April 27, 2009

Baseball Splits Series With Tigers

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The baseball team played four games against Princeton in hopes of determining a champion in the Ivy League’s Gehrig division. All that was determined is that the teams need to play a fifth game. Rookie Frank Hager’s clutch home run Sunday afternoon helped Cornell (15-21, 10-10 Ivy) finish with a 2-2 record on the weekend, thus preserving a tie with Princeton (18-17, 10-10 Ivy) for the best record in the division.
“[Sunday’s win] was very exciting ,” senior Adam Jacobs said. “Being a senior, that could have been my last game here at Cornell. We came together, pulled it out, and lived to fight another day, but we know our job is not done yet.”
Cornell and Princeton will meet in a one-game playoff Wednesday at Hoy Field. The Ivy League office has not yet set the starting time. The winner will take on Dartmouth in the best-of-three Ivy League Championship series.
In the opening game of the weekend, Princeton junior David Hale shut down the Red offense. He struck out 10, allowed just four hits, and combined with closer Matt Grabowski to shut out the Red. Sophomore Jadd Schmeltzer pitched well for Cornell, but the two runs he allowed proved to be two too many. Princeton prevailed, 2-0.
In the second half of Friday’s doubleheader, the Red bounced back behind a dominant pitching performance of its own. Sophomore Corey Pappel found an opportune time to earn his first victory of the season. In eight innings of work, he struck out nine batters and allowed just three hits. The only run he allowed came on a fifth-inning home run.
The Red offense also had far more success in Friday’s second game. Junior Nate David and freshman Brian Billigen each contributed three hits in the game; however the big blast came off the bat of senior Domenic Di Ricco. Di Ricco launched a tie-breaking three-run home run in the sixth inning. The blast, coupled with great pitching from Pappel and junior closer Dave Rochefort, culminated in a 4-1 Cornell victory.
With the division crown on the line, the series shifted from Princeton to Ithaca for Sunday’s games. In yesterday’s first game, the offenses erupted for both teams. The teams were tied at 4 after four innings when the teams matched runs in the first two innings, were held scoreless in the third, and each scored two runs in the fourth. [img_assist|nid=37238|title=Mr. April|desc=Freshman Frank Hager slugged a two-run homer in the eighth inning to lift the Red to a 4-3 win yesterday.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
In the fifth, sophomore Mickey Brodsky was relieved at pitcher by sophomore Mike Carroll with two runners on base. The move to turn around switch-hitting Princeton catcher Adrian Turnham failed when Turnham pulled a three-run home run down the left field line. Cornell closed the scoring margin to one in the next inning, but Princeton scored two insurance runs in the seventh inning to put the game out of reach. Cornell fell, 9-7, despite a 12-hit attack.
The final game of the weekend was a thriller. Princeton jumped out to a 1-0 lead, but Cornell took the lead on a two-out, two-RBI double by catcher Adam Jacobs in the second inning.
“It was a change up,” Jacobs said. “I was out in front. I flared it and it happened to just fall in there. It was big for us. I was glad it fell in.”
Princeton recaptured the lead with two runs in the third inning. The pitchers settled into a groove from there, putting 10 consecutive zeroes on the scoreboard.
In the bottom of the eighth, with Cornell still trailing 3-2, the Red came through with a season-saving rally. Senior Nathan Ford singled past the shortstop to put the tying run on base. Two batters later, rookie Frank Hager swung at the first pitch he saw and launched it over the left field fence.
“I was just looking for a good pitch to hit. [Princeton pitcher Langford Stuber] left his fastball his up and I hit it pretty well,” Hager said. “It was pretty exciting. We had a huge crowd there, it was a beautiful day, and the bench was really excited. Just rounding those bases was a lot of fun.”
The two-run home run allowed the Red to close out the game with a scoreless inning from Rochefort, who also pitched the eighth. Rochefort allowed the potential tying run to reach third, but he induced a groundout to end the game. Cornell’s 4-3 win completed a 2-2 weekend between Cornell and Princeton. The teams will meet for a fifth time Wednesday.
“We’ve got one more game. Win that and we get at least two more,” Jacobs said. “We’ve been in playoff mode the last two weeks now. We just keep fighting and keep competing.”