 over the break against tough competition — including now-No. 3 Miami — in the sunshine state. Dropping four in a row after starting with two wins, the Red (6-8) is now on a two-game winning streak going into its Ivy opener this weekend.
On Saturday, the team picked off three-time NCCAA Division 2 defending champion Southeastern University, 11-8. Cornell had two big innings: a five-run third and four-run sixth. Cornell had a 9-5 lead going into the seventh and held onto a one-run edge, 9-8, going into the eighth. The Red then picked up two runs in the eighth to seal the win.
“Those two [wins] at the end of the week were the highest point [of the Spring Break trip],” said junior outfielder Domenic Di Ricco, “because those are carrying over into the regular season starting this weekend.”
Di Ricco went 3-for-4 with two runs, while junior infielder Nathan Ford went 2-for-4 with 3 RBIs. Ford’s consistency and power drove the Cornell offense for much of the break.
The Red had started its Spring Break trip strong, notching wins on March 16 against Penn St., 4-1, and Pittsburgh, 8-5. Both matchups featured Cornell aces on the mound. Against Penn St., freshman starter Corey Pappel (2-1) got the win, with senior RHP Walker Toma coming in for two innings to get his first save of the year.[img_assist|nid=29087|title=King of the Hill|desc=Sophomore southpaw Matt Hill allowed four runs in six innings against Pittsburgh to record the win for the Red.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
Sophomore southpaw and Pennsylvania native Matt Hill recorded the win over Pittsburgh, allowing four runs in six innings before classmate Tony Bertucci made his first appearance in relief this season. After a slow start against Penn St. — a game in which only one player, senior Adam Jacobs, had a multi-hit game — Ford went 4-for-4 in the second game.
“The two wins [against Penn St. and Pittsburgh] were great,” Di Ricco said. “Those are big-name schools. To have those [wins] on our resume is nice.”
The team’s next game fell on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, but the luck of the Red ran out that day, as Florida Atlantic handed Cornell its first loss of the break, 11-6. The Red took a two-run lead in the fourth, but Cornell’s sophomore starter David Rochefort gave up three home runs in the next inning, handing Florida Atlantic a lead it would not relinquish.
The Red didn’t have time to dwell on the loss, however, as the team faced its toughest matchup of the week the next day. Even with one its best offensive performances of the season coming in that contest exactly one week ago, efficiently scoring nine runs on 10 hits, the Red was soundly defeated by then-No. 10 Miami, 20-9.
“[Florida Atlantic and Miami] were very good ball clubs,” Di Ricco said, “but we thought we had a good chance against them. We looked good out there. We had timely hitting. There just weren’t enough innings in the game for us to catch up.”
Senior LHP Bryce Klinesteker recorded the loss after allowing five runs in the first. Nathan Ford led the offense, going 3-for-4 with three RBI. Cornell got the score to within two after scoring six runs in the top of the fifth. But after Ford’s two-RBI single made it 11-9, the Red never scored again, as the Hurricane offense pounded out nine more runs over three innings.
The Red defense couldn’t contain Miami, with Cornell committing five errors to Miami’s one. The Hurricanes (17-2) used six different pitchers in the contest.
The Red’s losing skid continued in an extremely disappointing series with Long Island (6-12). Ford got a three-run homer in the bottom of the ninth of Game 1 last Wednesday, but the Blackbirds took the win, 14-12. As the Red pitching staff allowed 15 hits in Game 2 of the doubleheader the next day, Cornell dropped the back end as well, 14-9.
“Even though we didn’t get the results we were looking for against Florida Atlantic and Miami, we made a lot of progress and were relaxed,” Di Ricco said. “I think we were expecting that progress to carry over, and we all got very tense. And that carried into our games with Long Island.”
Friday, however, the more relaxed Red surged back with a 17-2 hammering of ECAC opponent New Jersey Institute of Technology (2-14). Di Ricco went a perfect 3-for-3 at the plate with four runs, while Hill also preserved his perfect 3-0 record on the year with nine strikeouts in seven innings.