April 8, 2008

Baseball Resolves to Avenge Weekend Sweep

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Perhaps, the only thing more shocking in Ivy League baseball than Cornell’s final inning letdown in both games of Sunday’s doubleheader against Yale is the fact that Harvard, which has captured five of the last 11 Ivy League Crowns, has garnered only one victory in 20 outings this season. However, the Red can commiserate with the Crimson as both teams are so far winless in Ancient Eight action this season and will tussle today at Hoy Field in an afternoon doubleheader.
“I think we’re all just very eager to get back out on the field,” said junior leftfielder Dom Di Ricco. “It’s been a rough last couple of weeks and a rough last couple of games. We want to show everyone that we’re a lot better than our record shows.”
In the opener, Cornell (6-15, 0-6 Ivy) will send senior Walker Toma to the hill to erase the bad memories from the weekend’s doubleheader losses to Brown and Yale and to try and snap the Red’s seven game losing streak. [img_assist|nid=29624|title=Lean back|desc=Freshman pitcher Cory Pappel demonstrates his righthanded prowess against Dartmouth on March 30. Cornell will need a strong pitching performance in order to defeat Harvard.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
“As hitters, we need to come through with two outs,” Di Ricco said. “Recently, I failed to do so, but I think it’s imperative for all hitters to come through with two outs. And, we just need big pitches from our pitchers when it counts just like we need big hits from our hitters when it counts.”
Despite an abysmal record, the Crimson (1-19, 0-4 Ivy) can attribute its lack of success to a difficult non-conference schedule.
“It’s really easy to get caught up in their [losing] record, especially their games before the Ivy League season began,” Di Ricco said. “But, teams they’ve played [except Northern Iowa, San Diego State and Holy Cross] made the College World Series last year, so it’s important that we look past their record and we view them as competitive as anyone else in the Ivy League. It’s an Ivy League game, anything could happen. Personally, I’m excited to get out there against them. I haven’t won a game against Harvard, so I really want to win these two.”
Personal reasons aside, Cornell has plenty of incentive to defeat Harvard. The Red is already more than a quarter of the way through its Ivy League schedule and still searching for its first victory. Should Cornell fail to capture that elusive Ancient Eight win in Game 1 today, sophomore hurler David Rochefort will have the responsibility of pitching the Red to victory in the backend of the doubleheader.
“Of course I [feel pressure],” Rochefort said. “I go out there every time wanting to win and being 0-6 in the Ivy League is definitely not where we want to be. I think we’re going to really need to use last weekend’s [losses to Yale] as motivation to go out and play hard. We still have a lot of inter-division games, which really count for a lot.”
Senior right fielder Tom Stack-Babich paces the Crimson with a .391 batting average, .674 slugging percentage and two dingers.
“Harvard hasn’t performed like it did last year, but their team is still one of the better lineups in the League,” Rochefort said. “This year, they played a really, really tough out-of-league schedule. They played four or five top-25 teams.”
Harvard dropped nine games against Baseball America’s top-25 teams, including No. 12 Wichita State, No. 17 San Diego, No. 10 Long Beach State and No. 5 UC Irvine.
However, on the field, it all comes down to strategy as Cornell will attack the predominantly right-handed Harvard lineup with right-handed hurlers Toma and Rochefort.
“All I know is that they have a lot of right-handed hitters, which plays into my strength,” Rochefort said. “My best pitch is a slider, which is actually a lot harder to hit for a right-handed batter. I think that’s part of the reason our pitching coach [Scott Marsh] wanted me to face them. I was originally scheduled to pitch against them last week as well, but they pushed me back, so I would be sure to face them this week.”
After last Monday’s contests against the Crimson were rescheduled a second time due to weather, Cornell has all the pieces in place potentially for its first Ivy League win of the season.
In the past week, the team has managed to lose its games at the beginning, in the middle innings and on the very last pitch, but today the Red seems primed for victory. Absorbing painful defeats in every manner possible lately, Cornell must not look at Harvard’s woeful record and be lulled into a false sense of complacency.