It was a disappointing end to the Cornell baseball season, with the Red finishing in last in the Ivy League. First-year head coach Dan Pepicelli’s team managed to stay close with the rest of the conference until the final stretch, when the team fell short of expectations.
Pepicelli said he had high hopes for this squad and was disappointed the season ended the way it did.
“[I am] disappointed with how we finished,” Pepicelli said. “We just had to play well the rest of the way and just couldn’t get a big hit or a big pitch.”
The Red (14-24, 7-14 Ivy) won only two of its final 12 games of the season, 10 of which were Ivy League matchups.
“We are just better than that,” Pepicelli said.
Half of Cornell’s losses in the final 12-game stretch were decided by three runs or fewer. This was a team that went out every night and put up a fight, Pepicell said. But the Red was not able to come out on top in those close games.
“[We could not] close games out,” Pepicelli said. “Three of the games, in the eighth inning we gave up the lead. We just did not have enough depth in the bullpen. Then add in that we played a boatload of extra inning games … and part of that is because of the toughness of our kids.”
This team, while resilient, certainly has its flaws and has a lot of room for growth over the offseason.
“Across the board there wasn’t any area that I felt doesn’t need improving,” Pepicelli said. “We are trying to figure out not just how to hit for a better average but to build an offense.”
If it feels like the season went by quickly, it is because it was a quick season. The Red played its first game of the season on March 5, and its final game on April 30. This Ivy-unique nuance is something that surprised Pepicelli.
The season is less than two months long and can be a challenge for team that is trying to improve.
“It is a real short season,” Pepicelli said. “Development happens in two ways with freshmen. It happens by playing games, which certainly is great. But then also when a season has some length to it, it gives them a chance to kind of play, go practice, evaluate what they need to work on and go back and play again. Those opportunities don’t exist with us.”
Cornell would regularly see scheduling with 10 games in eight days, for example. There would be a four-game series one weekend, two games in the middle of the week and another four-game series the next weekend.
“It is not the ideal way to develop freshmen, guys that are new or really anyone,” Pepicelli said about the condensed schedule. “They are competing with me for the first time so they are hearing things from me that I am looking for, or changes that I want to make. So I am trying to install that on the fly during games.”
Pepicelli believes some of the young guys such as freshmen Josh Arndt and Mark Fraser fell victim to the schedule’s brevity.
“We had a couple of freshmen that from the time the season started, they really worked their way into their positions and making progress, and then suddenly [the season] is over,” Pepicelli said.
The end result is frustrating because of how close the Red was at times, according to Pepicelli.
“I am more disappointed for them than anything because I think we were so close and so many times we got turned away,” Pepicelli said. “We just were a hit or a pitch away so many times.”
It was not a spectacular season, but a fine opening chapter for the coach.
“First year is in the books; I call it the starting point on the grass,” Pepicelli said.
And when asked if he enjoyed his first year, without hesitation he said, “Yeah, plus I love my guys. I’ve got a great group.”