Despite a thrilling ninth-inning comeback, which gave the baseball team a 6-5 win in the opening game of the weekend, the Red dropped the rest of its games with Ivy foe Princeton.
“What will carry over to next year [from this weekend] is the sting of losing three out of four,” said sophomore Nate David. “Dropping these last two games, I hope the guys remember what it feels like and it motivates people in the offseason.”
After Game 1 of Friday’s doubleheader at Hoy Field, it looked like Cornell would bring some much-needed momentum from the weekend into next season. The Red (12-27, 6-14 Ivy) started strong, scoring four runs in the second, but the Tigers (19-22, 11-9) clawed their way back, scoring at least one run in three of the next four innings. [img_assist|nid=30276|title=Stare ’em down|desc=Sophomore hurler Matt Hill goes into the wind-up during a 7-2 loss against Columbia on April 19.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
With the score knotted at 4-4 in extras, Princeton took a one-run lead in the top of the ninth. Cornell used some small ball, however, to clinch the win in the bottom of the inning.
With the bases loaded, sophomore third baseman Jerry Vitiello’s squeeze bunt to second scored freshman Mickey Brodsky. When the Princeton second baseman’s throw passed first base, Vitiello was safe and senior Brian Kaufman came home for the winning run in the 6-5 victory on Senior Day.
The second bill of Friday’s doubleheader, though, ended in the low-point of the weekend. Princeton’s Brad Gemberling took a no-hitter into the sixth before senior Jimmy Heinz tallied a single. Gemberling allowed only two hits and one earned run, pitching a complete game.
“[Princeton pitchers] always have good arms,” said sophomore Nate David. “They threw four guys at us this weekend. All of them had pretty good fastballs. … The senior [in Game 2 on Friday] kept us off-balance all day really. He had a good slider. I thought he was the best of the four.”
The contest eventually got out of hand, as Cornell sent six different pitchers to the mound. Princeton scored 19 runs, 11 of them in the final two innings.
“That was definitely frustrating for us because we know we’re a better team than we showed,” said Klinesteker, who had two innings of work and was the only Cornell pitcher not to give up a run.
Princeton’s Steven Miller then pitched a complete game no-hitter in the front end of the doubleheader yesterday. However, despite being no-hit, the Red led for large periods of the game. Cornell plated two runs in the first and sophomore hurler Tony Bertucci made it stand up for most of the afternoon.
The Princeton offense eventually got to Bertucci, though, as leading Tigers’ hitter Spencer Lucian smacked a two-run homer in the bottom of the sixth. The home run put the Tigers ahead by one. The Red offense couldn’t respond in the next and final inning, leaving score at 3-2.
“Our pitchers did really well,” David said. “[Senior] Walker [Toma in Game 2 yesterday] really battled, and Tony did too. “To be no-hit and have a lead through five [innings] is just a testament to how well Tony pitched. … I thought we had chances to win all four games except the second one.”
It was the final game of the weekend, though, when the Red’s seniors really made their mark. In the fourth inning of the baseball team’s last game of the season, Kaufman hit the 20th home run of his career, one short of the all-time record. Four innings later — in what classmate Bryce Klinesteker described as “an amazing diving catch” — Kaufman barreled into the right field fence to snatch a homer from the Tigers, getting a possible concussion and a “little screwed-up” face in the process.
“The ball was hit to the right center field gap. I just went back and dove and went face-first into the wall,” Kaufman said. “It put us ahead in the game, and I was really excited about that.”
He had hit a home run earlier in the day yesterday which was initially called fair, but was overruled by the officials.
“I was a little frustrated because that could have been my second home run of the day and I could have tied the record … and that would have been my 100th RBI,” Kaufman said. “[But] there’s no shame in coming up second. I didn’t really come into Cornell as a home run hitter. I just kind of developed into that.”
Kaufman’s three-RBI shot to right field in the fourth put the Red ahead by two, but that would be Cornell’s only offensive production of the game, and the visiting Red eventually fell to the home team Tigers, 6-3.
The Red was frustrated to have dropped both ends of the last day’s hard-fought doubleheader, though the outcome had no bearing on the Ancient Eight standings after Columbia had clinched the division title after Saturday’s games.
“Today, both teams were really out of contention [for the division title] before the games started,” Kaufman said. “We wanted to win both games to improve our record … and to end [the season and the seniors’ careers] with a win.”
“It’s hard to go out like we did,” Klinesteker added. “We obviously didn’t want to lose our last three games. It’s tough [for the seniors] to finally accept it. … After the last out was made in the game [yesterday], it just kind of hit us [that we wouldn’t play baseball for Cornell anymore].”
Fellow senior pitcher Walker Toma also reflected on the weekend’s matchups with Princeton being the last of his playing days. In the final start of his Cornell career, Toma threw seven solid innings for the Red until giving up a two-run homer from Jack Murphy in the eighth.
“[The weekend] was pretty on-par [with the rest of the season] in terms of our success. In terms of enjoyment … it was exceptional,” Toma said. “I enjoyed it to the best of my ability.”