April 10, 2009

Baseball Looks To Boost Morale Against Quakers

Print More

After surrendering two game-winning walk-off home runs to Harvard and 27 runs to Dartmouth last weekend, Cornell strongly needs an ego boost within the Ivy League. This weekend should provide just the tonic the doctor ordered as the Red hosts the winless Quakers. The two teams will play a two-day four-game series beginning tomorrow at Hoy Field.
Cornell (5-16, 2-6 Ivy), second in the Gehrig division , trails last year’s Ancient Eight champion Columbia by only two games as it opens up its divisional portion of the schedule. The Red has enjoyed recent success against Penn (10-16, 0-8 Ivy), winning 14 of its last 20 head-to-head matchups over the last five seasons. Despite their poor record, the Quakers’ potent lineup cannot be silenced as it leads the Ivy League in most offensive categories including a .320 team batting average, .488 slugging percentage, .382 on base percentage, 197 runs scored and 172 RBIs.
“Obviously, they are 0-8, but if you look at their statistics you’ll see that they swing the bat well,” said pitching coach Scott Marsh. “They have been losing some hard luck games much like we have. I do not think that we’re going into this thinking that they are a team so far down that we should just impose our will on them. We are going to have to go out and play good baseball to beat them.”
Taking the mound for Cornell in tomorrow’s twin bill will be sophomore right-handed pitcher Jadd Schmeltzer in Game 1 and junior left-handed pitcher Matt Hill in Game 2. Schmeltzer leads the staff with a 2.37 ERA in 19 innings this year. On Sunday, sophomore southpaw Mickey Brodsky will start in the opener and junior right-handed pitcher Tony Brertucci will get the assignment in the nightcap.
“I think that still being in the chase for the division coupled with just working harder is going to keep us motivated,” Hill said. “I think that Penn being winless really has nothing to do with it. I have pitched against Penn in both of the last two seasons and I think they have one of the strongest lineups in the Ivy League. They have one of the most talented teams.”
“We know not to take them lightly or anything like that, but their confidence is down because they are winless in the Ivy League and we need to take advantage of that,” Hill added. “If we get to them early and we are up on them early, I think that we will be able to take advantage of that, [especially] if they don’t have confidence to feel like they can come back and win games. [However,] from a talent standpoint, I think they are still one of the most talented teams in the Ivy League.”
Penn outfielder Jeremy Maas sits atop the league in hitting with a .429 average in 77 at-bats. The junior also earned Ivy League Player of the Week accolades earlier this season.
Although Cornell snapped a four-game losing skid on Wednesday with a 3-1 victory over Binghamton, the pitching staff will look to exorcise its demons from the last weekend’s heartbreaking road trip.
“They want the ball,” said senior catcher Adam Jacobs. “They want to go out there and prove to themselves, prove to us and prove to everyone that they are better than what they did last week. We all know that they’re good pitchers. We all have faith in them, but it is nice to know that they want the ball and that they want to go out there and compete for us. They’re not worried. We’re just looking forward and are excited to play at home.”
“[The Quakers] basically have the same lineup that they had last year,” Hill said. “They were good last year too. I had one of my best starts against them last year and it was because I was focused and pitched my game. The talent level that you’re going to face as a pitcher is very different from team to team, but if you stay focused and you pitch your “A” game, you’re going to find success no matter who you play against.”
Although Cornell enters the series with a .279 team batting average, the second lowest clip in the Ancient Eight, it boasts two of the league’s top-10 hitters. Third baseman Nathan Ford and shortstop Scott Hardinger, both seniors, pace the Red with .375 and .370 batting averages respectively. Ford also leads the Red with five dingers and 18 RBI’s while Hardinger has scored a team-high 17 runs. Both players are looking to extend hitting streaks this weekend as Hardinger recorded at least one hit in each of the team’s last nine games while Ford has sustained an eight-game hitting streak.
Expect another slugfest this weekend as neither team boasts a superior pitching staff. Penn’s 7.24 team ERA is fourth in the league while Cornell’s 7.54 team ERA ranks seventh. Junior right-handed pitcher Todd Roth, who anchored the Quakers’ staff in 2008, has been pasted for 47 hits and 25 earned runs in 28.2 innings of work this season.
“In the past, we have played them pretty well,” Jacobs said. “Last year, we took 3-of-4 from them. We got two wins off of Todd Roth, who was their ace pitcher the year before. Since I have been here, we have played Penn pretty well.”
After this weekend, Cornell will have completed over half of its Ivy League schedule with only eight games remaining against divisional foes. Although the Gehrig division can neither be won nor lost this weekend, capturing the weekend series against Penn could help propel the Red as it seeks to claim its first divisional crown since 2005.
“We expect the guys to come out with a lot of excitement this weekend and the sense that if they have a good weekend, they are right back into the mix of things, which is right where they want to be,” Marsh said. “It is what they have been working for since the beginning of fall, so I do not think that they’re going to overlook Penn by any means. Anytime you can beat teams in your own division that should get you pumped up. I think our guys will be ready for it.”