March 29, 2011

Struggling Cornell Suffers Seven Losses in Virginia, North Carolina

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The Cornell baseball team doubled its win total over Spring Break, but more than doubled its loss total, falling in seven out of eight games — three by only one run — in seven days down south. The club (2-13, 0-0 Ivy League) suffered three losses against Radford (13-10, 0-3 Big South) in Radford, Va., two defeats to James Madison (18-7, 8-4 Colonial Athletic Association) in Harrisonburg, Va. and earned a win and two losses versus Appalachian State (12-12, 0-0 Southern) in Boone, N.C. Cornell plays its home opener against LeMoyne today at 3 p.m. on David F. Hoy Field.The Red began the week with a 5-2 loss to the Highlanders on March 19, followed up by a 4-3 defeat later that afternoon. Seniors Jadd Schmeltzer and Taylor Wood produced strong pitching performances as starters, but Cornell hit a lull in the middle of the first game and was slow out of the gate in the second. In the third game of the series, on March 20, the Red produced one run in the first inning and one in the ninth, but nothing in between as Radford cruised to victory, 6-2.“I think the biggest thing for us right now is getting through the middle innings and squeezing out one more run here and there,” Schmeltzer said. “We normally have pretty strong beginnings and pretty strong ends, but innings four through seven are the critical ones.”On March 22 against James Madison, a three-run seventh inning from Cornell wasn’t quite enough to catch up to the Dukes, as the Red fell, 6-4. On March 23, Cornell lost a slugfest to the same team, 13-12. Junior outfielder Brian Billigen hit two home runs and senior first-baseman Mickey Brodsky pitched in three hits, but the Red needed five pitchers in the game and surrendered five runs to James Madison in a critical fifth inning, which pushed the Dukes ahead for good.“Once we learn how to minimize our mistakes, we’ll learn to win those close games,” said sophomore infielder Brenton Peters, who hit a home run in the first game over Break. “We can’t get down on ourselves, and we have to be tougher in those one-run games when it comes down to the wire.”On Thursday, Cornell gave up seven runs in the final three innings after building a 3-1 lead, losing to Appalachian State, 8-3. On Friday, Schmeltzer helped the Red earn a 5-3 victory over the Mountaineers, snapping the squad’s seven game losing streak. The senior allowed only four hits and two runs in seven and a third innings.“I think I threw very well over break,” Schmeltzer said. “I probably pitched better in the game against Radford, but we earned the win against App. State. That’s because the defense behind me was great. There were 11 groundouts and seven outs recorded by the outfield. I really couldn’t have done it without my defense. That’s what my team needs as we try to make a run in the Ivy League.”Later on Friday, four sixth-inning runs and two seventh-inning scores propelled Appalachian State to an 8-7 victory and the series win against the Red as Cornell’s rally fell short in its final game over Break.However, the Red was able to extract many positives from the seven-loss week.“I learned that we’ve got some pretty impressive young players who are ready to come in and contribute now,” said head coach Bill Walkenbach. “There were definitely bright spots in the pitching rotation, too — Schmeltzer continues to throw well.”“We never give up,” Peters said. “We keep fighting until the end, and we aren’t afraid of a name on a jersey or a ranking or anything like that.”Despite its .133 winning percentage and .246 batting average on the year, the team remains optimistic about the season and insists its main focus is on Ivy League play.“This weekend is what we’ve been preparing for,” Walkenbach said. “We don’t prepare for the first three weeks of the season — we prepare for this weekend and for the rest of the season. The first three weeks are definitely a learning process, and it’s just a matter of going out there and continuing to compete.”Walkenbach doesn’t question his team’s effort and confidence, either.“The competitiveness level was pretty high. I’m not too concerned about our ability to get the team motivated — we want to win. As a coach, I just have to prevent players from getting overly excited so that they put pressure on themselves to do this or do that. We have to play every game just like any other one.”Cornell has one more obstacle before opening League play this weekend with two home double-headers against Yale and Brown — a matchup against well-respected LeMoyne (5-16), the first home contest of the season. The Dolphins are transferring to Division 2 competition next season, but the Red knows not to overlook its foe from Syracuse, N.Y.“LeMoyne is always one of the best teams in the northeast and we always expect a very tough game from them,” Walkenbach said.“We’re excited to go out there on our home field for the first time in a while,” Schmeltzer said. “We’re going to use it as a tune-up for the beginning of league play this weekend.”“We have to be on the attack, and score some runs early and often,” Peters said. “Keep the pedal to the medal.”

Original Author: Quintin Schwab