This past weekend, baseball hit the road for its final series of the season against Brown. Following a comeback victory against Binghamton last Tuesday, where the team overcame a late four run deficit to win 10-8, the Red (11-25, 5-16 Ivy) sought to carry that momentum into its final weekend of competition. Although the team went on to win only one out of three games, the weekend was highlighted by stellar pitching and offensive performances.
Brown (13-23, 8-13 Ivy) came into the series on a hot streak after sweeping Princeton last weekend. However, in game one of Friday’s doubleheader, Cornell’s starting pitcher, senior Luke Yacinich, dominated the Bears’ offense, throwing a complete game shutout in his final collegiate game.
Yacinich allowed six hits, two walks and no runs over nine innings on 111 pitches, striking out six in the process. Entering the bottom of the ninth inning, he had retired 11 consecutive batters. He was awarded Ivy League Pitcher of the Week for his performance.
“It was my last outing at Cornell, so I was just focused on enjoying the moment with the guys one last time,” Yacinich said. “Austin Flematti, who is also a senior, was catching so I’m just really happy that we got to have that game together after a crazy couple years. We were focused on staying loose and winning the game, and luckily it worked out for us.”
The offense did its job providing run support for its starter. In the top of the second, grad left-fielder Jason Apostle launched a solo homer to give the Red an early lead. In the top of the fifth, the team tacked on two more runs via a fielder error by the opposing short-stop and a RBI single by freshman first-baseman Max Jensen. That was all the Red needed to secure the 3-0 victory.
In the second game of the double header, Brown jumped out to a 6-0 lead by the bottom of the fourth. The offense was not able to make up the deficit, as they could only scratch across three runs, courtesy of a RBI groundout by Jensen in the sixth and a two-run double by junior right-fielder Sam Kaplan in the eighth.
On the pitching side, senior reliever Kevin Cushing picked up starter Spencer Edwards, who only went three innings. Cushing pitched the remaining five, giving up only one run, while striking out four.
Sunday’s rubber game featured an offensive showdown between the two teams. The Red struck first, jumping out to an early 4-0 lead by the top of the second inning, after a two-run homer by sophomore catcher Nathan Waugh in the first, a solo homer by junior center-fielder Wils Guy and a fielder’s choice in the second. By the top of the fourth, the team added two more runs by a wild pitch and a solo homer by freshman short-stop and pitcher Ryan Porter, to bring the score to 6-2.
However, Brown responded with just as much force. In the bottom of the fifth it tacked on a run, a precursor to its offensive outburst in the sixth and seventh. The Bears scored four runs in the sixth to take a 7-6 lead and added on two more in the seventh.
Cornell tried to rally back in the eighth, scoring one more run on an RBI single by Kaplan, but that was all it could muster. Brown went on to take the final game and the series, 10-7.
“Unfortunately we didn’t end the season as strong [as] we would have liked, but ultimately I think this team is in position to have a great year next year,” Yacinich said. “We got some big moments from guys all weekend, just weren’t able to come out on top other than game one.”
There are six graduating seniors on the team, Flematti, Cushing, Jonathan Zacharias, William Gilbert, Yacinich and Lachlan Charles, leaving the Red as a relatively young team next year. For all the non-senior players, this was their first full year of collegiate competition. With more experience and practice, the team is sure to improve, especially with the very talented pool of underclassmen it currently has.
In particular, freshman infielder Max Jensen had an impressive first year. Jensen finished the season with a team-leading .338 batting average and 26 RBI. Freshman Ryan Porter also had a strong first season on both the offensive and pitching sides, recording 21 RBI and three homers, as well as having the lowest ERA of 4.02 on the team in 15.2 IP. Sophomore Nathan Waugh also showed out this season with a .310 average, five home runs, and 18 RBI, all from the catcher position.
While the Red had high expectations coming into the year, the team also struggled with a lot of injuries throughout the season, leaving it understaffed and underpowered. However, that did not hinder its determination to compete and fight hard every inning.
“It was a very interesting year,” Yacinich said. “We were pretty banged up all year and also inexperienced. but I’m proud of the way we competed day in and day out, even though we weren’t playing the level of baseball we expected to.”
Cornell ended its first full season back after nearly two years in seventh place in the Ivy League standings.
“We didn’t win as many games as we expect of ourselves,” Yacinich said. “But being back out on the field after such a long break was an absolute blast.”