April 28, 2008

Softball Loses Doubleheader, Ends Season in Second Place

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At the very least, the softball team made things interesting. The Red squared off against the Princeton Tigers in a thrilling four-game weekend series. A spot opposite Harvard in the Ivy League playoffs was on the line. Momentum shifted back and forth between the two South Division rivals all weekend, but the Tigers eventually prevailed against the Red.
The teams split their two games on Friday, setting the stage for a huge day Sunday. Both teams were strong at the plate yesterday, but Princeton (23-22, 18-2 Ivy) took advantage of being the last team to the plate and won both games thanks to late inning heroics. [img_assist|nid=30272|title=Pitching powerhouse|desc=Senior Jenn Meunier (19) delivers during one of Cornell’s twin victories against Columbia on April 20.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
In the first meeting between the two Ivy powerhouses on Friday, Princeton snapped the Red’s 20 game win streak. Senior Jenn Meunier, who had been exceptional for Cornell (38-10, 16-4) all season long, picked an inopportune time to struggle on the mound. Princeton jumped on her for three runs in the first inning and six runs overall. The Red defense did not do much to help, extending innings with two errors. Cornell trailed throughout and eventually fell 9-5.
In the second half of Friday’s doubleheader, rookie Ali Tomlinson exhibited poised beyond her years. The freshman turned in the best pitching performance either team received all weekend, holding the Tigers to two runs over seven innings. The Red offense played small ball effectively, as it scored five runs on just eight hits, none of which left the yard. Cornell won the game, 5-2.
The defining game of the weekend was yesterday’s first game. Cornell put Tomlinson right back on the mound with the hope that she could continue her success from Friday. While she did not get off to a great start, Cornell had control early.
Senior Jenna Campagnolo had a two-out, two-RBI triple in the top of the first to grab the lead for the Red. Princeton cut the lead to 2-1 in the bottom of the first, but the Red answered in a big way.
Cornell put two on for the second inning in a row with two outs. Senior Samantha Hare, like classmate Campagnolo before her, delivered. Hare launched a home run to left to seize a 5-1 lead. Sophomore Alyson Intihar followed with a solo shot to center.
In the third, Intihar’s classmate, Ashley Garvey, lined an RBI double to give Cornell its biggest lead of the day, 7-1.
Tomlinson was unable to corral the Tiger offense as she had Friday, though. She hit the first batter she faced in the third and one batter later, Kathryn Welch launched a two-run shot. Kristen Schaus retired the Red in order in the fourth, and the Tiger offense went right back to work. With two on and one out, Megan Weidrick launched a round-tripper to center. The long ball cut the lead to one.
Cornell answered in the top of the fifth. Senior Ashley Wolf knocked home sophomore Elise Menaker with an RBI single. Wolf and Garvey came around to score when junior Jessy Berkey delivered a clutch hit past the second baseman. Berkey would later score on a Tiger error.
In the bottom half of the fifth, Tomlinson put down the side in order, allowing the Red to take its 11-6 lead into the sixth inning. The Red had the heart of its order up in the inning, but Intihar, Menaker and Campagnolo — each of whom is batting near or above .400 on the season — failed to reach base.
The lack of insurance runs came back to haunt the Red. It is also possible that Tomlinson suffered from the lack of rest between innings. Whatever the reason, things fell apart for the Red in the bottom of the sixth.
After getting the first batter of the inning out, Tomlinson gave up a walk, a single and another walk. Welch came to the plate and drilled her second bomb of the game, this one a grand slam. With only one out, the Tigers had cut the lead to one.
The next Tiger batter hit a single, chasing Tomlinson from the game. Fellow freshman Elizabeth Dalrymple came on in relief with the pressure on. The first batter she faced, sophomore Jamie Lettire, hit the Tiger’s fourth multi-run home run of the game. In the process, she seized the lead from the Red. Dalrymple got out of the inning without allowing another hit, but the damage had been done.
Cornell was only able to manage a two out walk in the seventh as the Tigers held on for a 12-11 victory.
“Knowing how potent both clubs are, I don’t think any lead was comfortable for either club,” head coach Dick Blood said. “At no point was a lead for us comfortable.”
The Red entered their second game yesterday needing a win to stay alive in their bid to reach the Ivy League playoffs. In the top of the second, Cornell took advantage of Princeton defensive mistakes to score the games first run and load the bases before recording an out. The Tigers quelled an explosive rally, though, only allowing one more runner to plate for the Red retiring the side.
In the bottom half of that inning, Meunier retired consecutive batters after allowing a leadoff double. Meunier then allowed five straight Tigers to reach base as she hit a batter and allowed four hits. Princeton scored four runs with the two-out rally and grabbed a 4-2 lead.
In the fourth inning, Cornell came back to tie the game when sophomore Vanessa Leonhard hit a two-run home run. One inning later, Elise Menaker delivered what may have been the most clutch hit of her stand out season. Her RBI single up the middle helped Cornell take a 5-4 lead, which it held until the bottom of the seventh inning.
Meunier was on the mound looking to finish off a complete game and earn her 20th win of the season. Instead, she allowed Princeton to tie the game with a home run on the first pitch of the inning. Two batters later, Lettire stepped to the plate again. Lettire delivered her second game-winning home run of the day, this one of the walk-off variety. Princeton prevailed 6-5.
Once again, the Red has fallen just short of an Ivy League title. The Red finished the season with the second best record in the conference and has now contended for the conference title, but fallen short, in four consecutive seasons.
“Our ladies left their hearts on the field and played with all the guts they could play with, but we couldn’t contain their 3-4-5-6 hitters,” Blood said. “We couldn’t keep them in the ballpark.”
Blood expects to be back in contention next season.
“We know we can compete in this league,” he said.