Boris Tsang / Sun Photography Editor

The Red employed dominant pitching and flawless defense to avoid being swept a second time in two weeks. Cornell hopes its game-three performance will prove to be the turning point in a season that has been frustrating so far.

April 17, 2019

Baseball Clicks to Avoid Sweep at First-Place Harvard

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This season has been a struggle so far for Cornell baseball, but the Red is a long way from giving up. Sunday offered signs of a turnaround, an overdue reward for Cornell’s efforts.

“They’re giving me everything they’ve got,” said head coach Dan Pepicelli. “There are times when we can’t put it all together, but it’s not a lack of effort right now.”

Cornell kicked off its weekend with two losses on Saturday. The 8-19 Red (3-9 Ivy) found itself in the L column — familiar territory — in both games of a doubleheader filled with home runs. But after another brush with misfortune, it was the Red’s response, a 2-0 Sunday win, that defined Cornell’s weekend and could come to define the rest of the season for the Red.

“We’ve had our share of internal talks and it’s been a very frustrating year for us,” Pepicelli said, “but it’s really been good to see … how resilient they’ve been — how hard they’ve continued to play — and Saturday was a perfect example.”

Although the Red fell 8-6 in game one of the weekend series, the offense came together to score a pair of runs in the first, fourth and sixth innings. In the very first inning, cleanup hitter sophomore INF/OF Ramon Garza hit a two-run home run to get the Red on the board first. It was the Red’s first home run of the season.

The highlight of game one, according to Pepicelli, was that “Garza had 3 hits — he had a home run and 3 hits, so he looked really good.”

That being said, there wasn’t much else for the Red to remember from game one. Harvard hit three home runs of its own, accounting for five of the Crimson’s eight runs. Junior Wyatt Colby, who entered the game having given up only five earned runs on the season, gave up six through 5 2/3 IP.

“It’s a tough field to play at,” Pepicelli said. “It’s a small ballpark, and the ball was kind of flying out from both teams — we had our share as well.”

In game two, the long ball trend continued for the Red as senior OF/RHP Adam Saks led off the game with a home run.

But, again, the Red was outdueled. Freshman starter Jonathan Zacharias gave up four earned without getting through the fourth inning. Junior Andrew Ellison came in to throw 2 2/3 quality innings, surrendering only one hit. Strong defense from the Crimson held the Red scoreless after Saks’ home run.

The Red’s win in game three was a defensive masterpiece. Junior Jeb Bemiss tossed 7 2/3 innings of one-hit shutout ball with eight strikeouts. Bemiss only left in the eighth after a batter reached on a dropped third strike. He passed off the shutout into junior John Natoli’s capable hands, and Natoli struck out four straight batters to close the game.

“[The defense] did a nice job,” Pepicelli said. “I don’t think we made any errors on Sunday so that’s what you got to do to win and we played pretty clean on Sunday.”

In fact, the Red didn’t make any errors in Sunday’s game. It was the first league game the Red got through error-free this season.

Pepicelli saw the win as a potential breakthrough for the frustrated team and a rebound from last weekend’s sweep at the hands of Brown.

“I think [last] weekend at Brown was maybe the worst we’ve played all year,” Pepicelli said. “We just were in a bad place. We were cold — not weather wise. We just weren’t performing, guys were pressing, just a lot of frustration.

“Sunday’s game was as good of a game as you can hope for.”

This weekend the Red will take on Princeton in a home series, looking to keep moving in the right direction. Saturday’s doubleheader will start at 11:30 a.m. and Sunday’s game will start at noon.

“We’re gonna have a great week of practice,” Pepicelli said, “and we’ll be ready for the weekend.”