Everything clicked on Wednesday night when Cornell baseball dismantled Binghamton, 10-2, in the Red’s final non-conference game of the season. The Red stayed its course despite elimination from playoff contention last weekend.
With the victory over the Bearcats (20-8, 9-0 America East), Cornell (19-15, 7-9 Ivy) secured an overall record of at least .500, a substantial improvement over last year’s .368 final winning percentage. The win also gave the Red a two-game season sweep over Binghamton — the defending champion in the the America East conference and current conference leader.
“[We played] an overall solid game,” said head coach Dan Pepicelli. “I thought [Binghamton] played well, but we were really aggressive out of the gate.”
The Red’s offense poured on the runs early, starting with an impressive third inning where a two-run homer by junior outfielder Pierre Le Dorze put Cornell up 3-0. And the lead would only grow larger in the following inning.
In the top of the fourth with bases loaded and one out, junior catcher Ellis Bitar stepped up to plate with an opportunity to propel the Red forward — and he did. Bitar knocked the ball over the left field wall for a grand slam and pushed Cornell to a commanding 7-0 lead halfway through the game.
“My approach at the plate was to stay up the middle and put a good swing on a pitch in the strike zone,” Bitar said. “I got a pitch up in the zone and was able to do damage with it.”
Ending the evening with 11 hits, Cornell managed to record a double-digit run total for the fourth time in 2017 — a substantial improvement over its average of 5.5 runs a game.
“We did a good job adjusting to all the different pitchers Binghamton threw at us,” Bitar said. “We were able to produce with runners in scoring position and consistently square the ball up.”
Cornell’s defense also showed up in big ways on Wednesday, surrendering only two runs coming from a pair of Binghamton solo shots. The Red also committed no errors and allowed six hits to the Bearcats.
“We got a very steady pitching performance,” Pepicelli said. “We used a number of guys, and everybody really responded.”
Senior pitcher Scott Soltis started on the hill for Cornell, surrendering only one run and four hits. The righty credited his partner behind the plate to much of his success.
“I really was … in sync with [sophomore] Will [Simoneit] throughout my five innings,” Soltis said. “[Simoneit] did a great job back there and framed a lot of good, borderline pitches to get me strikes and ahead of hitters.”
Cornell will finish up the season this weekend with a four-game series against its Ivy opponent Princeton (10-26-1, 5-11).
“We know Princeton is a good team,” Soltis said. “They’re the reigning champs, but we want this to be a statement series. We’ve really played some good games in the Ivy League. Unfortunately, there have been some that we’ve just come up a bit short. We’re looking to win this Princeton series and end the year on a high note.”
And indeed, it can end on a high note. If Cornell can walk away from the weekend with a series win, it will be the team’s first Ivy League record of .500 or better since the 2013 season.
While the Red was eliminated from playoff contention after last weekend — losing three of four games to Penn — the team expects to hold Princeton to a high standard during its upcoming games.
“When we play Princeton this weekend, we expect to play them to our standard, nothing less,” Pepicelli said. “It doesn’t matter what’s at stake … our standard is the same every time out.”
“We expect to win every time out [and] that is such a good feeling to have,” Pepicelli added.
Cornell will play a pair of games in New Jersey on Friday, and then two more against Princeton at home on Sunday. Action will begin at noon on both days.