May 1, 2009

Baseball Looks to Win Title, Completes Its Turnaround

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The baseball team lost two games to Dartmouth in early April and dropped to 2-6 in Ivy League action. Thanks to the Red’s 9-0 victory over Princeton on Wednesday, however, the teams will play a best-of-three series over the weekend to determine the Ivy League champion.
The winner will get an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.
The Green (23-14, 16-4 Ivy), winner of seven of its last 10 games, features a potent lineup that scored almost eight runs per contest this season. Freshman shortstop Joe Scalfani hit two home runs and drove in five when the teams first met. The switch-hitter got on base at a .450 clip and slugged .517 out of the leadoff spot this year. Neither Scalfani nor No. 2 hitter Jeff Onstott run much because of the power that follows.
Junior right fielder Nick Santomauro led the Green in every major offensive category and hit .473 in Ivy League play this season.
“Santomauro has been one of the best hitters in our league over the last few years,” said junior outfielder Nate David.
With 68 RBIs between them, seniors Mike Pagliarulo and Ray Allen provide Santomauro with ample protection, and juniors Jim Wren and Brett Gardner each hit over .300. Senior infielder Johnathan Santopadre provided a .331 average and slugged .496 out of the nine-hole.
Cornell catcher Adam Jacobs likes his staff’s chances against the Green’s dangerous offense.
“Our pitchers have been going great the past couple of weeks,” said the senior co-captain. “We’re not scared of anyone. In baseball, good pitching typically shuts down good hitting so if we do that and play our game, we should be fine.”
Sophomore Jadd Schmeltzer will start the opener tomorrow and junior Matt Hill will take the mound in Game 2. If the teams split the first two, sophomore Corey Pappel, who tossed six shutout innings on Wednesday, will toe the rubber in the deciding game.
While Dartmouth hitters are especially patient and reach base at an alarming rate — eight batters finished the year with .300-plus batting averages and seven reached base over 40 percent of the time — the Green has average team speed.
Of all Ivy League teams, only Harvard grounded into more double plays in 2009. This plays to the strengths of Schmeltzer, Hill and Pappel, each of whom pitches to contact and induces ground balls.
If the Red leads late, senior setup man Steve Osterer and junior closer David Rochefort will make appearances in relief.
“I think Rochefort is the best closer in the league,” David said. “I don’t think any other team has a specialist like Steve. They make it a seven-inning game.”
Dartmouth’s pitching was third best in the Ivy League this season, one spot behind Cornell’s. Junior left-hander Robert Young will start the opener, while freshman Kyle Hendricks, a 39th round draft pick by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in 2008, will take the hill in Game 2.
Both throw strikes and neither is overpowering; Red hitters have beaten more imposing starters and they are fully capable of matching the Dartmouth offensive output if the series turns into a slugfest.
“I couldn’t be happier for the guys and I’m really excited about it,” said senior third baseman Nathan Ford. “At the same time when we came in, we said we wanted an Ivy championship, which means we still have a job to do this weekend.”