It is crunch time for the men’s baseball team to stay competitive for the Ivy League championship, and, while getting swept by Canisius on Wednesday does not lessen the team’s standings in the Ivy League, it certainly does not help the team’s momentum going forward.
The two games against the Golden Griffins were both close, but a lack of aggressiveness and luck behind the plate was a huge problem in getting the edge in Buffalo.
“We definitely had some flashes of great play, but just never seemed to string it together at the right time,” said junior pitcher Scott Soltis. “I thought we played good defense and had some good at bats and hard-hit balls. Yet again, the ball just didn’t seem to bounce our way at fortunate times.”
Soltis — who tossed his first career collegiate complete game Tuesday — struck out four but gave up six hits in the 1-0 loss in game one of the doubleheader.
“Soltis pitched an absolutely great first game, allowing only one run in all seven innings of the first game,” said freshman first baseman Mark Fraser. “Our hitters up and down the lineup all barreled up the ball consistently, but as the game of baseball goes sometimes, our line drives and hard hit balls seemed to find Canisius’ gloves.”
Despite the offensive struggles, Fraser and head coach Dan Pepicelli loved the way freshman Josh Arndt played on Wednesday.
“Josh Arndt had great games yesterday,” Fraser said. “It seemed every time he came up to bat he drove the ball, even if not all of them landed.”
The team has also been without junior third baseman Tommy Wagner for 12 games due to injury, but Pepicelli expects a healthy Wagner to be back in the lineup for Princeton. He still leads the team in batting average despite being out for an extended period of time.
Up next for the Red is the Tigers, which represents the last Ivy competition the team will see before the end of the regular season. Cornell is currently four games behind the first place Tigers in the Lou Gehrig division. A sweep could make things very interesting as it partakes to the teams’ chances in the Ivy League championship.
“We need to come prepared ready to play the game of baseball we as a team can really play,” Fraser said. “We’re going to come out ready to attack pitches in the zone we can do something with. Our fielders are going to pick up the pitcher every time the ball is hit to them, and our pitchers are going to come out attacking the zone, getting ahead and working the counts.”
Although the team has been passing through a bit of a rough patch — only winning one of its last eight games — the men still believe their fortitude will keep them progressing.
“I believe we are a very mentally tough team,” Fraser said. “This has been a rough stretch, but through the leadership of our coaching staff and seniors, we are working through it and focused on what lies ahead.”
Pepicelli also lauded his team’s ability to not get caught up in the losses, but to always look ahead and keep fighting.
“These guys are always trying to be the best that they can be,” he said. “That’s just the makeup of these kids. They have zero quit in them.”
This being the last homestand of the season also spells the last home games of their career for the members of the senior class. Soltis hopes that this drives the team to win it in honor of the seniors who have gave years to the organization.
“Senior day is always tough emotionally,” Soltis said. “As a junior, I have had a few years to develop relationships with these seniors so it will be especially hard. As a team, it really makes you fight that much harder to win in their last home game and end their career at Hoy Field on a good note.”
This year, the senior class was also greeted with a brand new head coach in Pepicelli. The first-year coach could not express his gratitude more to the senior class for helping him get acquainted with Cornell baseball and establishing a culture.
“I think it’s been challenging for them having a new coach come in their last year,” Pepicelli said. “I’ve been so grateful for the work they’ve put in helping me establish a culture here. They have been very loyal to the University and program so this will be a way to honor them.”
Pepicelli also agreed, saying he hopes his team will find a way to honor the seniors through wins this coming weekend.
“I know we’re going to play really well this weekend,” he said. “These guys really want to play well.”