On Saturday, a mild Annapolis morning, the Red challenged Navy in a doubleheader. After falling to the Navy 2-1 in the first game, the Red rebounded to take the second game in extra innings 3-2.
For the third game of the series on Sunday, Cornell held Navy during the middle innings, but gave up runs late in the 7th and 8th innings to fall 5-1.
Defensively, Cornell made vast strides in terms of pitching and limiting runs. Freshman Luke Yacinich started the first game on Saturday and the Navy did not score after its two runs in the bottom of the second inning.
The highlight of the series was Cornell’s first win of the season, a harrowing 11-inning battle, in which quality starting and relief pitching proved the Red’s defensive endurance.
Game two’s starter Colby Wyatt received Ivy League Pitcher of the Week after hurling six scoreless innings.
Junior relief pitcher John Natoli continued to impress Head Coach Dan Pepicelli this weekend, appearing in the first game before shouldering 3.1 innings in the second game. Despite Natoli’s high pitch count, he finished strong with two strikeouts and no runs in the last inning to secure the win.
“The pitching and defense were both better this weekend which is the low scoring games,” Pepicelli said. “We had some real strength out of the bullpen.”
The tight defense was especially crucial in trying to match up with the Midshipmen’s strong pitching, namely Navy’s starting pitcher Noah Song, a top prospect for the MLB draft. Song went the distance in game one, racking up 16 strikeouts and conceding only five Red baserunners in the seven-inning game.
Although Cornell’s defense stepped up to keep the scores low, the Red offensive could not capitalize on scoring opportunities.
“I’ve shifted some people around trying to spark some things,” Pepicelli said. “In order to be an offense it has to work in a cycle, top to bottom, one through nine have to all be rolling.”
The challenging task for the Red is to unite the offense for a complete game, which Pepicelli says is “just a matter of gelling and having that whole thing come together as an offense.”
“I don’t think we’ve been as good as we can be,” said Pepicelli, adding that the team is working towards “getting everyone comfortable and calmed down so they can be the best they can be right now.”
Looking forward, Pepicelli plans to continue giving freshmen pitchers starting opportunities. Jon Zacharias will get the nod this coming weekend.
Cornell will continue its streak of away games Saturday and Sunday in Towson, MD against Fordham and Towson University. The series will be the last before Cornell enters conference play, starting with a series at Columbia University March 23 and 24.