A new chapter begins for Cornell baseball this weekend when the team travels to Florida. The Red looks to build momentum in their first games of the season behind their new coach Dan Pepicelli when they square off against Northeastern in a three-game series.
This season is truly a fresh start for the Red. The team finished last season 13-27 (9-11 in the Ivy League), completing a second straight third place finish in the Lou Gehrig Division. Thirteen of the Red’s 27 losses last season were by one run. The team’s first Ivy League title in history came four year ago in 2012, after completing 31-win season.
“We really view this season as a chance for a fresh start,” said junior infielder Frankie Padulo. “Coach Pep coming in has brought a new, rejuvenated attitude to the program, so we’re excited about the direction we’re headed. We are definitely a different team than last year and are excited to write a script that’s different from the past couple years.”
Junior infielder Tommy Wagner echoed Padulo’s sentiments, noting how the Red must not let the close games slip away this year.
“We aren’t looking back to the previous season, but are instead focused on the season in front of us,” Wagner said.
Cornell has high aspirations and expectations for this season, with an Ivy League title in sight.
“I certainly think we have a really good plan in place to be winners every night we go out, so I would be disappointed any night we go out and don’t win,” said head coach Dan Pepicelli.
The Red’s road to the championship starts this weekend with the series against Northeastern.
“Our goal for this weekend is to win all three games,” Wagner said.
“We have put in a lot of work to prepare for the season and expect to win every time we set foot on the field. We want to gain momentum at the beginning of the season and bring that into Ivy League play so we give ourselves the best opportunity to win the Ivy League Title.”
Padulo also sees this weekend as a way to build momentum en route to a potential Ivy League Championship.
“We want to play with focus and intensity, do the little things well, and win ball games,” Padulo said. “Our ultimate goal is to win the Ivy League and this weekend is just step one.”
Only once has Cornell faced Northeastern, in which they won 13-9. But a lot has happened since then, and anything can happen in the beginning of the season. The Red will need to lock down against the Huskies to get the strong start they want.
“[Northeastern] has got some really good starting pitching,” Pepicelli said. “They’ve got some guys that can run it up to 90, 92 … When you go against arms like that, you can’t sit there and think you’re going to score seven, eight runs. There will be windows of opportunity throughout the course of the game, and when we get those we have to situational hit.”
It was these one-run games Cornell struggled with last season, and that the team is focusing on this season.
“Our big focus is on winning the one-run ball games,” Wagner said. “We will inevitably be in quite a few of these … and it is crucial that we get these wins. We have worked to be comfortable in every situation we will face, and execute when we need to.”
Pepicelli commented on the things his team needs to zero-in on in order to execute in these tight situations.
“Paying attention to the defense, where it’s positioned, the ability to turn a double play, the ability to situational hit — things that you know you can put on the bus day in and day out to help you win more games,” Pepicelli said.
The starting pitchers for Cornell will be junior right-hander Paul Balestrieri for the first game, senior left-hander Michael Byrne for the second and junior right-hander Tim Willittes for the third. Junior right-hander Peter Lannoo will be ready to relieve for the Red this weekend.