March 26, 2008

Pappel and Hill: They're Sure to Thrill

Print More

Is it possible that freshman pitcher Corey Pappel and sophomore hurler Matt Hill might one day be mentioned in the same breath as the Brooklyn Dodgers’ famous lefty-righty combo of Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale? Well, they would merely need an additional 368 victories to equal the combined number of career wins of the Dodgers’ Hall of Fame duo. However, in terms of effectiveness, Cornell’s lefty-righty twin twirlers have earned five of the Red’s six wins in the early campaign and have limited the opposition to a paltry .204 batting average.
“They’re definitely our top-2 pitchers at this point,” said head coach Tom Ford. “A lot of times what we try to do is match up a little bit against the opposing team since Matt’s a lefty and Corey’s a righty, but they’ve definitely proved they’re the top-2 guys for us.”
Although Pappel yielded four earned runs in a no-decision on Saturday to Southeastern University, they were the only earned runs he has surrendered all season. The lanky 6—6, 210 pound right-hander (coincidentally, the precise height and weight of Drysdale) is 2-1 in four appearances, permitting just 15 hits while striking out 17 batters in 23 innings and pitching to a 1.57 ERA.
“We had an idea that he would be one of our top pitchers and certainly that’s how it played out here,” Ford said. “The thing we like about Corey is that he definitely has good stuff. He’s got good movement on his fastball and a sharp breaking slider. That’s what he does well although he had a little bit of a rough go of it in the last outing. He throws strikes and stays ahead of hitters. As a freshman, he does a good job of controlling the tempo of the game.”[img_assist|nid=29128|title=The southpaw|desc=Sophomore Matt Hill (31) leads the team in ERA with 1.32 on the season.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
Pappel’s stellar performance on the mound garnered him Ivy League Rookie of the Week honors each of the first two weeks of the season.
“I didn’t really know what to expect coming into the season,” Pappel said. “I just sort of went out there and did my thing. It’s been going pretty well so far. During the first couple of games, I was just getting comfortable and becoming less intimidated. I was able to settle down and just pitch my game. I didn’t put much thought into ‘Oh, these guys are older.’ It really just comes down to baseball is baseball.”
This is not the first time the Mississauga, Ontario native has battled older competition. Last summer, he faced professionals in Major League Baseball’s Instructional League as a member of Canada’s Junior National Baseball team.
“I don’t really feel that intimidated,” Pappel said. “I’ve pitched against good competition in the past. I try not to think too much and just go out there and pitch the inning regardless of who the competition is. I find thinking too much doesn’t really help at all.”
It also helps to have an experienced veteran catcher in senior tri-captain Adam Jacobs behind the dish.
“[Jacobs] is really good behind the plate,” Pappel said. “It’s really good to have someone like that and it’s really nice to know when there’s someone on first or second that they’re probably going to stay there. He’s pretty smart when it comes to controlling the game and knowing what’s going on in different situations. It takes a little bit of stress off as a pitcher when you know you have good guys behind you and especially behind the plate.”
Fulfilling the role of Koufax in this dynamic duo, Hill has registered the lowest ERA on the team at this juncture in the season with a miniscule 1.32 ERA. At 6—1 and 180 pounds, the sophomore southpaw already surpassed his total innings pitched from last year while allowing only four earned runs and fanning 21 batters in 27 1/3 innings of work this season.
“Matt pitched some very good games for us,” Ford said. “The key this year is just his consistency. He’s attacking the strike zone and attacking hitters much better than he did last year, but he did have a decent year for us last year. He had a couple starts, but he mainly came on in relief. Now, he worked his way into being a starter just by his performance. His role has changed and a lot of it stems from him being more consistent.”
The crafty lefty echoed his coach’s sentiments and acknowledged that he has grown quite comfortable with the routine of being a starting pitcher as opposed to a reliever.
“The main difference is that being a reliever you could go in at any point during the game as opposed to the starter, who only has to prepare himself for one game a week,” Hill said. “It’s just a totally different mindset. Being a starter was one of my goals that I set out for at the beginning of this year. It’s not that I didn’t like relieving, but I just liked starting that much more.”
In his last start against New Jersey Institute of Technology on Friday in the Papa John’s Palm Beach Classic, Hill surrendered only one earned run and struck out nine batters in seven innings en route to a 17-2 pummeling of the guys from the Garden State.
“I mean [nine strikeouts] is more than I had in any game that I’ve started,” Hill said. “I didn’t approach it differently and I wasn’t trying to throw it harder or throw it past them. I just hit my spots a lot on counts in my favor. It’s not like I was trying to count strikeouts or anything like that, it just sort of happened.”
The Pittsburgh-area native also got the opportunity to display his pitching prowess against his home team earlier this season when he limited the University of Pittsburgh to two earned runs in six innings of work en route to an 8-5 victory.
“Going into the game I was really excited. I have a couple friends on the team. In fact, my dad went to West Virginia University, so I’ve always had that kind of rivalry against Pitt. It was a really big deal for me to go out there and do well. It was very exciting for me to get the win over them.”
While non-league opponents have had little success against the Red’s terrific twosome, the Ancient Eight will soon get their first look of the season at this pair of aces. Weekend contests against Dartmouth and Harvard will put the league on notice that Cornell boasts the finest lefty-right combination in the Ivies. While it might be a lofty goal for Pappel and Hill to attain the success that Koufax and Drysdale achieved in Dodger Blue, they are sure to have opposing batters seeing red this season.