April 8, 2010

Softball: Seniors Lead Road to Repeat

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The Cornell softball team is much more than your typical collegiate ball club. For one thing, it is the team that holds the much-coveted title of 2009 Ivy League Champions. Not only that, but it also boasts the presence of the reigning Ivy League Player of the Year and Pitcher of the Year. Overall, Cornell softball generally brings to mind thoughts of hard work, perseverance and best of all, victory.But the question is, can they pull off another championship season?“As of right now, we’re in pretty solid shape, but we’ve got a long way to go,” said head coach Dick Blood. “Our first goal is to put ourselves in good position to win the Southern Division … then we can work from there.”That looks to be quite possible, as the Red returns nine starters from last year’s championship season, six of whom are seniors with a wealth of experience. Although a few prominent players were lost to graduation last year, senior left fielder Izzy Pines explained that the Red has been able to cope well with the transition.“We did lose some big hitters last year, but I think we have a good group of freshmen and sophomores now that can step up and fill those positions,” she said.“We’re still carrying some momentum from last year’s success,” agreed senior first baseman Ashley Garvey. “We lost some good seniors … but we definitely still have a shot … as Coach likes to say, ‘We’re quietly confident.’”Indeed, a small but talented class of three freshmen, plus the Red’s nine sophomores, will add their abilities to the experience of the upperclassmen. This combination of experience and young talent provides Cornell with an even distribution of skills in all areas of the playing field. PitchingThe Red possesses impressive depth, with juniors Elizabeth Dalrymple and Ali Tomlinson leading the charge. Dalrymple –– the 2009 Pitcher of the Year –– led the Ivy League last season with a 19-5 record, and had a school record 174 strikeouts to 24 walks. Tomlinson was a close second, with a 16-6 record and 104 strikeouts on the season. Sophomores Jenna Stoller and Lauren Marx have also been contributing on the mound — with records of 1-1 and 4-2, and ERAs of 8.40 and 5.06, respectively. CatcherThis season, several players have been sharing the role of catcher. Senior Vanessa Leonhard, however, has been the most prominent player behind the plate recently. Last season, Leonhard committed only two errors out of 244 chances, giving her an impressive fielding percentage of .992. When Leonhard is not playing catcher, freshman Kristen Towne and sophomores Erica Gaeta and Shannon Crane are able to step in.First BaseIn the infield, Cornell certainly does not have to worry about a lack of experience. In fact, at every corner of the diamond (and in the shortstop position) there is a returning senior starter to play for Cornell. Garvey will be back at first base this season — no doubt, she is a force to be reckoned with, both offensively and defensively. Last year, she led the league with 69 hits and 62 RBI, and was second among the Ivies with her .399 batting average and 10 homers. Second BaseReturning to second base is Devon March, who hit .270 last season with six doubles, two home runs and 24 RBI. This season, however, March has been needed more often in the outfield, so Pines, an excellent infielder, has been taking over at second base. A year ago, Pines committed only two errors in 28 chances, giving her a fielding percentage of .929. Third BaseFirst-team All-Ivy selection Elise Menaker will be once again resuming her spot at third base, in hopes of having a season as good as the last one. In 2009, Menaker hit 16 doubles, a number that ranks her second in Cornell history for doubles in a single season. In addition, she batted an impressive .369 and was second on the team with nine stolen bases. ShortstopRounding out the infield at shortstop is another senior, Alyson Intihar, the 2009 Ivy League Player of the Year. Last season, Intihar started in all 55 games for the Red, and she ranked among the top three in the Ivy League for runs scored (first, 51), stolen bases (second, 12), hits (second, 67), batting average (third, .394) and doubles (third, 14).OutfieldThe outfield is perhaps the most uncertain part of the Red’s lineup. Since junior Marissa Amiraian has recently suffered an injury, Cornell has been left without any definite outfielders. Hence, some experimentation with positions has been occurring, and many infielders have had to shift outside the diamond. “One of our major goals this season is to create a stable outfield,” Blood said. “Last year we graduated two fantastic seniors from the outfield, so we’re doing our best right now to fill those roles.”Though Cornell is arguably one of the strongest teams in the Ancient Eight, the players know that it is going to be a tough battle for the championship this year.“Obviously, since we’re the defending champions, everyone’s out for our blood,” Garvey said. “And every team in the Ivy League is good … you can’t count anyone out.”Pines emphasized that although the Ivy League games will be challenging, Cornell will certainly be up to the task of defending its title.“Our biggest challenge right now is to stay focused, and to take each game as it comes,” she said. “We can’t look too far ahead … but we’re a strong team and we know that we can handle the Ivy League games.”With so much at stake, it is bound to be an exciting season for the Red, and especially for the seniors.“You can tell that everyone’s really into it, and I really don’t see that dying down,” Pines said. “We have a great group of girls and everyone believes in everyone else … good things come from that.”

Original Author: Hannah Fillas