April 14, 2008

Baseball Takes Three of Four From Quakers

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After a 5-2 loss to Penn in Game 1 of a doubleheader on Saturday, the baseball team clawed back to an eighth inning, 6-6 tie in Game 2 before the contest was suspended due to darkness. After the sun rose over Philadelphia yesterday morning, however, the Red was working on all cylinders in completing three wins over the Quakers by increasing margins, 10-8, 8-1 and 16-5.
“For whatever reason, they played with much more confidence [yesterday],” said head coach Tom Ford. “They attacked with the bats, not waiting for things to happen.”[img_assist|nid=29825|title=12 to 6|desc=Sophomore Matt Hill follows through on a pitch in an 18-11 loss to Dartmouth. Hill came up big this weekened, pitching a complete game en route to an 8-1 win over Penn yesterday.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
“Coach reminded us to show how tough we are and that a response [after the loss] would show that,” agreed junior Domenic Di Ricco, who batted .500 for the weekend in the leadoff spot. “I personally think we are a tough team, but we don’t always show it. But our response to that loss really showed how tough a team we are. … You felt a change in the mentality in the dugout [from Saturday to yesterday]. We got our confidence back in the dugout and rode the wave through the weekend.”
In the final game of the weekend, for example, Cornell scored five runs in the first and jumped out to a 13-3 lead after the second. Before the weekend, the Red had not reached double digits in team scoring since March 30.
“You can’t explain hitting like that. Hitting is contagious,” said senior Brian Kaufman. “Everyone just feeds off each other, and before you know it you’ve scored [13] runs in the first two innings.”
In that game, Cornell’s offense took center stage on the strength of Kaufman’s bat. The senior hit two two-run homers, one in the first and one in the eighth.
“I just feel like I could see the ball really well, and I had a lot of confidence against their pitching and going into their stadium because of what happened a few years ago,” Kaufman said. “I’m just thankful to finally get a chance to break into the lineup and capitalize [on the opportunity].”
In a mid-April doubleheader sweep of Penn two years ago, then-sophomore Kaufman had gone 7-for-11 with two doubles, three triples and a home run. In this season, however, the outfielder has struggled at the plate with limited playing time, batting .145 with appearances in 21-of-27 games.
Kaufman got off to a slow start this weekend as well, going 0-for-8 over Saturday’s Game 2 and Sunday’s Game 1. Something clicked against Penn hurler Paul Cusick, however, as the senior went 3-for-6 with three runs.
The three-win weekend helped to close the gap between the Red (10-17, 4-8 Ivy) and the Quakers (12-15-1, 4-7-1), No. 4 and No. 3 in the Gehrig Division, respectively. Cornell is now a half a game behind Penn and four games out of first place in the division.
“[The weekend] reminded us how good this feels,” Di Ricco said. “[It was good] to drive us to repeat this weekend after weekend.”
“We had good pitching performances and timely hitting,” Kaufman said. “When you can put those together, you have a great chance to win. Anytime you can win the pitching battle or the hitting battle or the defensive battle, you have a chance.”
While none of those three key elements was working for the Red in its loss on Saturday, all of them gelled from the start yesterday. In Penn’s win on Saturday, The Quakers on the mound, Jeremy Maas and Robbie Seymour, allowed only five Cornell hits. For Cornell pitching, freshman Corey Pappel had given up three earned runs in 4 1/5 innings, but there were three costly errors by the defense behind him.
“We didn’t make the plays we needed to make. … We tried to tighten everything up defensively [after that loss],” Ford said. “We played more aggressive baseball and took the game to them [after the first game].”
Continuing Saturday’s Game 2 first thing yesterday morning, the Red pulled out the 10-8 win in extra innings. Sophomore southpaw Matt Hill went the distance in the first full game of the day, throwing a four-hitter and holding the Quakers to one earned run while the Red offense went to work.
“[Yesterday] we got on top of them with a few runs,” Ford said, “and [our pitchers] held them down.”