Competing on the road against University of Richmond this past weekend, Cornell baseball dropped the first two games of the three-game series, but pulled off a late ninth inning comeback in the third game to secure the win. With a hard fought comeback victory in the final game, the Red now has momentum on its side as it enters Ivy League play next weekend.
In the first game of the series on Friday, the Red stayed within striking distance of the Spiders (12-5) for most of the game. By the top of the sixth inning, they cut the lead down to just one run, courtesy of a 2-run triple by freshman center-fielder Jakobi Davis. But the game quickly turned around in the bottom of the sixth inning, as Richmond’s relentless offense blew the game wide open. They scored five runs in the sixth, another four runs in the seventh and one more run in the eighth. The Red scored two more runs in the top of the ninth, but that was all the offense could muster, bringing the final score to 6-15.
The second game on Saturday proved just as difficult as the first, as the Spider’s starting pitcher dominated the Red. Richmond’s starter Brock Weirather recorded 6.2 IP and six strikeouts, while giving up only one earned run and one walk. The Red’s only two runs were scored by sophomore second-baseman Matt Barnhorst, via an RBI groundout in the second and a solo homerun in the seventh. They ended up losing the second game 2-9.
In the final game on Sunday, the Red were two outs away from suffering a three-game sweep, as they were down 2-4 at the top of the ninth. But with one out and the bases loaded, Davis jumped on the first pitch and ripped a double to the right-center gap, allowing junior designated hitter Ryan Ross and freshman shortstop Ryan Porter to score, tying the game at four a-piece.
“Stepping up to the plate, I knew I had to get the job done no matter what,” said Davis, on his critical at-bat and approach at the plate. I did my best to keep my mind as clear as possible. I let the week’s preparation take over my physical approach and the only thing in my mind was ‘this pitcher can’t beat me’.”
The next batter up, junior left-fielder Wils Guy, had the chance to take the lead with a runner on second and third and only one out. With the infield playing in, defending against the chance for a RBI groundout, Guy lined a single to right field, scoring Barnhorst and Davis, and giving Cornell a 6-4 lead — their first lead of the whole series.
“I was just taking a simple approach, just trying to get the job done,” said Guy. “I just needed a ball into the outfield and I was looking for a pitch up in the zone, something that I wouldn’t ground out [on]. I was really just trying to clear my mind…you don’t really have to overthink it, you just have to execute.”
Guy proceeded to steal second, erasing the possibility of a double play, and advanced to third on a single by sophomore pinch-hitter Nathan Waugh. After a wild pitch and heads-up baserunning by Guy, the Red tacked on one more insurance run. Cornell went on to win 7-4, breaking a five game skid.
“Energy is our team’s biggest ally,” Davis said. “We fell short in the first two days because all parts of our game were not working together for all nine innings. The tough losses gave us the push we needed to form a full game of focused gameplay that resulted in the win on Sunday.”
“I think that last win was something that we really needed, especially for team morale,” Guy said. “Overall, we showed especially in the last part of the game…that we’re not going to back down no matter what happens, we’re gonna show fight.”
Looking ahead, the Red will face their first Ivy League opponent at home this Saturday and Sunday against Harvard. This will resume Ivy play for the first time in two years, as last season and much of the 2020 season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, despite the two year hiatus, the team is hungry to win.
“Coming off of the past two COVID years, we have given ourselves a lot of leeway as we ease back into the rhythm of regular season play again,” Davis said. “Now, the biggest improvement for our team will be the embodiment of a dog mentality, a mentality where excuses are not tolerated and each and every one of us is able to rise to the occasion regardless of circumstance.”
Right now, Cornell(3-8) is ranked sixth in the Ivy League standings, but as they start to compete against Ivy opponents, they hope to climb to the top. The last year the Red finished the season at the top of the Ivy standings, was 2012, with a 31-17-1, 14-6 Ivy record.
“Like the last game against Richmond, we have to remain gritty and fight through all nine innings of each and every game no matter who we play,” Davis continued. “If we can buy into that, Cornell baseball will be on top of the Ivy this year.”
In addition to Davis, other players have noted that consistency will be crucial to propelling the team higher this season, along with maintaining confidence and building momentum.
“In the [first] two games, there were some really good parts, and then we made some mistakes,” Guy said. “We showed that when we play a complete game and we’re a complete team, then we’re gonna be tough to beat. We just need to keep doing that and bring it into our next series.”
So far this season, the Red have shown displays of top-notch baseball, but inconsistently. The team won two out of three in their series against Coppin State University in the beginning of March, and even showed competitiveness and grit in their losses, including tight games turned blowouts, late ninth inning rallies and forcing games into extra innings. The key for the team will be putting it all together and playing nine straight innings of solid baseball.
“Overall we just need to be more consistent,” said Ross, following last weekend’s tough losses against Georgetown and Maryland. “We’ve shown how successful we can be. We just [need] to put it together day in and day out.”
“I think we definitely have a lot of good things going,” Guy said. “We really just need to keep momentum going, keep a really good positive atmosphere, [and] to be confident in our abilities. I think we definitely have a team that can go really far, and we just need to be confident in the guys that we have….if everyone is supporting each other and we keep this momentum going, I think we could be good this year.”
Cornell will compete in a doubleheader against Harvard (8-7) at Hoy Field this Friday, March 25. Game 1 starts at 11:30 a.m., with game 2 scheduled for 2:30 p.m. The final game of the series will be at noon on Saturday, March 26. This will be the first baseball game at home in nearly two years.