After back-to-back Ivy League championships, Cornell’s softball team has plenty of experience with the playoffs, but the team’s matchup against Penn (18-20-1, 9-9 Ivy League) today will be new territory for the Red. The Quakers will host the Red this morning at Drexel Field in Philadelphia, Pa. for a doubleheader, beginning at 10:30 a.m., with the second game scheduled for 12 p.m. In each of the last two seasons, Cornell (26-20-1, 11-7) has cruised to the South Division title, earning a spot in the Ivy League championship series, but this year the Red must at least split the season-ending series with Penn to earn the division crown. If the Red loses both games today, there will be a one-game playoff on Friday to determine the division champion.Although some members of the Red were a part of the last two teams, there has been an influx of freshmen, giving the team a different feel compared to years past.“We lack the experience and the depth that we’ve had the last couple years, but we certainly have a bunch of ladies who really fight and work their tails off,” said head coach Dick Blood.Although the Red knows how close it is to earning yet another appearance in the Ivy series, the team is not taking its series with Penn for granted.“We still have two games to go and … we play a club that’s very similar to ours,” Blood said. “They have a lot of pop [at the plate] and solid pitching.”Penn’s offense is led by senior Alisha Prystowsky, who was selected to the All-Ivy first-team as a freshman and sophomore, and to the second-team as a junior. Prystowsky leads the Quakers in all major offensive categories including batting average, home runs and RBIs. Penn’s pitching is led by freshman Mikenzie Voves, who has a team-best 10 wins and a 4.36 ERA.Cornell’s experienced pitching staff has been one of the biggest contributors to the Red’s success. Led by senior tri-captains Elizabeth Dalrymple and Ali Tomlinson, the unit has compiled an ERA of 3.26. Dalrymple leads the Ivy League individually with a 1.96 ERA, and is in contention for her third Ivy League Pitcher of the Year award.While the seniors have provided a steady, calming influence with their consistent play, the group that has pushed the Red over the top has been the freshmen. The first-year players have picked up their play recently, as freshman infielders Jenny Edwards and Lauren Bucolo have earned the Red Ivy League Rookie of the Week awards in consecutive weeks.“[The freshmen] stepped up when we needed positions filled and they … got the job done,” said senior center fielder and tri-captain Marissa Amiraian. “For both Jenny Edwards and Lauren Bucolo, it’s a huge achievement to win [rookie of the week] and it’s not often we’ve been able to capture that back-to-back. I think it proves that we do have a lot of freshman contributing and they’re doing a really good job at it.”“It’ll be critical that [the freshmen] maintain the level at which they’ve been playing lately. They’re big parts of the lineup right now and we’ll be counting on them offensively and defensively,” Blood added.If the Red is able to win one game against Penn, it will face-off against Harvard (34-14, 18-2), the North Division winners, in the Ivy League Championship Series this weekend. The Red handed the Crimson one of its two Ivy League losses earlier in the year, splitting the season series, 1-1, with Harvard.Harvard has dominated the Ivy League regular season much like the Red did the past two years. The Crimson is hitting a league-best .327 as a team, and has driven in almost 60 more runs than any other team in the Ivies. The North Division champions also lead the Ivy League in ERA with a miniscule 2.65 mark, led by their one-two punch of junior Rachel Brown and freshman Laura Ricciardone, who currently hold the second- and third-lowest ERA in the Ivy League, behind Cornell ace Dalrymple.“[Another] difference this year is that Harvard has home field advantage, while in the past, we’ve been able to host [the championship game] because we’ve had the best record of all our competitors,” Amiraian said.Although the Red struggled earlier in the season, it has picked things up of late and now has the chance to look ahead to the postseason after completing a 47-game regular season schedule.“Regardless of how we’ve played earlier in the season, it’s great to be on a high and everything is coming together,” Amiraian said.As the season is nearing its end, Amiraian is proud of the team’s accomplishments this year.“As a senior, it’s been such a wonderful experience,” she said. “Looking back, it’s been a lot of fun; we’ve had our ups, we’ve had our downs, but what makes it even more exciting is that we can push through things that were out of our control, like losing home field advantage and having to play our games at Ithaca College. It just makes our accomplishments even more impressive that we can work through anything, we can play anywhere and we’re ready to play anyone … We’ve had some hurdles along the way, but we fought our way back to still have the best record in our division as of right now.”If the Red continues playing at the same high level, there is a good chance that the team will have the opportunity to play past the Ivy League playoffs. Winning the championship over Harvard would earn the Red a spot in the 64-team field of the NCAA tournament.
Original Author: Albert Liao