With only two weeks remaining in Ivy play, the baseball team entered its weekend matchup with Columbia with an eye on getting back in the race for the Gehrig Division crown. The Red (13-19, 6-10 Ivy) split a four-game series with the Lions (20-18, 11-5) at Hoy Field, keeping Cornell five games behind Columbia in the standings and ending the team’s chances of making the playoffs. In the first game of this four-game set, junior starting pitcher Corey Pappel faced off against Columbia’s Pat Lowery with the Red coming out on top, 1-0, in a tremendous pitchers duel. Pappel was able to keep the Lions off the scoreboard for 6.1 innings, giving up only five hits and striking out four over that span. The Red starter ran into trouble in the seventh, but senior closer Dave Rochefort continued his strong relief work, finishing off the Lions to end the inning. “Dave’s been dominant all year, and you really just expect it after the way he threw last year,” said senior center fielder Nate David. “I think at this point he’s just gotten in guys’ heads since they know they don’t have much of a chance against him.”-After being held to just two hits through the game’s first six innings, the Red offense came alive when sophomore shortstop Marshall Yanzick roped a walk-off game-winning single to the outfield to score senior left fielder Kyle Groth, who had reached base after being hit by a pitch earlier in the inning. Groth and David earned the team’s only other hits, though it was Yanzick’s that handed Lowery his third loss of the season. Rochefort earned the victory for the Red, improving his record to 3-1 and lowering his ERA to a miniscule 0.42. “We didn’t hit very well as a team, but Pappel and Tony Bertucci pitched great and Taylor Wood pitched great, too,” David said. Only minutes later, these same two teams locked up for another low-scoring contest, although this time it was the Lions who picked up the win by a final score of 3-2. Senior starter Tony Bertucci went eight innings in the losing effort, surrendering three runs on 14 hits while striking out six. “The pitchers really attacked the strike zone this weekend. They did a great job of making hitters make the mistakes,” said sophomore catcher Brandon Lee. The Cornell offense struggled again, as it was unable to score any runs against Columbia’s Tim Giel, who allowed just four hits and struck out five in seven innings of work. The Red began to show signs of life when Giel exited, as it mounted a comeback effort in the ninth inning against Lions reliever Geoff Whitaker. David led off the inning with a solo homerun, which was then followed by a double from senior second baseman Matt Langseth. Junior Jadd Schmeltzer plated Langseth with a pinch-hit double to put Cornell within one run; however, sophomore right fielder and freshman designated hitter Brenton Peters were both unable to drive in the tying run. When asked to identify what the Red’s offensive struggles could be attributed to, David suggested that the team hadn’t fallen victim to the pressures of getting back to the Ivy Championship Game.“I don’t think guys were pressing against Columbia,” he said. “As a team we’re not going to have great results if we’re pressing, and we know that.”Columbia DH Alex Aurrichio led the way on offense for the Lions, compiling three hits in four at bats and driving two of the team’s runs in game two. Shortstop Alex Ferrera knocked in the visiting team’s other run with a double in the sixth inning.After a hard-fought split of Saturday’s doubleheader, the Red and the Lions returned to Hoy Field on Sunday afternoon for another double dip. The Cornell offense struggled to put runs on the board once again, scoring only one run on four hits off Columbia’s Dan Bracey. The Lions’ starter pitched all seven innings and struck out nine batters en route to his team’s 4-1 victory. After going down 1-0 early in the game, Schmeltzer was able to tie things up with a solo homerun; however, the Lions came right back to score two unearned runs off junior starter Taylor Wood in the fifth. The right-hander allowed four runs — only two of which were earned — over seven innings of work. Ferrera and third baseman Jon Eisen led the way on offense for Columbia, with each player driving in a run against Wood.However, it was a different story for the fourth and final game of this weekend series, when the Red offense finally came alive to score seven runs against Columbia’s Stefan Olson and Eric Williams. Olson started the game for the Lions and allowed four runs on six hits in two innings of work, while Williams fell victim to his team’s poor defense, allowing three unearned runs in 1.1 innings pitched. The Cornell offense managed to pick up three runs in the second inning, highlighted by an RBI single from David and a sacrifice fly off the bat of Yanzick.Billigen started the game for the Red, both on the mound and in the batting order; however, he was pulled after posting three scoreless innings when the game was delayed for over an hour due to rain. Senior Matt Hill and Rochefort managed to hold down the fort for the final three innings, holding the Lions scoreless and giving the Red a much-needed 7-0 shutout win.“Dave [Rochefort] probably has the best slider in the Ivy League, and when he steps on the mound he knows that he’s going to get the three outs,” Lee said of the team’s closer.The Red resumes non-conference play today against Binghamton (16-17) in Vestal, N.Y., at 3:30 p.m. After consecutive weekends of playing in doubleheaders, a one-game matchup with the Bearcats should be a welcome site. Binghamton enters today’s game on a five-game winning streak, having swept U.M.B.C. in a three-game set over the weekend. Second baseman Jim Calderone and catcher C.J. Lukaszewski lead the Bearcats in batting average with each player hitting over .360, while James Giulietti has been the team’s top starting pitcher — posting a 1.94 ERA in nine starts. Left fielder Corey Taylor is the team’s greatest power threat, posting eight homeruns, 41 RBI and a .338 batting average. Despite no longer playing with the Gehrig Division title on the line, David still believes that the team will compete as hard as always in these final games to close out the season.“Going forward we’re just going to try to have fun playing these games,” he said. While the Red may be eliminated from playoff competition, Ivy play will continue on Friday when Cornell begins a four-game series with the Princeton Tigers in a doubleheader beginning at 12 p.m. at Hoy Field. The two teams will travel to Princeton, N.J., to complete the second half of the series on Sunday afternoon. “We’re all going to go out there and try and get a victory. It doesn’t matter who we’re playing,” Lee said.
Original Author: Evan Rich