April 9, 2008

Baseball Splits Midweek Ivy Homestand

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Baseball, at times, can be a game of inches. Yesterday afternoon, both the Cornell and Harvard squads inched their way to conference success, as the two teams split a doubleheader at Hoy Field. Both the Red (7-16, 1-7 Ivy) and the Crimson (2-22, 1-7 Ivy) gained their first Ivy win. In both games, only one run separated the winner from the loser.
Cornell got its first win in six games with a 6-5 victory in Game 1. The 2-1 loss, however, for the home team in Game 2 was the Red’s fourth one-run loss in its last six games, going back to the weekend.
“We try not to let the first game affect the second game [in doubleheaders],” said senior second baseman Jimmy Heinz, “but we played flat in the first game. So maybe the excitement of the first game kind of deflated us a little bit.”
“Especially in Ivy league play, every game’s going to be close,” said junior shortstop Scott Hardinger. “It’s nice to know that we’re in every game. We could easily have four of five victories right now, rather than just one. … Today was encouraging. We started pitching really well, and hitting will come along. It’s rare for us to not hit well in a game like we did today [in Game 2].”
Hardinger had taken his own advice to heart in Game 1. After he made an error in the third inning, the Crimson scored three runs on a double to right center by Thomas Zollo. Hardinger erased all memory of that misstep, however, with 3 RBI performance at the plate, including a walkoff RBI hit to left center that sealed the win.
The Red had edged back in fourth with one run off a Hardinger hit to the gap left of the shortstop. Then, in the bottom of the fifth, the Red had a definitive answer for the Crimson’s outburst with a three-run inning of its own. Even when the Crimson’s top pitcher, 6-8 senior Brad Unger, took the mound, he couldn’t keep the Red from taking a one-run lead on a fielder’s choice from Hardinger.
The Red answered in the bottom half of the inning on the strength of leadoff batter Domenic Di Ricco’s baserunning. The junior rounded second when the ball passed Harvard’s first baseman, and Di Ricco kept going when a throw overshot third as well. He came home to return the lead to the Red, 5-4.
Cornell went to the bullpen again in the final inning. Though sophomore Matt Hill got into some trouble with men on first and third and one out, Hill gave up only one run, paving the way for Hardinger’s gamewinner.
“It was the same as any approach [at the plate],” Hardinger said. “I had a couple at bats against that pitcher [Unger], so I knew his style of pitching. I could get ahead with his fastball, and I was lucky enough to get a good piece of one.”
In Game 2, both teams’ bats cooled off and the pitchers’ gloves caught fire instead. Sophomore David Rochefort pitched seven solid innings for the Red, but his Harvard counterpart made even more of a splash. Freshman Zachary Hofeld, who entered the game with a 21.6 ERA in three appearances for the Crimson, went the distance yesterday, allowing only four hits in nine innings. Heinz, who had gone 3-for-3 in Game 1, had some prior experience with the phenom.
“I actually went to high school with [Hofeld],” Heinz said, “so I know him pretty well. He throws strikes, and he throws three pitches for strikes. He doesn’t have great stuff, but he did very well against us today. We didn’t have a great approach.”
“The pitcher in the last game liked to mix a lot, liked to throw junk in almost every count it seemed like,” Hardinger said. “So we didn’t adjust enough to that, and it came back to bite us.”
Junior Nathan Ford’s hard-hit groundout sent Di Ricco home to get the Red on the board in the sixth. The Red held the Crimson scoreless for the final four innings, but that one run would be the last spark from the Cornell offense.
“When you hold a team to two runs, you should be able to win a baseball game,” said head coach Tom Ford. “Obviously, their pitcher did a nice job on us, and I don’t know if we approached him the way we should have. We seemed to be out on our front foot quite a bit. … Sometimes you try to be too aggressive. You’re overanxious, and that’s what happens.”