March 28, 2008

Baseball Rides Spring Break Spark Into Ivy Opener at Hoy

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According to the weather prognosticators, Hall of Fame shortstop Ernie Banks had the second part right when he proclaimed “It’s a beautiful day for a ballgame … Let’s play two!” Fo­llowing the 11-time all-star’s credo, Cornell baseball will open up its Ivy League schedule tomorrow with a doubleheader against Harvard and another pair of games against Dartmouth on Sunday while temperatures are expected to be in the low 30s and 40s — not exactly what “Mr. Cub” had in mind. After starting with 14 road games, the Red will return to the friendly confines of Hoy Field.
Freshman phenom Corey Pappel (2-1, 1.57 ERA) will take the mound in Game 1 tomorrow for the Red. The right-handed flamethrower will look to rebound after coming off his shakiest outing of the year last Saturday in which he surrendered four earned runs, five hits and six walks to Southeastern University. Fellow right-handed hurler, sophomore David Rochefort (0-2) will get the start in the backend of the twinbill.
[img_assist|nid=29202|title=Send him home|desc=Senior outfielder Brian Kaufman squares up at the plate. The Red returns home after its Spring Break trip to Florida featured a offensive resurgence, scoring 58 runs over the last five games.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
Harvard finished second last year in the Ancient Eight’s Rolfe Division but has struggled with a difficult early non-conference schedule against perennial powerhouses and potential 2008 College World Series participants, including Wichita St., San Diego and UC Irvine. However, the Crimson (1-13, 0-0 Ivy) has captured five out of the last 11 Ivy League championships and holds a 95-41 advantage over the Red (6-8, 0-0 Ivy) in head-to-head matchups.
“For the last 10 years, Harvard has been one of the two standout programs in the League,” said assistant coach Scott Marsh. “I think between Harvard and Princeton, they’ve won 10 of the last 11 Ivy League championships, so [Harvard’s] certainly a team that you have to be able to beat on your way to winning an Ivy League title.”
Although Harvard enters tomorrow’s contest with a team ERA just north of 9.00, it led the Ivy League last season with the lowest team ERA. The Crimson pitched to a 4.37 ERA in 2007, a full two runs below that of Cornell’s team ERA.
“They’re primarily built on pitching,” Marsh said. “They tend to have very good arms and guys who can compete well on the mound, so runs are a little bit more difficult to come by off them than maybe some of the other teams. We’re certainly going to need good approaches at the plate. We’re going to have to be efficient with our offense and take advantage of the baserunners we get. We’re going to have to work hard to get a lead early in the game and then go from there.”
Although the rigid temperatures of Ithaca appeared to have frozen the Cornell bats at the outset of the season, the Red’s offense awoke last week in the Papa John’s Palm Beach Classic. Cornell is looking to continue its success at the plate as the Red exploded for 58 runs in its last five outings in Florida.
“Over spring break, our offense was a lot more productive than it was in the beginning of the season,” said senior co-captain Adam Jacobs. “That will certainly help this weekend being able to put up the runs to coverup any miscues in the field. The thing we concentrate on when it comes to hitting is never to get too high or too low because hitting is so variable. You could have a game, where you score 12 runs and then the next game you could get shutout. We are very excited about our recent approaches at the plate and how we are beginning to handle ourselves in the batter’s box. However, we’re trying to keep our emotions and adrenaline in check right now because you don’t want to get too excited too early.”
On Sunday, the Red will send sophomore sensation Matt Hill to the mound against Dartmouth (6-7, 0-0 Ivy) in Game 1. The southpaw (3-0, 1.32 ERA) registered a career-high nine strikeouts in his last outing against New Jersey Institute of Technology and can boast of the Red’s lowest ERA this season. Sophomore right-handed pitcher Tony Bertucci (0-1, 5.14 ERA) is scheduled to take the hill in the nightcap.
“Dartmouth is a little bit different animal than Harvard,” Marsh said. “They had a little bit of a down year last season, but the Ivy League is a very competitive league and from one year to another a team can definitely rebound. They’re playing about .500 ball this year and they’ve had a couple of quality wins.”
With the poorest record in the Ivy League last season, the Green has been getting it done with the lumber this season, hitting .315 as team with 12 jacks and 90 runs scored in 13 contests.
“It looks like they’re swinging the bats pretty well this year,” Marsh said. “They have a couple of kids in the middle of their order, [sophomore Nick] Santomauro and [senior Damon] Wright, who are doing a good job of hitting for average and knocking in runs. I feel like if we can control those two guys, keep them off the base paths and keep them from doing too much damage, we’re going to be well on our way to playing effectively.”
Wright can wreak havoc on the base paths with a team-high three stolen bases this year. The centerfielder also led the Green by swiping eight bags a year ago. However, he must be leery of Jacobs’ cannon from behind the dish, as he has thrown out 5-of-9 potential base stealers this season.
“Our main team strength is our defense, Jacobs said. “We know we have to play the defense we’re capable of, which is error-free, smart, efficient defense not only to stick around with teams, but also put them away.”