Boris Tsang / Sun Assistant Photography Editor

Cornell baseball was eliminated from playoff contention, despite taking two of three games at Brown.

May 6, 2018

Baseball Wins Close Series at Brown; Eliminated from Playoff Contention

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Cornell fought hard in Providence, Rhode Island, this weekend, but a split in Saturday’s doubleheader ensured that the Red would not be competing in the Ivy League Championship.

The Red surmounted an early six-run Brown lead to win Saturday’s first game, 10-7, in 10 innings only to fall short in the second. The Red tied game two on a ninth inning grand slam from freshman Kalani Matton, but surrendered an unearned run in the bottom of the inning to fall by one, 7-6.

Under the Ivy League’s new playoff format, the top two teams in the league face off in the Ivy League Championship. Cornell (13-20-1, 8-10 Ivy) entered the weekend in the middle of the pack with an outside chance at second place.

If Cornell were to take two of three against Brown (11-26, 6-15), Princeton would have had to sweep Dartmouth this weekend; Princeton lost both games Saturday and a third Sunday. Even if Cornell had swept Brown, Princeton would have had to win at least one game to keep Cornell’s chances alive.

Cornell head coach Dan Pepicelli knew that despite the need for help, Cornell’s fate depended on playing good baseball.

“To be honest,” he said last week after a series win over Harvard, “this whole thing has been about us. If we play well, we’re pretty good. If we don’t play up to our standard, anyone in this conference can beat us.”

Things looked grim for Cornell to start Saturday’s first game. They surrendered six runs in the first two frames. Cornell put two runs on the board in the third with a home run from senior Kyle Gallagher, setting the pace for a strong offensive day.

Senior Dale Wickham doubled to bring in a run in the fifth before junior Will Simoneit homered to make the score 7-5. The Red tacked on two more runs in the late frames to tie the game going into the ninth. The Red then batted around in the tenth to score three and take a secure 10-7 lead.

The Red’s bullpen shined in game one — sophomore Jeb Bemiss tossed three scoreless innings, ceding just one Bear baserunner. Sophomore Andrew Ellison pitched a perfect 10th inning for the save.

Cornell’s offense stalled in game two until late. The Red entered the ninth inning down 6-2. Senior Trey Baur got things started with a ground-rule double. A hit-by-pitch and catcher’s interference call that Pepicelli seemed to talk the umpires into loaded the bases. Cornell pinch-hit freshman Kalani Matton, who smoked a grand-slam, doubling his RBI count for the season and tying the game, 6-6.

The Red lost the game on a throwing error from second base that allowed the winning run to score from second with two outs. The loss eliminated the Red from playoff contention.

Cornell had high hopes coming into the season, but never got over a cold start.

“We thought we had a good team coming into the year and we just really had a tough start,” Pepicelli said. “It’s such a short season that if you have a tough start it can jump on you really quick.”

In game three, Sunday’s inconsequential rubber match, Cornell got off to a quick 2-0 lead, getting baserunners on with ease in the early frames. Senior pitcher Tommy Morris gave the Red a strong start. He gave up just one earned run in five innings and left without a decision.

The Red broke a 2-2 tie in the eighth inning on a two run homer from Trey Baur. Senior Austin Wahl earned the win, throwing four scoreless innings in relief, allowing one hit and three walks.

Next weekend, the Red, returning home to Hoy Field for its final weekend of the season, will have a chance to spoil Columbia’s Ivy playoff hopes and move above .500 in league play.