March 28, 2013

BASEBALL | Swinford Secures Split for Red With Walk-Off Homerun

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After struggling to produce runs in a 4-1 loss to Albany, the Cornell baseball team came back in the second game to split Tuesday’s doubleheader. Junior Ben Swinford gave his team the win with one swing of the bat, connecting on a pitch from freshman Brendan Ryan in the bottom of the seventh inning and sending it over the fence of Hoy field for a 5-4 walk-off victory.

In the first game of the doubleheader, however, the Red had a tough time getting runners on base. Albany’s Chase Austin pitched a complete game, giving up just three hits and one earned run, earning the win.

“On any given day in baseball it’s possible to run into … a game like that,” Swinford said. “The pitcher was throwing a great changeup all game and it kept us off balance.”

The Red’s only run occurred in the bottom of the sixth when sophomore JD Whetsel singled down the left field line, stole second base, advanced to third on senior Tom D’Alessandro’s groundout and scored on sophomore Matt Hall’s sacrifice fly.

According to senior Brenton Peters — the only player on the Red’s squad to get a hit in both of Tuesday’s games — the team need not be worried about its struggle to get on base.

“It happens. It doesn’t really mean anything as far as the team being down offensively,” he said.

Freshman lefty Michael Byrne got the loss — despite giving up just one run in two innings — and moved to 1-1 on the season.

In the second game of the doubleheader, Cornell made the most of just four hits, beating the Great Danes, 5-4.

The Red struck first in the bottom of the second. Senior outfielder Spenser Souza’s RBI triple was followed by a sacrifice fly by Swinford to give the team a 2-0 lead.

The Danes picked up a run in the third and the fifth innings to tie the score at two. In the bottom of the fifth, however, Swinford drew a walk, freshman Eliot Lowell moved Swinford to third with a groundball to the right side of the infield and D’Alessandro walked, putting runners at the corners.

When D’Alessandro took off to attempt a steal, the catcher threw the ball to second and D’Alessandro stopped halfway between the bases. Swinford was then able to steal home plate before Albany could tag D’Alessandro for the final out of the inning.

The Danes struck back in the top of the sixth, regaining a 4-3 lead on a two-run homer from Craig Lepre.

After not scoring in the bottom of the sixth and the top of the seventh, Swinford took the plate with one man on and one man out and the threat of being swept looming in front of his team. His two-run homerun gave him three RBI’s on the day and handed the Red a split of the mid-week series.

“It was important to get that last win and it felt good to be able to contribute there,” Swinford said.

According to Peters, the walk-off win will serve as momentum as the Red kicks off Ivy League competition this weekend.

“[It] boosts our confidence going into the rest of our games,” he said.

The team will continue to play at home this weekend, facing Brown in a doubleheader on Saturday and Yale in a doubleheader on Sunday.

“With Brown, they have a lot of guys who can hit the ball,” Peters said. “From a pitching standpoint, they’ve had a bunch of tall righties who try to throw really hard … [We need to] be aggressive early in counts when they’re throwing their fastballs.”

Despite a weak record thus far, the game against Yale will also be a challenge.

“They’re just a thorn in your backside, they never give up,” Peters said. “They make sure to do everything to stay in the game.”

Original Author: Skyler Dale