Boris Tsang / Sun Photography Editor

Getting tough games in at the beginning of the season gives the Red a chance to work out the kinks before Ivy play commences.

March 4, 2019

Challenging Start to Season for Baseball Offers Long Run Benefit

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Following its opening matches at Baylor, Cornell baseball continued to play formidable opponents this weekend in Richmond, Virginia to bring the season into full swing. In its second series of the season, the Red was again routed on the road at Virginia Commonwealth University.

VCU (8-3) swept the Red, whose record is now 0-6. However, Head Coach Dan Pepicelli is not deterred by the defeat.

“It’s probably not going to be about compiling a great record at the beginning of the year for us with this type of scheduling,” Pepicelli said. “But there’s a great opportunity for us to improve before the season starts.”

Playing three games in two days is standard fare for Cornell baseball, as the weekly structure of conference games follows two games on Saturday and one on Sunday. The double-header this past Saturday against VCU continued to prepare the young team for the rest of the season.

Despite being downed by No. 25 Baylor and a strong VCU team, the Red maintains a positive attitude.

“I saw guys that were poised and kept their heads in the process of getting better,” said Pepicelli.

Given the youth of the team — eleven players are freshmen — Pepicelli believes that these difficult tilts will benefit the Red in the long run. The freshmen need time to gain exposure and to adjust to collegiate baseball before the start of conference games.

“[Playing these teams] makes us tougher and better when it’s conference time,” he said. “Confidence is the biggest thing … [Difficult games are] a way to help them grow up quickly.”

With each additional at-bat, the young team strives to become more comfortable at the plate. Defensively, the team is working to improve its pitching and Pepicelli expects a learning curve with the young pitchers.

Even older players, notably junior right-handed pitcher John Natoli, are improving. Natoli is coming off an injury from last season and is seeing more opportunities in relief than before, but Pepicelli said that he might move into a starting role later in the season.

“It’s just a matter of keeping that continuity now and letting everyone get comfortable in their spots,” Pepicelli said.

Up next for the Red is another away series, this time in Annapolis, Maryland against the United States Naval Academy on March 9 and 10.