March 25, 2008

Softball Impresses in Florida Over Break

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Like many of their fellow Cornellians, the women’s softball team headed south for Spring Break, but instead of relaxing under the Florida sun, the Red went through a grueling 16-game schedule over eight days. The women ended with an 11-5 record over the break to improve to 16-6 overall.
The Red opened the break in impressive fashion, winning the first two games of the Stetson Classic. Day 1 saw freshman pitcher Elizabeth Dalrymple open Spring Break with a six-hit, complete-game, shutout victory over Bowling Green.
Senior Jenn Meunier led the Red to a win against the Iowa Hawkeyes later that day with an eight-inning complete game shutout. Meunier allowed only two hits while striking out three in the 1-0 victory.
“We were happy mostly with our win over Iowa,” said sophomore Vanessa Leonhard. “Iowa is a Big-10 school and it let us all know that we could win against a really good team. We won on a sacrifice bunt from [senior] Samantha Hare… It was really exciting for us, and it was an indication of how well we can play.”
The following day, the Red dropped its final two games of the Stetson Invitational to finish at 2-2. After losing to host Stetson in the first game of Day 2, freshman Ali Tomlinson got her first start of the break in a rematch against Iowa. Despite throwing a complete game, Tomlinson could not match Meunier and the Red lost, 6-5.[img_assist|nid=29088|title=Playing pickle|desc=Junior Jessy Berkey (12) shows off her baserunning prowess. The Red went 11-5 over Spring Break including two complete-game shutouts.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
“We faced some really good teams at the Stetson Invitational,” said sophomore infielder Alyson Intihar. “We faced Iowa, a Big-10 school. We played really well against them, even though we split with them, and it was definitely a building experience for our team after facing some really tough competition.”
The team bounced back from the two-loss finish at Stetson by going 8-2 at the Rebel Spring games. The Red’s only losses came against Lafayette and Wisconsin-Green Bay, which beat Cornell 8-0 and 4-2, respectively.
The Red got out to another fast start, taking the first game in Kissimmee, 19-0 over Iona. Over the ten Rebel games, Cornell totaled five shutout victories and outscored opponents 54-24.
“At the end [of the Rebel Games] we were really happy,” Leonhard said. “We played 16 games in eight days without a day off, so that was really mentally challenging. We played against some really challenging teams, and we felt that we came out with a better understanding of how each person can play a major role and how, as a team, we can play at many different levels.”
With the Ivy League season set to begin this weekend, the games played over spring break are used mainly as preparation for conference play. Although not exhibition games, several players stressed the importance of the trip to Florida in helping prepare for the Ivy League.
“I think the whole Florida Campaign is really about growing as a team,” Intihar said. “Like coach said, we have all the pieces of the puzzle and now we just have to figure out how to put them together. I think towards the end of the week we started to figure that out… It’s amazing how much you can learn from just playing the game as opposed to practicing inside every day during the winter. It gets a bit tiring so it’s really good to get outside and play 16 games.”
In between Days 3 and 4 of the Rebel games, the Red traveled to Daytona Beach for its annual doubleheader with Bethune Cookman. Tomlinson started the first game, leading the Red to a 4-0 victory by allowing only one hit in four innings. Dalrymple and the Red were not as fortunate in the second game, losing 3-2 despite only allowing two earned runs.
“It’s a long week and I think just being mentally tough through the whole week is something that is really important,” Intihar said. “…The games start to meld together a little bit. It’s definitely a different feeling that playing Ivy League games. Playing Ivy League games the whole atmosphere is different and everyone seems to elevate their level of play.”
“It’s important to stay focused throughout the entire week. It’s difficult towards the end, but we did a really good job towards the end — pulling out four wins — and I think that will catapult us into the Ivy League season.”
After losing the second game against Bethune Cookman, the Red finished the week with four consecutive wins over Army, Fairleigh Dickinson, Manhattan, and Wagner, to finish 11-5 over the break. In the 9-3, nine-inning win against Fairleigh Dickinson, Tomlinson broke a 12-year-old school record for strikeouts, mowing down 14 Knights.
Over the break, Meunier led the pitching staff by going 5-1 with five complete games, while the freshman tandem of Dalrymple and Tomlinson each went 3-2. Sophomore Ashley Garvey brought her average to a team-leading .450 and sophomore Elise Menaker stayed hot, ending the break with 16 RBIs to lead the Red.