Dana Daniels | Staff Photographer

After a long road stretch, the Red will open Ivy League play during its home-opening weekend.

March 30, 2017

Baseball Makes Its Long Awaited Homecoming to Launch Ivy League Play

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It is time to come home. After dropping a game to Penn St. Wednesday night to finish off its 14-game road trip to begin the season, the Red will host Brown and Yale to officially start its quest for an Ivy League title.

Cornell ended its month-long road trip with a 9-5 record, ending with a midweek matchup against Penn St. The Red was unable to walk away with a win, losing 8-2. The Nittany Lions were ready to attack out of the gate as the home team led by a run after one inning.

Penn St. continued to extend its lead, putting up an additional three runs in the fourth to go up 4-0. With a wild pitch and a sacrifice fly, Cornell put itself on the board in the seventh with two runs of its own to make the score, 4-2.

However, Penn St. would cancel out the Red’s progress with another pair of runs in the bottom of the inning. Cornell struggled to keep up and eventually Penn St. pulled away with a six-run victory.

“[Wednesday night] didn’t go our way,” said junior outfielder Dale Wickham. “We hit some balls well but couldn’t seem to find many holes. We know we are a better team than we showed yesterday.”

The pitching also struggled, totaling seven walks on the night.

“We didn’t get ahead of batters like we have been doing,” said senior pitcher Paul Balestrieri. “Too many walks. If a team scores 8 runs because they hit your best stuff, fine. When a team scores eight runs because we walked guys, that’s on us.”

Wednesday night was the first four-error outing since March 22, 2015. The Red could not overcome its errors and left empty handed.

“We simply didn’t play up to our standards,” said senior first baseman Cole Rutherford. “This happens in sports. There’s no excuse for it. We just need to get back to playing our brand of baseball.”

For the team, Rutherford added, it is better to get the mistakes out before conference play begins.

“We are looking forward to bouncing back this weekend,” Rutherford said. “Our team is full of a bunch of resilient ball players. We are looking forward to playing better baseball and getting back to winning weekends.”

The team returns to Ithaca for a full weekend of Ivy League games. Saturday showcases a pair of games against Brown, and then Yale will show up for another two on Sunday.

“Brown and Yale are going to be tough and fired up for the first weekend of conference play,” Wickham said. “On the other hand, we are every bit as tough and every bit as excited to get Ivy play rolling.”

Last year, Brown took two games from the Red in Providence. But Brown, like Cornell, finished at the bottom of the conference last year with a 9-11 league record. Both Cornell and its Providence rivals are hungry to make some noise in the Ivy League.

The Red will have the privilege of playing on its home turf for the first time this year, and against a Brown team that has lost all of its games on the road so far this season.

“Being at home is huge this weekend,” Wickham said. “We were able to overcome challenges on the road to win four straight weekends, so being at home should be a big positive for us.”

Next up will be Yale, which had a very successful 2016 campaign despite falling one run short of the Ivy League championship.

In its last meeting with the Red, the Bulldogs managed to win in both games, but needed extra innings to do so in each.

But this Cornell baseball team is much deeper, and its players are confident they can handle any opponent.

“Overall, I think we’ve been playing really well this year,” Rutherford said. “Our pitchers have been great and we have been hitting and playing the field well. We had a couple of games where this wasn’t the case but I think overall this is a very competitive team and we will get back to where we want to be.”

The first pitches will be thrown at noon and 2:30 p.m. on Saturday against Brown and at the same times on Sunday against Yale at Hoy Field.