April 17, 2013

BASEBALL | Cornell Readies for Do-Or-Die Quakers Series

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After a difficult series against Columbia where the baseball team struggled to produce offensively, the Red will return to Hoy Field for a do-or-die series with Penn beginning on Saturday at noon.

“Honestly, we really need to take four out of four in order to stay in contention,” senior infielder Brenton Peters said.

The three losses to the Lions this past weekend put the Red at .500 in the Ivy League and 1-3 against competition within the Lou Gehrig Division. Going into this series, the Red is tied with the Quakers for third place in the division.

Against Columbia, the Red only mustered up three total runs in the losses. According to Peters, this is where the team needs to focus when it meets Penn this weekend.

“We need to execute better offensively than we have been doing lately,” he said. “Our pitchers have been keeping us in games and we haven’t been providing run support. We just need to get more aggressive at the plate and not think about what’s coming — just see the ball and hit it.”

Though the Red’s starters pitched well enough against Columbia to keep the team in the game, the rotation was also not as dominant as it has been up to this point. Sophomore lefthander Nick Busto — who had not lost a game going into his start on Saturday against the Lions — had his first tough outing of the season, allowing eight hits and eight runs over five and a third innings. Sophomore pitcher Brent Jones also struggled in his start, only going two and two thirds innings, and allowing seven hits and three earned runs.

“It all starts with pitching,” Peters said. “Our pitchers need to throw strikes and go deep into games. Then we need to be solid on the defensive end and we’ll be pretty successful.”

In a very similar position to the Red, the Quakers will also be looking to inch their way to the top of the Lou Gehrig Division. With only three seniors on their roster, the Quakers are a fairly inexperienced team that features some young talent. Sophomore pitcher Dan Gautieri is leading the team in wins with five and ERA at 2.00. In the series with Cornell last year, Gautieri recorded the win in Penn’s only victory over the Red in a four-game series. He also tied a Penn program record with 17 appearances as a freshman.

“We have to see fastballs; that’s the main key,” Peters said. “If we see a fastball, recognize the spin on the ball and see them up in the zone, we can be real successful. If we hit the ball hard, a lot of things can happen because it puts pressure on the defense.”

The Red’s own pitchers will also have to deal with Penn’s senior outfielder Ryan Dietrich. The former second-team All-Ivy Leaguer is leading the entire Ancient Eight in batting average at .419 and hits with 49. In a win over Cornell last year, Dietrich went 2-4 with a triple.

Though the Red is not in the position it had hoped to be at this juncture in the season, Peters said the nature of the losses so far prove that it can play with every team.

“We’ve been in almost every single game, so it’s not like we’ve been getting blown away,” Peters said. “A couple games have slipped away from us, but it is what it is.”

With only this series and an extremely important home and away series against Princeton left in divisional play, the Red still has a chance to reach the Ivy League championship series.

“We just have to take advantage of our opportunities and beat these teams, and hope they can do something against Columbia so we can jump above [the Lions],” Peters said. “Really, we pretty much need to win out from here forward.”

Original Author: Scott Chiusano