April 11, 2008

Baseball Looks For Revenge Against Penn

Print More

When the baseball team travels to the City of Brotherly Love to open up a four-game series against Penn tomorrow afternoon, Cornell pitchers will attempt to conduct a Quaker meeting of their own as they try to silence the sizzling bats of the Penn lineup.
On the hill in Game 1 of tomorrow’s twinbill, freshman ace Corey Pappel (2-2, 4.15 ERA) will look to shutdown Penn’s No. 3-ranked Ivy League offense following an impressive outing last Sunday in a no-decision against Yale. In the nightcap, the Red will send sophomore right-handed pitcher Tony Bertucci (0-1, 4.50 ERA) to the mound. [img_assist|nid=29750|title=Turn it|desc=Junior infielder Scott Hardinger circles the bases in a 6-5 loss to Yale on March 31. The Red is coming off it’s first Ivy League win last weekend.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
“I feel ready,” Bertucci said. “I can’t wait to get out there and pitch. [Tomorrow] I’m going to go out there and try to pound the zone with strikes. I like to throw inside a lot and try to get early outs. I want the Penn lineup swinging. I want them to be aggressive. I want them to know strikes are coming since I know the defense is going to make the plays for me.”
After earning its first league victory of the season on Tuesday against Harvard, the Red (7-16, 1-7 Ivy) can supplant the Quakers (11-12, 3-4 Ivy) for sole possession of third place in the Gehrig Division with a series sweep.
“Our pitchers had a great weekend last weekend, pitched really well on Tuesday and hopefully that translates into success against Penn,” said senior co-captain Adam Jacobs. “We got the monkey off our backs with our first Ivy win on Tuesday, but at the same time we’re going to have to start racking them up here pretty quickly to be able to hang in there. Now, that we know we can win, we just have to do it more than once.”
Although Penn suffered a 16-2 thumping at the hands of cross-town rival Villanova on Tuesday, it has the leading pitching staff in the Ancient Eight with a league-low 4.29 team ERA.
“Their starters are pretty good,” Jacobs said. “They played really good defense and pitched well against us last season, but our bats were cold at that point. Our league changes every year with the new freshman that comes in. Last year, Penn had a freshman pitcher, [current sophomore Todd] Roth, who pitched really well in two appearances against us. He was their ace as a freshman, but I don’t believe he has the same numbers this year.”
Unfortunately for Jacobs and his Cornell teammates, he does. Roth tops all pitchers in the Ivy League with a 1.76 ERA, accumulating a 4-1 record and allowing only 28 hits while fanning nearly a batter per inning with 37 strikeouts in 41.0 innings pitched. In addition, the right-handed pitcher enjoys the league’s top defense behind him with a .965 fielding percentage.
As the winner of the Gehrig Division last season, Penn will be a formidable opponent for Cornell. However, the Red understands the importance of these division contests.
“We always try to take as many games as we can from the teams in our division,” Bertucci said. “When it comes down to it, the games in the division are what matter most. Right now it’s time to try to take all of them if we can and I think we can do that.”
Bertucci’s battery mate, Jacobs, echoed the 6-4, 185 pound pitcher’s sentiments and acknowledged the added importance behind these games.
“By playing a team four times in a weekend, you can make a giant jump in the standings very quickly,” Jacobs said. “At the same time you can go down very quickly, so it’s a big weekend for us. If we can put together a little winning streak here against Penn, we could jump ahead of them and that would only give us momentum heading into the final two weekends of the year.”
Sophomore southpaw Matt Hill (4-2, 4.46 ERA) will start the opener for the Red on Sunday in its second double dip with the Quakers. Classmate David Rochefort will take the hill for Cornell in the final game of the series after a solid performance against Harvard in which the right-handed hurler permitted only two earned runs and four hits in seven innings of work.
The Red pitching staff must also remain cognizant of sophomore second baseman Steve Gable, who received Player of the Week accolades this week and leads the league with 41 hits in 91 at bats for a .451 batting average. Gable is currently enjoying an 18-game hitting streak and will prove to be a difficult out at the top of the Quakers’ batting order.
To say Penn is a familiar foe is a considerable understatement. Since Cornell’s inception into collegiate baseball in 1869, it has tangled with the Quakers 241 times, which is more than any other opponent in team history. Although the Red has been on the losing end in a majority of those contests with a 100-139-2 head-to-head record, it will attempt to make up ground this weekend in the all-time ledger against Penn as well as the 2008 standings.