April 22, 2013

BASEBALL | Niners Take Three of Four Against Quakers

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In a do-or-die series against Penn this weekend with the hopes of playoff contention hanging in the balance, the Red took three games from Penn to stay in the race for another Ivy championship.“We had to take at least three and we accomplished that,” senior infielder Brenton Peters said. “There’s nothing like accomplishing something you set out to do the week before, especially when you realize your backs are against the wall.”On a chilly day on Hoy Field on Saturday, the Red got off to a slow start. The Quakers had all the momentum in the first game, leading 3-0 after three innings. Cornell’s offense was stagnant, mustering up only five hits against Penn’s starter Connor Cuff, two of them by sophomore JD Whetsel. Though Red starter Nick Busto kept Penn off the board in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings, the offense had no answer for Cuff, and the Quakers took game one, 6-0.With three games left, needing three wins to keep its season alive, the Red did not back down.“We got more aggressive, changed our approach at the plate and just let it fly,” Peters said. “We started playing a little looser with a little more confidence and everything started rolling.”Freshman pitcher Michael Byrne’s stellar start carried the Red to a narrow 4-2 victory in the second game of Saturday’s doubleheader.“When we first came into the weekend, we didn’t know he’d be taking a starting spot,” Peters said. “But he came in and, to be honest, nobody really questioned it because he’s been pitching so well.”Byrne went eight and a third strong innings, surrendering just two hits and one earned run while striking out four. “He’s one of our higher velocity guys, he throws strikes and works fast,” Peters said. “When you have somebody like that on the mound, personally, I thoroughly enjoy it because you don’t have any lulls in the action. You’re either getting a ground ball or seeing a strike; it’s a very pleasing thing to see.”Byrne got some offensive support from the bottom of his lineup in the second inning. Senior Phil Mullan — in just his third start of the season as a DH — hit a two-out single to drive in junior shortstop Tom D’Alessandro. He advanced to second on the throw home on the play, and then scored on senior catcher Chris Burke’s single, giving the Red a 2-1 lead. According to Peters, the balance in the Red’s lineup was evident in this win.“Over the years, we haven’t really had very many holes in our lineup,” Peters said. “Sometimes opposing pitcher think when they can get to the seven, eight or nine hitters,they’re coming up on the lower ranks, they’re supposed to be easy outs. But when we have that balance, there’s pretty much no let down so the pitcher can’t ever relax.”Sophomore outfielder Kevin Tatum also had three hits in the game, including two doubles. It was one of two three hit games in the series for the sophomore, whose bat has started to come alive after a slow offensive start to the season.“[Kevin] was a key, key guy in our success last year, and it was just a matter of time before he turned it around,” Peters said. “He’s one of the better hitters I’ve every seen; he has such a smooth swing. He was hitting the ball hard [and] he was just hitting it right at people. Once the balls started dropping, I knew he’d turn it around.”In Sunday’s doubleheader, the tension remained high, but the Red’s strong pitching and defense dominated the Quakers. Sophomore pitcher Brian McAfee went the distance for his third win, allowing just four hits and one run. The Red had seven hits from seven different players, again showcasing the balance in the lineup.With so much on the line in the final game of the weekend, the Red rose to the challenge one more time and started off strong, putting up two runs in the bottom of the first. Tatum drew a walk and then scored on junior Chris Cruz’s two out double to the fence. Senior infielder Forrest Crawford then brought Cruz home with a single to center.Though the Red put up five runs in the third, junior lefthander Zach McCulley didn’t need much more support, as he went five innings, allowing just one run and securing an 8-2 victory.With the final four games of the regular season coming up against Princeton this weekend, the Red finds itself in an eerily similar position to just a year ago.“It’s pretty much do-or-die now,” Peters said. “The Princeton series made our season last year, and it could make our season this year too.”Just one game ahead of the Tigers in the standings of the Lou Gehrig Division, the Red needs to win all four in order to guarantee a chance to play Dartmouth in a repeat of last season’s Ivy championship matchup.“We have to take four in order to give ourselves a chance, so none of the games can be taken lightly,” Peters said. “We can’t afford to start slow like we did this weekend. We have to go right out from the game and attack and give ourselves the best opportunity to take first place in the standings.”

Original Author: Scott Chiusano