This past weekend ended in heartbreak as the Cornell baseball team was officially eliminated from postseason contention. The weekend was vital for the team to secure a spot in the postseason, but dropping three to Penn was not the outcome the Red had hoped for.
Cornell (18-15, 7-9 Ivy) lost three of four to Penn (21-16, 11-5) who is currently sitting atop the Lou Gehrig Division. Pitching was strong from both teams in all four games, but the offense could not seem to get it done for the Red.
In the first game of Saturday’s double header, the Red could not get their bats hot as they were shut out by Quakers pitcher Jake Cousins with a score of 5-0. Cousins threw a complete seven inning game, fanning 10 and only allowing three hits. Those three hits came from senior Tommy Wagner and junior Kyle Gallagher.
Wagner broke up Cousins’ no-hit bid in the fourth while extending his hitting streak to 12 consecutive games in what was the game’s only bright spot.
Game two was a true pitching duel. Junior Justin Lewis (3-2) took the ball for the Red and made some history in the process. Lewis pitched the Red’s first nine-inning shutout in nearly 17 years. He allowed no walks, five hits and struck out six.
“The obvious highlight [from this weekend] that sticks out was Justin Lewis’ complete game shutout in game two,” said senior Cole Rutherford. “Justin pitched a phenomenal game, and it was great to see him pitch like we know he can. He has lights out stuff and he has the talent to be able to do this on a daily basis.”
The Red put up two runs early on to give Lewis a lead that he could work with, and Cornell’s defense helped him maintain that lead. Freshman Kaleb Lepper, who made his first start since suffering an injury at the start of Ivy League play, made a diving catch in the eighth inning that was key for Lewis to complete his shutout.
“It all came together for [Lewis] on Saturday, and he was locked in with his good stuff,” said freshman pitcher Jeb Bemiss.
The pivotal weekend continued into Sunday with another double header. Junior Tommy Morris took the ball for the Red and went 6.1 innings allowing only three hits and one run before handing the ball over to Bemiss.
Bemiss then gave up a game deciding three-run homer that stunned the Red and led to a 4-0 loss. Although Cornell outhit Penn, the Red’s offense was unable to cash in with runners in scoring position throughout the series.
“I think we struggled to take advantage of the situations we were in, and we missed some opportunities to score some runs,” said sophomore William Simoneit.
The series finale on Sunday afternoon was one that the Red needed if it wanted a shot at competing in the postseason, especially after Columbia’s success over Princeton this weekend.
Cornell jumped out on top first with a homerun in the first inning from junior Ellis Bitar. Bitar went 2-4 on the day, but the Red as a team again struggled with runners in scoring position.
Paul Balestrieri (4-4) took the mound for the Red, pitching 6.2 innings and allowing eight hits and three earned runs. Penn went on to take the fourth and final game, 3-2, a clear indication that any hopes of competing in the postseason were gone.
The Red’s offense repeatedly failed to take advantage of its standout pitching this weekend, ultimately leading to the series defeat and the resulting elimination. Still, the team’s season is not over yet.
“The goal for our last five games is to keep playing to the same standard that our coaches and veteran leaders have set all year,” Gallagher said.
Although the veterans on the team were hopeful for a playoff run this season, they still left an impact on the team. Their motivation and composure helped the younger players understand what it is like to be a college athlete.
“The senior leadership on this team has been the driving force of our success all year,” Bemiss said. “Those guys have taught us all a lot about hard work and perseverance. Just because we won’t win a title this year doesn’t mean that the work that they have put in won’t create success for our program … when we do win that title they will be a part of it.”
The Red now must try to look ahead to Wednesday’s matchup at Binghamton (20-7). In the last meeting between both teams, the Red won 6-4 at home in come frombehind fashion.
“Our goal is to beat Binghamton,” Rutherford said. “Nothing changes. This team is full of competitors. Just because we are out of playoff contention doesn’t mean that our season is over. We still have a bunch of guys that love and expect to win, and we will continue to fight in each game until the very last pitch is thrown.”