Katie Sims | Sun Staff Photographer

Cornell finished the season with a .329 winning percentage despite their efforts.

May 1, 2017

Undesirable Pitfalls Fail to Shake Softball’s Competitiveness

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This story is part of The Sun’s 2017 spring supplement. To view the rest of the supplement, click here.

Softball, much like any other team sport, hinges on the individual performances of each of the nine starters and how those performances meld together to make proper gameplay. The tiniest slip-up — anything from a bobbled grounder to a hesitation on the base path — can turn the tide of a game.

That has been Cornell softball’s experience so far this season. After having several games canceled and a few players out with injuries, the Red had a rocky start to the beginning of its season.

“Although today we have as many wins [nine] as we did last year, I think, although our record doesn’t show it … we’re much improved, compared to last year,” said head coach Julie Farlow ’97. “I think this year, although we’re not necessarily coming out with the victory, we’re way more in ball games.”

“At least we’re competing, you know?” she added.

Junior pitcher Madeline Orcutt has a similar mentality.

“You can’t really let those [mistakes] affect you; you’ve got to keep moving on and battling as long as you can in the game,” Orcutt said. “As a pitcher … the mistake can be one pitch and the batter can hit a homerun, which is really frustrating. But you’ve got to move past it, go onto the next pitch, the next batter … and keep fighting.”

Last year’s numbers told a different story in regards to gameplay. The Red’s 32 losses in 2016 were lost by anywhere from six to eight or, in one case, thirteen runs. There was a lack of competitive play in most games, and it really showed.

“A lot of the upperclassmen have been trying to treat this as a different season and not kind of think about how they’ve done in the past and try to just focus on what we can do now,” said freshman pitcher Lisa Nelson.

This season’s numbers show something else. The nine total wins the team has were each characterized by close scores, often separated by one or two runs. Cornell has spent most games breathing down the necks of its opponents, whether or not they managed to pull out a win.

Obviously, the hard work of the entire team on its defensive and offensive skills has contributed to these slight improvements in performance between seasons, but a lot of the focus this year has been put on the pitchers.

Cornell now has a four-pitcher rotation: freshman Cora Geunes, freshman Katie Lew, Orcutt and Nelson. Every time these women step onto the mound, they have the chance to take control of the game with every pitch they throw.

And with three of the four being freshmen, this level of competition in college and the responsibility of throwing as perfectly as possible is a lot to take on this early.

“They all hit a speed bump at some point in the season and ideally they would hit that speed bump earlier in the season,” Farlow said. “So if [you] hit that bump again in the Ivy portion of the season, you’ve already experienced it. [But] when the first time struggling was during an Ivy game, it compounds the issue a little bit.”

Nelson described the rapid change in the level of competition and how that affected her mentality on the mound.

“In the fall, when we were just starting to play games, I was super nervous — I didn’t know what to expect, and I felt a little unprepared just with the big jump from high school and travel ball to college softball,” Nelson said. “But, as the season went on in the spring, I started to get more comfortable and, as I got to know my teammates a lot better, I just got more confident on the mound.”

Orcutt has been on the team for the past three years and is the most experienced of all the pitchers, meaning that she’s had to go through the transition of the season to summer to off-season several times. It is a process that can mess with any pitcher’s accuracy and growth.

“I’ve learned to better communicate with my coaches and … figure out the best way to approach the offseason so when I come into the season I’m throwing the best that I can, being the best pitcher I can be for my team,” Orcutt said.

With such a young rotation, the possibility for growth is enormous. And that possibility goes beyond the pitching staff.

Cornell is only losing two seniors this year — outfielders Michiko Mcgivney and Jessica Bigbie — so the rest of the team has a lot of time to develop together.

Farlow’s outlook on the team’s performance for the rest of the season, as well as future years, is optimistic.

“I’m excited about the future,” Farlow said. “I think this season is part of the process. [R]ight now we’ve got a good core, we’ve got some good pitching. Next year’s recruiting class [has] a lot of positional players who can fill in on some of the holes we have. We’re strong at every position, but we don’t have depth at every position. We already have a solid foundation. [Next year’s recruits are] just going to make us a little deeper and a little bit stronger.”

This story is part of The Sun’s 2017 spring supplement. To view the rest of the supplement, click here.