April 30, 2008

Red Finishes Season at Binghamton

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After dropping 3-of-4 games to Princeton over the weekend to secure second place in the Ivy League South Division, the softball team will finish up its season with a trip to Binghamton today. Despite having the second-best record in the Ivy League at 16-4, the Red will be kept out of the playoffs thanks to the relatively new divisional format.
Beginning last year, the Ivy League divided into the North and South, and the winners of each division now play for the Ivy League title. Playing in a more competitive South Division, Princeton finished ahead of Cornell at 18-2. Harvard, at 14-6, will have the chance to play Princeton for the title, despite having the third-best record in the Ivy League.
“The Ivy League decided that there wasn’t going to be any tournaments in any sports, so we said we’ll take what you could give us, which was the baseball format — 20 games to get a better picture of who might be the best two teams in the league,” said head coach Dick Blood.
“And naturally, any time you play like that [with divisions] — for example, the American League East is the toughest division in baseball. The Tampa Bay Rays are in first place now, but for the last six or seven years have had to have the Yankees and Red Sox in the same division. Sometimes divisional play doesn’t seem fair, but you have to have something, and that’s what we have.”[img_assist|nid=30352|title=Block the plate|desc=Catcher Vanessa Leonhard (25) prepares to tag a Princeton player out at the plate last Friday.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
With hopes of an Ivy League title gone, the Red will turn its attention to its season-concluding game against Binghamton (6-33, 1-17 America East). Despite finishing in eighth place in an eight-team league, the Bearcats will still be moving onto postseason play unlike their cross-town rival Red.
“Well I know last year we had a little bit of a letdown heading into the doubleheader,” Blood said. “We were fairly flat when we faced them. Even though we were disappointed with the outcome last weekend [against Princeton], we’ve got to play harder than we did last year — play as hard as we can.”
In last year’s contest, the Bearcats split with the Red in Ithaca. Cornell took Game 1, 8-6, with senior Jenn Meunier in the circle. Meunier went all seven innings, giving up six runs while striking out seven. The Red faltered in Game 2, losing 7-5 despite a two-run homer from senior Jenna Campagnolo in the bottom of the seventh.
Two of the three primary starters for the Bearcats, juniors Jessica Whitaker and Cyrillla Suker, saw action against the Red last season. Whitaker started Game 1, giving up seven earned runs in 2 2/3 innings. Suker finished out Game 1, giving up no earned runs in the final 3 1/3 innings. She pitched a complete game in Game 2, giving up five runs while striking out seven Cornell batters.
This year, the Bearcats are led by Sandy Meadows with a .248 average and 15 stolen bases in 15 tries. Deannie Plemon has provided the power in the lineup, leading the team with four homers and 20 RBI.
Cornell statistically overshadows Binghamton, having 12 players hitting above the Bearcats’ leading .248 average. Sophomore Elise Menaker has nearly tripled Plemon with 50 RBIs, and has exactly tripled her with 12 homers.
Despite being out of the playoff race, today’s doubleheader with the Bearcats will mark the last appearance in red and white for six members of the softball program.
“I think it’s wonderful that these six ladies have survived — we started with a class of 11,” Blood said. “It’s what we call ‘Ivy League efficient.’ Kids fall by the wayside for any number of reasons, and I’m really proud that these ladies have stuck around. And of course I always ask the question, ‘How were they able to put up with me for four years.’”
Liz Larkin and Adrienne Matta are two who have added to the lineup off the bench throughout the season.
“Adrienne and Liz didn’t get a lot of innings, but they fought hard and played hard every time they had a chance,” Blood said. “Never missed a practice and maintained a high level of competitiveness all year.”
Tomorrow’s games will mark the 192nd and 193rd games of infielder Samantha Hare’s career. She joined the Red who started every game as a freshman and never looked back. This year her eight homers and 32 RBI are both good for third on the team.
“Sam Hare had her best year ever, she was clutch this year with three or four long balls in the seventh inning, or down in the count,” Blood said. “She hit one into the highway in the eighth inning. She had a brilliant, clutch-performing type of season that was far and away her best year.”
Ashley Wolf has added speed to the Red’s lineup, reaching double digit steals in all but one season at Cornell. With 14 stolen bases she is tied with classmate Jenna Campagnolo for the team lead.
“Wolf hit over .300 for her third consecutive year. For the third consecutive year, she was a brilliant performer for us — getting on base, stealing bases,” Blood said. “We moved her back to the seven hole this year so she could drive in more runs and she performed admirably. At the same time she was brilliant in right field.”
Campagnolo, the team’s returning MVP, had another stellar season. The outfielder led the team with a .417 average, and was second on the team with 10 homers and 47 RBIs.
“What a fantastic senior year she’s had, batting over .400,” Blood said. “She was our MVP a year ago and she’s had another MVP-type season. Stealing bases, driving the ball out of the yard and making brilliant catches in centerfield. Just a first-team All Ivy performance; I hope she gets it a fourth year.”
Rounding out the senior class is Jenn Meunier. The ace of the staff has 72 career wins, highlighted by a 19-3 record she’ll be looking to improve upon today. Her team-leading 2.12 ERA matched her 2.22 career ERA heading into the season, compiling 444 strikeouts in 594 career innings.
“[Meunier] had another really fine pitching performance,” Blood said. “She’s been a really solid performer for us for four years, and a kid we could really count on right up to her very last pitch.”