March 30, 2011

Softball Ivy League Play Begins This Weekend on Home Turf

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After almost a month and 23 games, Cornell’s women’s softball team will finally begin the Ivy League season. Cornell (11-11-1), the two-time defending Ivy League Champions, will begin their quest for a third championship tomorrow at 2 p.m. when they host Yale (6-8-0) for a doubleheader. The Red will finish their weekend on Saturday, hosting Brown (5-8-1) for two more games, starting at 12:30 p.m.

These four games will be Cornell’s first after its ten-day, seventeen-game road trip. Despite a seemingly overwhelming amount of games, the team feels the trip has positively affected it in several aspects.

“This year, we really came together as a team over [the trip], both physically on the field and in team chemistry,” said senior pitcher and tri-captain Elizabeth Dalrymple. “I think that the week gave us a chance to play a lot of games in a hurry and play in all different temperatures. I think it really prepared us well for upcoming Ivy League [games] … and put us in a place to be competitive in the Ivy League.”

After its hectic trip, the team is very glad to be back home to play its home opener.

“It’s definitely exciting to [play on] our home field and play where we’re comfortable,” said senior pitcher and tri-captain Ali Tomlinson. “Hopefully we’ll get some fans out to support us and our families come, so it’s definitely exciting.”

At the plate, senior outfielder and tri-captain Marissa Amiraian and sophomore catcher Kristen Towne lead the Red. Amiraian has played well as the lead-off hitter, with a .438 on-base percentage and a team-leading 15 runs scored. Towne, the reigning Ivy League Player of the Week, will look to continue her torrid pace into Ivy League play. She is second on the team with a batting average of .368, leads the team with 6 home runs and is tied for first in the Ivy League with 19 RBIs.

The Red will rely on the arm of Dalrymple — the reigning Ivy League Pitcher of the Week — to shut down the opposing team’s offense. The two-time Ivy League Pitcher of the Year is on pace to have her best season yet. She possesses a miniscule 0.83 ERA and is holding opposing batters to a paltry .177 batting average, better than her last two seasons. Last weekend, she broke the school’s all-time strikeout record, ending the week with 523 career strikeouts. Despite her achievement, she remains humble and places the team before individual accomplishments.

“It sounds corny, but for me, I’d rather have a win than a strikeout record,” DaIrymple stressed. “I think if everyone’s individually playing then that’s going to make the best team, but the team aspect has been more exciting for me and seeing our team come together.”

Tomlinson agreed with Dalrymple’s emphasis on the entire team.

“I don’t think any one player can make or break a season. What’s going to be important for our season is playing together and really fostering our team chemistry and [developing] consistency among every position and on the entire field,” Tomlinson said. “The thing about softball is [it’s not an individual sport]; no one player can really carry a team. Every single player from the starters to every single person who didn’t start the games … is equally important to your team’s wins.”

Yale started the season on a roll, but has struggled of late, losing their last six games. Led by a youthful group of pitchers — three of the four are freshmen, and the fourth is a sophomore — the Bulldogs are well on their way to surpassing last year’s win total of 11 games. Junior infielder Meg Johnson — an honorable mention on the All-Ivy team last year — will lead the Bulldogs’ offensive attack. She struggled to start the season, hitting just .237, but has picked it up of late, hitting .455 this past weekend.

Brown’s offense is led by sophomore infielder Stephanie Thompson, who has began the season on an absolute tear. She leads the Ivy League in batting average, slugging percentage and home runs by significant margins and has driven in almost a third of the Bears’ total runs. Brown’s weakness has been its pitching, as the team has an ERA of 4.90.

“Yale and Brown are going to be four tough games, so we’re going to come out and play our best and [we] understand that they’ll [do the same],” Tomlinson said. “We’re going to do everything we can to play quality softball and hopefully come out with some wins.”

Despite making significant progress during its spring trip, the Red still has areas to improve on.

“[We must] maintain focus … to play quality softball and perform at our best,” Tomlinson said. “Every [game] has to be approached as if it’s the most important game of the season.”

“Over the break, we got a couple extra inning games and we had some pressure situations, so we can always work on trying to stay calm in those situations and just playing like we know how,” Dalrymple added.

Overall, the team feels ready to defend its Ivy League title and believes that the players will have success as long as they perform to their capabilities.

“I definitely think we can be competitive with all the teams in the Ivy League … [as long as we] play at our level,” Dalrymple said. “We can only control our side … and I think it’s important we focus on that.”

Original Author: Albert Liao