April 18, 2008

Red Faces Last-Place Lions

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The 2007 season ended with Cornell one game back of Penn in the Ivy League South, the Ancient Eight’s stronger division. A year later, the Red still finds itself painstakingly one game out of first at 11-1. The Red will get a chance to move past undefeated Princeton this weekend, but must take care of last-place Columbia in order to do that.
After finishing last in the Ivy League South Division last season, things looked to have improved as Columbia (12-24, 3-9 Ivy) started the 2008 conference season with three straight wins. Since then, however, the Lions have lost twelve of thirteen contests, including being swept by Harvard, Dartmouth and Princeton.
“Obviously every Ivy game is important,” said sophomore Devon March. “We won’t take any team lightly. We had good wins last weekend at Penn, and we want to keep that momentum going for the rest of the Ivy League season.”
Cornell (31-7, 11-1) has had a great deal more success, losing only one game to Harvard, the defending Ivy champion. The one loss was enough to keep the Red out of the top spot in the league, and with Princeton playing four winnable games against Penn this weekend, Cornell will need to have success against Columbia to stay in the Southern division race. [img_assist|nid=29986|title=Pines tar|desc=Sophomore Izzy Pines (8) punishes a pitch delivered by St. Bonaventure on April 8.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
In last year’s series between the Red and the Lions, Cornell took three-of-four games, outscoring Columbia 19-8 over the course of the weekend. Senior ace Jenn Meunier started Games 1 and 3 and got the save in Game 4. She allowed no runs while striking out five to get the win in Game 1, but gave up four runs and took the loss in Game 3.
This year, Meunier is putting together a lovely swan song, leading the Ivy League with 16 wins to go with only one loss. Her 1.30 ERA is second in the conference, but spearheads a Cornell staff that boasts an Ivy-best 2.58 ERA. Freshman Ali Tomlinson has complemented Meunier in the circle this year. She is currently 11-4 with a solid 2.93 ERA and 89 strikeouts in 95 2/3 innings.
Columbia’s young pitching staff is made up of freshman Maggie Johnson and sophomore Aimee Kemp. Johnson has put together a 9-8 record with a 3.14 ERA and has allowed a .297 average among batters faced. Kemp has struggled through a 3-10 season with a 4.22 ERA in her second season.
Keli Leong, Dani Pineda and Ciji Rich lead the Lions on the offensive side. Leong and Pineda are the Lions only batters hitting above .300, and Ciji leads the team with two home runs and 14 RBIs. Cornell, on the other hand, has seven players hitting .300, six players with at least 14 RBIs and is led by sophomore Elise Menaker with 12 homers.
“In order to stay at the top of the Ivy League, we’re going to have to win games,” March said. “That’s just what we need to do this weekend.”