Coming off its first series win of the season at Penn last weekend, Cornell baseball continued its path to a turnaround at home this weekend, taking two of three from Harvard with a pair of come-from-behind wins on Saturday.
Cornell (11-18-1, 6-9 Ivy) faced early four-run deficits in both of its Saturday games, but strong offensive comebacks and timely pitching propelled the Red to two wins and a shot at a sweep. In game three, though, the Red was stymied by Harvard’s pitching Sunday and failed to complete the sweep.
“We’ve just been clicking in every facet of the game going into today,” head coach Dan Pepicelli said on Sunday.
In game one, Harvard (20-19, 9-9) jumped on senior starting pitcher Tim Willittes for four runs in the first inning. Willittes hung in for five innings, leaving the game all squared.
Errors haunted Harvard in game one. The Crimson made four errors; just one of the six runs Harvard’s starter allowed was earned. The Red capitalized on mistakes, stringing together hits in innings extended by errors. The team managed to take the lead in the fourth.
Cornell blew the game open in the sixth with four runs. Senior Dale Wickham knocked in the first with a single, senior Ellis Bitar brought in two with a double and freshman Jason Apostle hit a sac fly for the fourth run.
The Cornell bullpen kept the game in check and carried the team to two wins to start the series. Sophomore Andrew Ellison notched a save in game one to preserve a 10-8 win.
Harvard again got off to a hot start in game two but their efforts were again to no avail and the Red emerged with a 7-4 victory. The Crimson scored four in the first two frames, two coming unearned. Cornell sophomore starter Seth Urbon settled down nicely, tossing five scoreless innings, allowing only two hits following the rocky start.
Cornell’s offense chipped away in the second and third, but exploded in the fourth for four runs. With a runner on, senior second baseman Ryan Krainz ripped a line drive over the left fielder’s head. The left-fielder misjudged the liner and took a step in before turning around and failing to make a play on the ball, and Krainz hustled to third for a triple.
Next up, senior right fielder Kyle Gallagher hit another high line drive over the left fielder’s head, this one uncatchable, for another run. Wickham followed the double up with a hard grounder that the Harvard second baseman failed to glove. Bitar poked a single through the left side to give the Red runners on the corners with two outs.
Harvard brought in a reliever to put out the fire, but the righty struggled to get a grip in the rain and threw a run-scoring wild pitch on his first pitch out of the bullpen.
Cornell handed the game over to the pitchers from there and they did fine work, keeping Harvard off the board. Sophomore Jeb Bemiss kept Harvard off the base paths entirely, pitching a perfect a two-inning save.
After a pair of wins, Cornell ran out of juice for game three on Sunday.
Harvard’s starting pitcher, junior Simon Rosenblum-Larson, shut down the red-hot Cornell offense, pitching five hitless innings and baffling the Red’s lineup.
“He had a slider down in the zone that really looked the same as the fastball coming out of the same slot,” Pepicelli said. “He was pretty disciplined in keeping the slider down. He’s a good pitcher.”
Harvard scratched out a run in each of the first three frames to take another early lead. Cornell didn’t threaten that lead until the seventh inning.
Rosenblum-Larson began the frame by plunking the leadoff man. Krainz then doubled down the left-field line, but the Red’s runner from first was gunned down at the plate. Harvard turned to the bullpen, but Cornell continued to tee off; it looked like another comeback was in the making. Gallagher hit a double to the gap to drive in a run. Bitar then drove in Gallagher, Will Simoneit doubled and Josh Arndt walked after a long at-bat to load the bases, down a run. The inning ended there on a strikeout.
Cornell had made it close, but from there the wheels fell off in what ended up a 6-2 loss.
“It was still a one-run game, we were still right in it until the end,” Pepicelli said after the loss. “We made some defensive miscues at the end there and let up a couple of tack-on runs that really mattered.”
Harvard put up two runs in the eighth and another in the ninth to put the game out of reach. Cornell’s offense failed to muster anything in the late frames against the Crimson bullpen that they dinged up in the first two games.
The Red will take on Binghamton on the road on Wednesday night, followed by the Red’s penultimate Ivy series next weekend on the road against Brown.