Cornell baseball put three more wins in the books this weekend after taking the four-game series on the road at Columbia. The three wins came during Saturday’s doubleheader and the first of two on Sunday. The team dropped Sunday afternoon’s game to the Lions, 8-7.
Cornell (17-12, 6-6 Ivy), has proven to be a strong team this season, having already won more games than it did last season (14). The Red credits its success to its strong coaching staff and constant team motivation in the process of reaching its end goal of winning the Ivy League Championship.
“The coaching staff does a great job preparing us for each and every game,” said senior first baseman Cole Rutherford. “Since the fall, we’ve spent a lot of time and focus on making each day better than the last. We’ve bought into that process the entire year and it comes from the top, from [head] coach Pepicelli and the rest of the coaching staff. No matter if we are coming off a win or a loss, we are focused on the next opportunity and being successful in that moment.”
As the Red took to the diamond on Saturday against Columbia (9-21, 5-7 Ivy) in game one of its first doubleheader of the weekend, the team brought its A-game. Senior starting pitcher Tim Willittes (4-1), secured himself his fourth win of the season allowing 10 hits, six runs and striking out one over 4.2 innings pitched. The offense was explosive, putting up three runs in the first inning, two in the second and three in the fifth. Junior right fielder Kyle Gallagher had himself a day, going 3-for-4 with two doubles and two RBIs.
The Red’s three-run fifth inning was essential in its victory on Saturday as the Lions cut the deficit down to two going into the sixth. As the seventh inning began, Columbia began to rally, but senior closer Peter Lannoo shut it down and earned the save. The victory was coach Pepicelli’s 250th in his career.
In game two of Saturday’s double header the Red once again came out on top, winning 12-6. Without wasting any time, the team started the second game with four straight base hits, including doubles from junior Pierre Le Dorze and sophomore Will Simoneit, resulting in a four-run first inning for the Red. The Lions answered back with two in the bottom of the first inning off junior Justin Lewis (2-2) who pitched five innings and gave up seven hits and three earned runs with seven strikeouts.
In the second inning, the Red continued to rattle the Lions’ pitching with its explosive offense. Following a single from senior Tommy Wagner and a hit by pitch of Le Dorze, Rutherford launched a massive three run shot into centerfield, his fifth home run of the season.
Le Dorze went 3-for-4 in the game with three RBIs while Rutherford also racked up three RBIs on the day. Going into the sixth inning with the lead, freshman Jeb Bemiss came into the game and pitched two innings, allowing four hits and no earned runs. Senior Jamie Flynn came on to close the game and was perfect in two innings with four strikeouts. The Red won game two 12-6.
Playing four games in a two day stretch has its pros and cons, but it did not deter any of the players from giving it their all.
“Playing four games in two days is a challenge, but remembering what we are working towards gives us the motivation to keep playing the best baseball we can,” Wagner said.
As Sunday rolled around, Cornell had already gotten the upper-hand in the past two games and came out confident for game three.
Once again, the Red jumped out first in the top half of the opening frame. The team played small ball and got a pair of runners on base through walks. Le Dorze then came up and singled through the left side, loading the bases. Simoneit then doubled to right center to drive in two and quickly put the Red on top.
Cornell’s pitching then got to work. Junior Tommy Morris (2-1) pitched 4.2 innings, allowing six hits and four earned runs. He left the game with the lead and earned his second win.
Coming into the third inning, up 2-1, the Red looked to extend its lead. Wagner singled, then stole second base. Rutherford then launched another shot over the tall fence in straightaway center field, his sixth of the season. This put Cornell up 4-1 going into the bottom of the third inning.
The Red once again looked to its offense to give it a cushion going into the bottom of the seventh inning, which ultimately helped in winning the game. Krainz doubled, Wagner singled him home, Le Dorze then singled and ultimately Rutherford sent out his seventh shot of the season clearing the bases and earning him three of his five RBIs on the day.
“The big man did some big man things and hit some tanks,” Bemiss said of Rutherford’s home runs.
Senior Matt Horton, freshman Colby Wyatt, senior Jamie Flynn and Lannoo combined to complete the remaining 2.1 innings of the game, only allowing only one more run to score over those innings. Lannoo earned the save, his eighth of the season, closing out the 9-5 Cornell win.
With the momentum in its favor, the Red looked to sweep the Lions in game four on Sunday afternoon, but the team came up a run short.
Cornell’s offense was stymied by the Lions’ pitching staff through the first four innings of the game, unable to score a run. Senior Paul Balestrieri was on the mound for the Red, pitching four innings, allowing eight hits, two earned runs and striking out a pair. The offense could not get it done for him, and he took the loss, bringing his season record to 4-3.
The Red looked to turn the game around in the later innings by scoring two in the top of the fifth, sixth and seventh innings. The storybook ending was in place as the Red was down by two in the top of the ninth inning.
Sophomore Josh Arndt started off the top of the ninth with a single up the middle, followed by a single through the left side by Rutherford. Simoneit then singled to center field to load the bases. Gallagher reached on a fielder’s choice keeping the bases loaded with one out. Freshman Matt Collins then reached on another fielder’s choice, but this time Rutherford was able to score to cut the Red’s deficit to one with two outs. However Cornell could not get the job done, as senior Frankie Padulo made the final out.
As the team looks forward to the end of the regular season, its goals are still the same.
“Our goal is to win both series against Penn and Princeton and win our division,” Wagner said. “We knew from the beginning that we have what it takes to win our division and the Ivy League title, and we have a great opportunity ahead of us to do so.”
The team looks to bounce back this Wednesday at 3 p.m. on Hoy Field after Sunday afternoon’s tough loss against Columbia. The Red has its eyes set on revenge against Canisius College, to which they lost to twice last season.