March 24, 2009

Baseball Goes West, Returns With Nine Losses

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Who would have believed the baseball team would be happy to return to cold and dreary Ithaca after basking in the warm glow of the California sunshine during a nine-game road trip? Dropping all nine contests on the West Coast can make even Ithaca seem like a warm and friendly oasis.
“We expected those California teams to be very good,” said head coach Bill Walkenbach ’98. “We knew it was going to be a difficult game every single game of every day. After things don’t go our way at the end of the trip, we have to remain as positive as possible and remember that there’s a whole new season starting up here with Ivy League play. Those games have no bearing on our ability to win the Ivy League. They’re preparation for it and we have to do everything we can to keep positive mentally.”[img_assist|nid=36182|title=Just don’t drop it|desc=Senior outfielder Domenic Di Ricco and the Red are looking at last week’s 0-9 record as a learning experience.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
The Red (2-10, 0-0 Ivy) dropped its first three games to Santa Clara, 8-3, 7-6 and 12-10, then its next two to St. Mary’s, 5-3 and 7-6, and its final four to Sacramento State, 6-2, 9-0, 10-6 and 18-5. Cornell did hold leads in a few contests, only to watch them slip away in the later innings. In the second game against Saint Mary’s, the Gaels plated three runs in the bottom of the eighth inning before scoring the winning run in the bottom of the tenth.
“We had a very good chance with the extra innings game against Saint Mary’s,” Walkenbach said. “We just made a couple of mistakes throughout the game and when those mistakes add up, they come back to punish you. Those mistakes were the difference in the game.”
“The second game against Saint Mary’s was a little bit of a bummer,” added senior shortstop Scott Hardinger. “We were two innings away from winning the game and it just got out of hand a little bit. That’s what good teams do to you.”
Senior catcher Nathan Ford was a consistent force in Cornell’s lineup during the West Coast swing, hitting .388 (14-for-36). Ford jacked three long balls and two doubles while scoring seven runs and knocking in six RBI’s. In the final game against Santa Clara, junior centerfielder Nate David went 3-for-5, belting two home runs. Hardinger enjoyed an offensive outburst in the first game against Saint Mary’s, going 3-for-4 with a run scored. Unfortunately for the Red, however, individual accomplishments were not enough to merit a victory.
“It brought out a lot of the characteristics of a team that we need work on,” Hardinger said. “The big picture is that we’re always in games and we never give up. That’s a great aspect and that’s going to help us win games in the Ivy League. The thing that we have to keep from doing is getting discouraged from a trip like this. It was a tough trip for us. We didn’t win a game. I’ve been here for years and this is the best team I have been a part of and this is the best ball we have ever played.”
Trailing 12-4 in the final game at Santa Clara, the Red exploded for six runs in the top of the eighth, but the Broncos were able to extinguish Cornell’s comeback bid with a perfect ninth inning to sweep the Red.
Despite everything, the team felt its “never say die” attitude was on display throughout the entire trip.
“We showed that [attitude] all throughout the week,” Hardinger said. “We never pulled out a win, which was very dissatisfying, but in each game there was never a time when we thought we were out of the game. That is characteristic of our team. We’re here to play the game until the very end. [Although] we lost that 12-10 game, we were very encouraged by it. It’s encouraging heading into Ivy League play because the Ivy League teams will not be as good as these California teams we have been playing. If we could just maintain this swagger that we had out in California then I think we’re going to be fine in the Ivy League.”
“What I did like was how the guys kept battling throughout the whole week,” Walkenbach said. “They made good efforts to come back in probably six or seven of those nine games. We made a run or we had a lead for short while. We were in a lot of the games, so I was pleased with the way we competed all week.”