When he heard the crack of the ball hitting his bat, junior infielder C.J. Price knew he had just done something special.
In the eighth inning of a tied game with Binghamton (11-18, 7-2 AEC), Price’s homer made the difference as the Red (9-13, 2-4 Ivy) took down its upstate rivals, 3-2, in a come-from-behind win.
“There is no better feeling in the world,” Price said. “I was glad that I could give us the lead going into the ninth, and I was just focused on getting those last three outs.”
Lead-off man and sophomore catcher Ellis Bitar drove a ball through the right-field gap, scoring junior relief pitcher Rob Pannullo from first base. As Bitar slid into third, the cut-off man’s throw sailed high and allowed Bitar to trot home, giving him a little-league home run. This tied the game, and Price put Cornell ahead at the very next at-bat.
“Up until the eighth inning, our bats were pretty quiet, and we did not play up to our offensive standards,” Price said. “Ellis gave the team new life after tying the game up.”
Nonetheless, these two at-bats were the only real threats the Red had all game, as Cornell was only able to rack up five hits compared to Binghamton’s seven. Head coach Dan Pepicelli said he was not happy with his team’s performance behind the plate.
“I wasn’t happy at all with how we swung the bat,” he said. “I think we are capable of doing a much better job with that. I challenged them after the game and certainly our goal is to come out with a better intensity this weekend than we did [against Binghamton].”
In a tight, defensive battle neither team had one pitcher carry a majority of the pitching. For the Bearcats, no pitcher tossed more than an inning. And for the Red, junior righty Austin Wahl threw a game-high two and a third innings.
“We used a lot of different arms and I was pretty happy with how they all pitched,” Pepicelli said. “We got a chance to really use some new arms and take a look at some things we usually don’t get the opportunity to.”
Pepicelli noted that his reasoning for this was that Wednesday’s game was in the middle of the week and against a non-conference team.
“We’ve been trying to get everyone involved without putting them in with a conference game on the line,” he said. “We wanted a mid-week opportunity where we could say, ‘Hey, here’s your inning. Go out, get some game experience.’”
Even though the stress and uncertainty that comes comeback is not ideal, the team believes it will give them a boost going forward with the season.
“After coming off a tough weekend, I think the come-from-behind win today will give us some confidence and momentum going forward,” Price said.
This stress during the Binghamton game was even more intensified after last weekend’s heartbreaking losses against Brown and Yale.
“Against Brown and Yale, we really had an opportunity to take three of four games, but to come home without anything was really frustrating for everybody,” Pepicelli said.
Even though Pepicelli was happy to get the win against the Bearcats, he made one thing clear to his squad: it was not good enough.
“It didn’t look right to me yesterday,” he said. “Afterwards I said, ‘I’m proud of you for winning, but we have to get to the point where we can get up to our standards.’”
Up next, the Red continues Ivy League play this weekend with a four-game series with Columbia (9-18, 4-4). Cornell looks to get back in the Ivy win column behind Pepicelli’s rhetoric to be more aggressive at the plate.
“We are just trying to make sure we are well-prepared and ready to go,” Pepicelli said. “Try to get off the bat a little quicker than we did against Brown and Yale.
Another major factor for Pepicelli’s squad is to finally have a solid stretch at home. So far this season, the Red has only played three games of 22 at Hoy Field in Ithaca. Given that the home team gets to bat second, the team is happy to have this advantage for a prolonged period of time.
“It’s nice because we have the last at-bat, which really changes the way I can manage,” Pepicelli said. “We are looking forward to being home this weekend. I’m excited to see what we can do.”