A Sit-Down with Coach Walk: The State of the Big Red

After dropping 3 out of 4 to Lou Gehrig division leading UPenn, Coach Bill Walkenbach’s Big Red have backed themselves into a corner heading into this weekend’s series against the reigning Ivy League champion Columbia Lions. Big Red Sports Network’s Max Fogle sat down with Coach Walk to ask about the team’s mindset going into the critical weekend series.

On the morale of the team

Under Coach Walkenbach’s tenure, the team has certainly worked on the psychological aspects of the game. Coach noted that “In my experience, baseball is not a game where anger is something you are looking for. I’m not going to say anything unless it’s going to be productive.” Coach stressed the difficulty of understanding what’s happening in the minds of a team of college baseball players. “To say we’re in touch with the psychological side is not always accurate.  But we do put an emphasis on it.”

On the importance of midweek games

On the heels of a recent midweek addition to the schedule against Binghamton on Thursday April 17, Coach Walk noted that midweek games are an essential part of the college baseball season.  For a team with a large pitching staff, it’s a chance to get everybody some innings. The plan Thursday against Binghamton is to “throw quite a few arms at them.”

For hitters, it can be a time to get a look at inexperienced players. Sophomore Jordan Winawer is one such player that has seized a prominent role with the team, after first getting a chance in a mid-week game. Winawer has taken full advantage of his opportunity, receiving Ivy League Rookie of the Week honors after a 9 for 17 week at the plate.  But for other hitters, these games are a chance to stay sharp between weekends. “It’s very difficult to go five games without seeing live pitching.”

On the starting rotation

Coach Walkenbach mentioned that besides rotation anchors Brent Jones and Michael Byrne, “We are going to try some new things in the starting rotation.”  While this is just speculation, starting options include Paul Balestrieri, Connor Kaufmann, Nick Busto, and Roberto Suppa, but freshman hurlers like Tim Willittes and Tiger Smith are possible options as well.

Sophomore Michael Byrne has been a consistent presence on the pitching staff. Coach Walkenbach described him as the “rock of the rotation”. Byrne was a “tremendous, pleasant surprise last year, and he picked up right where he left off.  He does a fantastic job of battling and keeping us in games.” He does more than just battle; he dominates. His 1.33 ERA on the year is sure to open up more than a few eyes.

The other mainstay in the rotation is Junior Brent Jones. While Jones has shown “flashes of brilliance,” the results were not there for the right-hander last weekend at Penn. The four errors committed in his start certainly did not help his cause. Still, Coach Walkenbach said the outing was “competitively, one of (his) better starts of the year.”

On MLB managers 

Max asked Coach Walk about Major League managers that he particularly admires or tries to emulate.  His answer included Tampa Bay’s Joe Maddon, Pittsburgh’s Clint Hurdle, and Cleveland’s Terry Francona: “Those guys really work with players to get the most out of them.  They have demonstrated the ability to get results over a long time, and they have earned a lot of respect around baseball.”

As a reminder, the Thursday contest against Binghamton  as well as the four game weekend series against Columbia can be heard and/or watched at the following link: http://www.ivyleaguedigitalnetwork.com/ivyleague/schedule

Coverage begins approximately 15 minutes before first pitch, which is set for Thursday at 4:00pm and for Saturday at 12:00pm. 

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Cornell Drops 3 Out of 4 to Penn, Falls 5 Games Back of Division Leading Quakers

JON LEVITAN

Baseball and Northeastern weather don’t particularly agree with each other, which shortens the Ivy league season to the point where a 4 game series not yet ten games into the season at its start can be a make or break weekend. That was exactly the situation the Cornell Big Red (15-14, 6-6) faced as they traveled south to Philadelphia to take on the Penn Quakers (19-12, 11-1). Cornell realistically needed to take 3 games over the weekend to have a reasonable chance to win the hyper-competitive Lou Gehrig division, but unfortunately did just the opposite of that, dropping 3 to a very strong Penn ballclub, and digging themselves a very large hole in the process. There was plenty of action along the way, so let’s take a look at what happened this weekend.

Game 1

The weather on saturday was perfect, probably the best Cornell has seen all season, and they took advantage of the good feelings provided by the sunshine and delivered a dominant game 1 performance. The Big Red jumped out to a 1-0 start before Penn even got a chance to hit, as senior captain Tom D’Alessandro scored on a Ryan Plantier sacrifice fly. Cornell would go on to score 8 more runs, blowing the game open towards the end, but that one run was all lefty starter Michael Byrne needed. Byrne dominated the Penn lineup, working incredibly quickly and keeping a group of strong hitters off-balance all day, recording 8 strikeouts while walking only 2 Quakers and scattering 4 hits over 6 innings. Freshmen Tim Willittes came in to pitch the final frame in what was a blowout, striking out one in his lone inning. It was essentially a perfect game from the Big Red, one that would be hard to repeat under any circumstances.

Game 2

The second game was a mirror image reflection of the first. Penn jumped out to a 2-1 lead after 3 innings and never relinquished it, busting the game open late and cruising to a 11-2 win. Penn Right handed Pitcher Jake Cousins was very effective, deceiving the Cornell batters with an awkward delivery and strong fastball. Cornell Pitchers Nick Busto, Tiger Smith, and Eric Upton all struggled with control, walking 4 total but hitting a shocking 5 Penn batters, including plunking star outfielder Rick Brebner three times. All those free passes are what did Cornell in, as they ended Saturday exactly where they began: 3 games behind Penn.

Game 3

The third game of the series was the only close one, as Penn eked out a 4-2 victory thanks to some key mistakes from the Big Red and a stellar pitching performance from their ace. Penn scored a run in each of the first three innings against Brent Jones, who had pitched well but was done in by four errors, including one that he committed. 3 of the 4 runners that reached base and came around to score for Penn reached because of an error or walk, highlighting the importance of giving a strong offensive team like Penn extra outs and free bases. The Cornell offense was largely held in check by Penn right hander Connor Cuff, except for the very notable exception of Ryan Karl, who hit a monster solo home run. Karl’s bomb was not enough to rattle Cuff, who threw a complete game aided by a terrific defensive play, as the Penn Left Fielder Brebner threw out Jordan Winawer, who had a tremendous weekend himself, at home as he tried to score. In the end, in was a very competitive, very entertaining game in which Cornell just made one too many mistakes.

Game 4

The final game of the weekend, inauspiciously beginning with some gusting winds, proved to be a must win for the Big Red, but Penn delivered a dominating performance from the beginning. The Quakers knocked around Cornell starter Paul Balestrieri for 3 runs in the first 2 innings, jumping out to a commanding 6-0 lead. The Cornell lineup perhaps had an unlucky day, they put 19 men on base, but weren’t able to plate a run until the game was effectively over in the 7th inning. That 7th inning was an interesting end to a rough game for Cornell, as Freshmen Frankie Padulo led off with a double in his only plate appearance of the weekend, Penn reliever Pat Bet hit 3 batters, and Jordan Winawer continued his spectacular play by driving in a run for the Big Red, before Bet was finally able to shut the door and preserve a 9-2 victory for the Quakers

All in all, this was a disappointing outcome for the Big Red, who now need a ton of help to even have a chance of winning the Lou Gehrig division, as they sit 5 games in back of Penn, and 3 behind 9-3 Columbia, with 8 games yet to play. There were, however, some bright spots for Cornell, who saw some younger players come into their own, especially Michael Byrne and, perhaps more surprisingly, Jordan Winawer. Byrne of course was brilliant in game 1 of the series, and Winawer 7-13 this weekend, reaching base an additional 2 times via the hit by pitch.

The Big Red are back at it on Tuesday as they will host Siena for a mid-week doubleheader. They will then welcome the Columbia Lions to town for a crucial 4-game set on Saturday and Sunday. You can listen for free to Big Red Sports Network’s coverage of the games on the Ivy League Digital Network by visiting www.ivyleaguedigitalnetwork.com/ivyleague/schedule. Video coverage is also available for purchase on the Ivy League Digital Network.

 

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Big Red Head To Penn, Lou Gehrig Division Play Underway

HUDSON BELINSKY—Lou Gehrig division play begins this weekend. The Cornell Big Red (13-11, 5-3) baseball team will head south to take on the University of Pennsylvania Quakers (15-11, 8-0). UPenn is off to a terrific start, sweeping each of their Ivy League series and building a three-game lead over Cornell and Columbia in the Lou Gehrig division. Another successful weekend could give UPenn a nearly insurmountable lead. The Red, however, will have something to say about that.

Cornell will look to build on a strong, three-win weekend and hand the Quakers their first loss(es) of the Ivy League season, certainly no small feat. UPenn has a well-balanced offense, with a team on-base percentage of .358 and four hitters with four or more home runs this season. The offense is anchored by senior right fielder Rick Brebner. He’s been a cog in the Quakers’ lineup for three years already, and is tearing the cover off the ball in senior campaign, batting .331 with seven round-trippers thus far. He’ll be in the no. 2 or 3 hole this weekend.

Joining Brebner in the middle of the lineup this weekend will be two-way threat Jeff McGarry (.323 BA , 4 HR) and 1B/DH Jack McKinnon (.289 BA). The Red will also need to be cognizant of 3B Mitch Montaldo (.211, 4 HR). Of Montaldo’s 19 hits this season, eight have gone for extra bases. He’s likely a fastball hitter with a heavy load and lots of holes, but those power numbers are noteworthy.

The Quakers have also had success on the bump early on, with Connor Cuff leading the way. The junior right-hander boasts a 1.12 ERA over 40 1/3 innings. He’s already thrown two shutouts and has struck out 30 batters against only five walks. Behind Cuff, UPenn has Dan Gautieri (4.33 ERA, 35 1/3 IP), Ronnie Glenn (5.29, 32 1/3 IP), and a bit of uncertainty. Freshman right-hander Jake Cousins appears to have laid claim to a rotation spot, with a 0.95 ERA over 19 innings and a strong start at Harvard last weekend.

Rotational uncertainty is not unique to UPenn, as the Red are also searching for the proper mix of innings. Michael Byrne (1.56 ERA, 34 2/3 IP) and Brent Jones (2.70 ERA, 30 IP) are locks to get a start, but the rest of the series isn’t so clear. Nick Busto figures to get another start after a solid performance at Yale last weekend. Beyond that, Tiger Smith, Paul Balestrieri, Roberto Suppa, and Tim Willittes are all coming off impressive outings.

The Big Red lineup should be more or less the same with a predominantly right-handed UPenn pitching staff. Senior outfielder Chris Cruz looks to stay hot after a pair of impressive weekends to start Ivy League play.

This is when Ivy League play really starts to heat up. This weekend is very important to how the Big Red season unfolds.

Red Take Three of Four in Second Ivy League Bout

MATTHEW PROVENZANO

The Ivy League season is a short one. At just 20 games, team records are bound to have a great deal of randomness in them, and the Big Red are not an exception to that. Cornell came into this weekend at 2-2 on the season, and were quickly looking at a short season at that if they didn’t have a decisive victory in the series. And so they did, and how decisive it was. Cornell split the doubleheader with Yale and then swept the doubleheader against Brown to improve their record to 5-3. This was critical, as Lou Gehrig opponent UPenn improved to 8-0 on the season. Had they split or lost the series, their mathematical chances at a division win would have been slim. This was an eventful weekend, so here’s a recap of all that happened.

Game One

In this seven inning affair, pitching ruled the day. Michael Byrne took the ball for the Big Red and pitched 7.1 innings with eight strikeouts with just two walks and two hits. Yale’s Chasen Ford matched him blow-for-blow as he threw six shutout innings on only two hits (but did give five free passes). The game went into extra innings, and there was no score until the bottom of the eighth. Yale then walked-off on a few Cornell blunders—two errors to allow two base runners, and then a two-out base hit to bring in the winning run.

Game Two

In the very first inning of game two, Chris Cruz made history. After Ryan Karl hit an RBI single to make the score 1-0, Cruz hit a two-run home run to not only extend the lead to three runs, but it also set the program record for home runs, passing previous record holders Gary Kaczor and Coach Bill Walkenbach. Yale then got to work in clawing back; they bounced back with two runs in the second and two in the eighth, all off of starter Nick Busto who worked seven innings and allowed four earned runs on eight hits, no walks, and six strikeouts. The Red scored a run of their own in the top of the eighth, so they went into the top of the ninth tied at four. They had fallen in the previous game by way of walk-off, and that would not happen here. In a bases loaded pinch-hit opportunity, Jordan Winawer hit a clutch RBI single that brought home the two winning runs; the Red won this one 6-4 as Kellen Urbon closed out the game in the bottom of the ninth.

Game Three

Like Game One, this was a tale of two pitchers: Cornell’s Brent Jones and Brown’s Dave St. Lawrence. Both threw complete games, but only one would come out victorious. And who would that be? It was Brent Jones; he pitched exactly as advertised as he threw seven innings allowing only four hits, one run (unearned) and no walks on seven strikeouts. St. Lawrence too was cruising until the top of the seventh, when he allowed four runs on a Chris Cruz RBI double that drove in two, a Spencer Scorza sacrifice fly, and two errors that brought home the fourth run. The Red won game three 4-1.

Game Four

This game was certainly not as neat as game three, but it still worked in the Red’s favor. Cornell got off to a quick 1-0 lead against Brown, but Brown responded with three runs between the second and third off of Big Red starter Tiger Smith. Paul Balestrieri came in for long-relief to relieve both Smith and Zach McCulley, and he pitched five shutout innings on just two hits and five strikeouts. The Red were down 3-1 in the fourth but got across a run apiece in the fourth and fifth, and Brown scored one in the bottom of the fourth. Trailing 4-3 in the eighth, the Big Red were able to pick up three runs on a Chris Cruz home run and a two-run RBI double by JD Whetsel with the bases loaded. The Big Red did allow one run in the bottom of the ninth, but that was not enough for the lead to be lost as Matt Horton came in to record the last two outs of the game; Cornell won the final game 6-5.

Cornell will get back into action on Wednesday afternoon at 4 PM in a mid-week match up against Binghamton University. They then will travel to the University of Pennsylvania this weekend for a four-game series that could likely decide their season. Check out our Facebook and Twitter for coverage details.

Sacred Heart Sweeps Four-Game Set

MATTHEW PROVENZANO

The Big Red came into this series with high hopes. After going on a rampage against James Madison University last weekend where they scored 46 runs in just three games, the team thought that naturally their success would continue into a four-game series against Sacred Heart University, two doubleheaders that were split between Baseball Heaven at Yaphank, NY, and a second doubleheader at the Brooklyn Cyclones’ home, MCU Park at Coney Island. Unfortunately, it did not. Here’s a recap of what happened this weekend as the Red dropped all four games to the Pioneers.

Game 1

Right out of the gate, Cornell faced a formidable opponent. The starting pitcher for Sacred Heart, Kody Kerski, is one that has draft aspirations and a variety of weapons: a tall, left-handed frame, a tailing fastball that ranges in the 91-93 mph area, and a hard and pretty nasty breaking pitch. Coming into this series, he had only allowed one earned run, and that definitely showed here. He threw a complete game shutout against the Red, allowing only four hits and one walk on nine strikeouts.Brent Jones had his fair share of success as well; he threw a very competent five innings on one run, four hits, two walks, and seven strikeouts. Zach McCulley relieved him of his duties and in turn pitched three innings and allowed two earned runs. The three runs by the Pioneers were off of a few key base hits, mainly a key RBI double by Keith Klebart off of Brent Jones that kept them ahead for good.

Final: Cornell 0, SHU 3

Game 2

The Big Red hoped to get their offense going after being shut out, and it looked like they would early against Pioneers’ pitcher Jeff Stoddard. After Nick Busto allowed two runs in the first, the Red stormed back with a parade of six singles which netted them three runs. But unfortunately, the scoring stopped there. The Pioneers scored three more runs against Nick Busto who struggled (4 IP, 5 R, 4 ER, 3 K) and was relieved by Tiger Smith who was excellent as he threw two shutout innings.

Final: Cornell 3, SHU 5

Game 3

Michael Byrne came into Game 3 with an ERA of 0.00, and that nation leading number blew up after the 3rd inning. After throwing three scoreless, the Pioneers exploded for a six-run inning against Byrne, five of them earned. He was relieved by Paul Balestrieri and Kellon Urbon who threw two scoreless. And once again, the Big Red offense did not have enough to come back. They scored two runs on two Chris Cruz RBI singles to right field, but that was obviously not enough as the deficit overwhelmed them

FInal: Cornell 2, SHU 7

Game 4

The Red hoped to salvage at least one game, so they turned to Connor Kaufmann, once the ace of the Cornell pitching staff. He looked like he was back to form, as his repertoire was working and worked out of most jams that arose. The only jam that doomed him and the team was one that was quite unlucky: in the first inning with men on second and third with two outs, Conor McEvoy hit a liner that bounced off of Kaufmann’s glove. Because he knocked it down, it stopped dead in its tracks in between him and second base. No one was able to get to it in time, and both runners scored. Other than that, Kaufmann was fantastic as he pitched a complete game, allowing just those two runs on four hits and with five strikeouts in six innings. The Red tried to make a late comeback in the seventh, and even cut the lead to one with a Ben Swinford RBI single, but fell short in the end.

Final: Cornell 1, SHU 2

Upcoming

The Big Red were supposed to play tomorrow against Albany, but those games were postponed due to inclement weather; no date has been chosen for the makeup. Next weekend, Cornell begins its Ivy League season as they will play Dartmouth on Saturday and Harvard on Sunday. We’ll be on the air for all four games, and we will provide you with links when we get them. You can also follow us on Twitter (@cornellatbat) or like us on Facebook (facebook.com/cornellatbat) for more updates.

Weekend Preview: Cornell vs. Sacred Heart

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MATTHEW PROVENZANO

In a different turn of events, the Big Red will be playing opponent Sacred Heart University at a venue(s) that they were not expecting… Baseball Heaven at Yaphank, NY and MCU Park on Coney Island at Brooklyn, NY. The team will play a two-game set on Saturday at Baseball Heaven and at MCU Park on Sunday.

The Red are coming off of an explosive weekend last weekend where they erupted for 46 runs, an offensive output that hasn’t been seen from the team in recent history. Their pitching struggled as well, allowing 31 runs. But nonetheless, they’ll be looking to extend their success, and their 7-3 record, into this weekend. Here are some things to look forward to:

Big Bats

As I mentioned before, the Big Red had an offensive weekend for the books against James Madison University, but the question remains: will that continue? They struggled to score runs consistently last year, and that continued into the beginning of this year until they scored 8 runs in the final game against George Washington University. A player to watch is certainly Ryan Karl, who had an enormous four home run weekend; he already has five home runs in just ten games. They’ve also gotten continued success from JD Whetsel, Tom D’Alessandro, and Chris Cruz. If the top of the order continues their tear, they’ll be an offensive force.

Pitching, Pitching, and More Pitching

Pitching, for the last two-plus seasons, has been the team’s strength. Playing in a pitcher’s park, combined with a young and strong pitching staff has the effect of being the strongest pitching in the Ivy League. Barring this past weekend where they had a meltdown of sorts, they have only allowed 16 runs in 7 games. I wouldn’t be surprised if that success continues into this weekend given Sacred Heart’s offensive struggles.

Sacred Heart Preview

The Sacred Heart Pioneers come into the series 5-8 on the season, coming off a 10-9 loss against Rhode Island on Tuesday. They’ve had immense problems behind the dish, as they’ve slashed a line of .231/.291/.289 with 45 runs and 2 home runs in 13 games. Their pitching though, is pretty good. With a 3.40 ERA and a .252 Opposing AVG, they’ll definitely compete in that respect. If they keep the score low, they could be tough.

Our Coverage

The Big Red Sports Network’s coverage of the series will begin at the same time on both Saturday and Sunday, 11:45 AM from Baseball Heaven and MCU Park. The link to our broadcasts can be found here: http://www.ivyleaguedigitalnetwork.com/ivyleague/schedule?date=2014-03-27 and the broadcast will be powered by the Ivy League Digital Network. You can also follow us on Twitter @cornellatbat and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/cornellatbat for more coverage.

O Captains My Captains: Swinford and D’Alessandro Lead Cohesive Group in Ivy Title Chase

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Captains Ben Swinford and Tom D’Alessandro (pictured in center) find it easy to lead a team already full of leaders.

JESSE SHERMAN

On a team full of captains, two seniors who fill the left side of the infield rise to the top of the crop in the eyes of their teammates and coaches: third baseman Ben Swinford, now a two-time captain, and shortstop Tom  D’Alessandro. Both of these leaders had experience as captains going back to their playing days in high school, but at this time and level of play, both Swinford and D’Alessandro admit that the role is a little bit different. “We’re pretty fortunate that there are a lot of leaders on the team, so we kind of walked into an easy role… we take more of a managing leadership-type perspective,” as Swinford noted that the chemistry on the team allows him and D’Alessandro to be less hands-on as leaders and delegate leadership roles throughout the locker room.

When asked about the difference between being a junior captain  and a senior captain, Swinford noted  that there is a different feel given the discrepancies between the 2013 roster and the 2014 one, but does not feel any different about his responsibility as the captain.

Added D’Alessandro about the now two-time captain: “He’s like the elder… the wise one,” drawing a laugh from the senior third baseman who has contributed significantly to the team in each of his four years playing for Cornell. Perhaps unsurprisingly when asked about what the title of captain means to him, D’Alessandro expressed similar emotion in regards to holding the honor that comes with the title: “I always take pride in being a leader whether I’m elected a leader or not. It’s a privilege to be elected by your peers and your coaches… you always want to be doing the right thing.. and now I see myself trying to mentor the freshmen and underclassmen to show them the right way to do things.”

Remembering that we’re at Cornell, Industrial and Labor Relations major D’Alessandro and Engineering major Swinford weighed in on how their particular curricula and focuses have been intertwined with their baseball and leadership roles at Cornell. The starting shortstop conveyed that it isn’t his education that has the effect on baseball, but vice versa: “I’ve applied the stuff that I’ve learned from other captains from the past two years…and now I feel more comfortable talking in front of groups. I’ve taken what I’ve done with the team and been able to present ideas and talk in front of classes with ease.” That’s not to say that his in-class experience hasn’t had an impact as well.  He reflected that through his ILR experience, D’Alessandro has learned that “there are different ways to approach different types of individuals, depending on their personalities.” Swinford added that as an Engineering major, he is able to mentor the many other engineering majors on the team and help them find a balance between the particularly rigorous engineering workload and their time and energy commitment to the team.

Perhaps most impressive about the elected leaders of the 2014 squad is that they recognize how much importance the team plays as a whole in providing leadership and camaraderie. Both Swinford and D’Alessandro were quick to mention that the entire junior and senior class, especially members of the pitching staff, are great resources for the younger players to reach out to, and no big team decision is ever made by one or two people, but “the board” of juniors and seniors who lead the way both on and off the field. At the end of the day, the Cornell baseball team can take pride in knowing that its leaders trust the pieces they have and rely on contributions from everyone to lead to overall success. Jokingly said Swinford, “they make us look better; we just take the credit.”

The captains look to lead the charge this weekend and build upon their 2-1 start to the season, as they’ll travel to George Washington University for a 4-game set in the nation’s capital.

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Urbon, Upton Leading Strong Bullpen into 2014

ALEX GIMENEZ

This season, the Big Red will have no shortage of pitchers available out of the bullpen with many pitchers deserving of playing time. It is hard to predict the performance of a bullpen prior to the season, but with a host of strong arms returning, the team will look for consistency from its relief core.

Arguably the biggest addition to the bullpen this season is the return of Kellen Urbon to the closer’s role. As a freshman in 2012, Urbon took the league by storm posting a 0.47 ERA over 38.1 innings with 9 saves, a new single season record for Cornell. Urbon’s development into a shutdown arm in the late innings led to multiple 4+ inning outings into extra innings including his win over Dartmouth in the Ivy League Championship clinching game which saw him pitch into the 11th inning. Urbon quickly got off to a hot start in 2013 recording 2 saves in his first 4 outings without allowing an earned run. Things quickly turned sour when injuries forced Urbon to miss the remainder of the 2013 season.

The summer and fall have found Urbon working to regain his strength and effectiveness leading up to the 2014 season. So far the training has been successful, and the 6-0 right-hander is ready to closeout games. His fastball still has some room to improve as he gets into mid-season form while is breaking ball is still at the top of its game. When healthy, Urbon can be the best late inning pitcher the Ivy League, and the Big Red will hope he can recapture his 2012 late inning magic. In the team’s opening series at Navy, Urbon recorded his first save of the season in game two of the series, a 3-2 victory.

Slotting in front of Urbon into the set up role in 2014 is lefty Eric Upton. A walk-on with the Big Red in 2012, Upton has quickly risen the ranks and developed into a legitimate late inning option. Joining Urbon in the back end of the bullpen gives the Big Red to late inning shut down relievers whose pitching styles are different, which will be difficult on opposing hitters. Upton, a lefty, offers a deceptive delivery and does an excellent job of hiding the baseball. His fastball/changeup combination is deadly as hitters struggle to find success on his changeup which speeds up his fastball. Factor in his terrific command, effectiveness against both right handed and left handed hitters and a good breaking ball and you have one dominant set up man.

In 2013, Upton posted a 3.34 ERA in 29.2 innings, the most out of any pitcher not to record a start for the Big Red. He finished the season 2-2 and tied for the team lead in saves with 3. He finished third on the team in batting average against for pitchers with at least 20 innings pitched with opponents hitting just .238 against him. In his first outing of 2014 versus Navy, Upton worked 2.1 innings without yielding a base runner.

The middle to long relief core of the Big Red bullpen will be influenced by some returning arms as well as a few new faces. Sophomore lefty Matt Horton will look to build on a strong freshman campaign that saw him finish in a tie with Upton for saves at 3. His 2.61 ERA belittles the success he had in stranding inherited base runners, a factor that kept him in good graces with many of his fellow pitchers. Also retuning for the Big Red is Roberto Suppa who has seen some mid-week starting experience for the Big Red in both 2012 and 2013. Suppa was drafted out of high school by the San Diego Padres, but has yet to establish himself with the Big Red. He will look to be the lead right-handed middle reliever for the Big Red in 2014.

A few freshman arms may also make an immediate impact on the team’s bullpen. Scott Soltis and Tim Willettes have pitched well enough to earn spots in the Big Red bullpen out of the gate. The bullpen will also feature prominently whichever two pitchers in contention for a weekend starting role do not win rotation spots. All in all, the bullpen going into this season is loaded with back end of the bullpen talent as well as other pitchers with the ability to start games who have been victimized by the team’s overall pitching depth.

Post-Weekend Recap: Plenty of Positives As Red Take Two of Three From Navy

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MATTHEW PROVENZANO

This past weekend the Big Red took on Navy in Annapolis, MD for their first series of their much-anticipated 2014 season. It was pretty eventful, so let’s break it down.

Game 1:

Zach McCulley was given the start for the first game to face Navy’s Anthony Parenti, and McCulley pitched reasonably well in 3.2 innings, allowing four runs—only one earned. Both teams traded punches in the first two innings, each scoring a run in each half inning. The Red benefited from excellent offensive performances from JD Whetsel who went 3-4 with one RBI and a stolen base, Matt Hall who went 3-4 with a run scored, and Ryan Plantier who went 1-4 with an RBI double. Navy broke the 2-2 deadlock in the fourth inning with a two-run single by Drew Hayes who brought home two runners from second and third who advanced on a error and a wild pitch. The Red were unable to come back from that deficit and fell in the first game, 4-2.

Game 2:

Pitching-wise, this was the game every Big Red fan has been waiting for. Brent Jones, in his first start in a season that will be sure to attract some attention, impressed in his outing. Just like in game one, Navy and Cornell scored in the first inning, but that didn’t continue into the second. Jones settled down afterward to finish for an impressive line of: 6 IP, 4 H, 2 BB,1 ER, and 8 (!!)K. Clearly he’s doing something right. Cornell broke the 1-1 tie in the 6th when JD Whetsel advanced to second on an error and Ryan Karl drove him in with an RBI single. The Big Red tacked on one more run due to a Matt Hall RBI double. From the 6th to the 8th, Nick Busto pitched two scoreless and led to another intriguing event: Kellen Urbon pitching for the first time in a year. Unfortunately he struggled in his first outing, allowing one run on one hit and two walks, but he did record a strikeout and closed out the game to seal the Cornell victory, 3-2.

Game 3:

Luckily for everyone following the game, the Patriot League Network provided video coverage on their livestream. It was nice to see some baseball live, and it gave everyone a chance to see what they looked like. Game 3 picked up right where Game 2 left off on the day prior, and it was yet again another pitching duel. The game was started by none other than Big Red ace Brian McAfee, who pitched just like we all expected: pretty darn good. He pitched five innings, allowing only 1 ER on 3 H and, of course, 0 BB. Cornell scored two runs in the second inning on a Ben Swinford RBI single with the bases loaded, followed by a JD Whetsel walk. Going into the bottom of the 8th, the Big Red had a 2-1 lead with Michael Byrne on the mound. He pitched incredibly well, in fact, with 0 ER on 4 H, 0 BB, and 4 K. But in the 8th, though, Navy scored on an unearned run, caused by an error, where the runner advanced to third on a bunt and a ground out and then scored on an RBI single. The game went into extra innings tied at 2-2 and Byrne continued to shut down Navy until the 11th, where the tie was broken. In the top of the 11th, the Big Red broke it open with back-to-back doubles by Chris Cruz and Matt Hall, and they were able to plate another run on a Kevin Tatum fielder’s choice. Byrne finished off Navy in the bottom half of the 11th to end the game, 4-2.

It was a great weekend for the Red, who end with two victories and a lot of positives to be proud of. Here are some notes that I noticed:

  • The pitching staff allowed only three earned runs over the course of the season. Because of that success, it’s still unclear who will be on the official rotation, but if McCulley/Jones/Busto/McAfee was it, I wouldn’t be surprised. They were that good.
  • On scored runs: a lot of them were unearned. It definitely looks like their defense has some work to do, and they’ll need to sharpen up before Ivy play. This is also key for someone like McAfee who pitches to contact.
  • The bats were a little cold, which I would expect in the first series, but there were some great signs: Whetsel, Hall, and Plantier tore it up—I’d expect them to be just as good as the season progresses.
  • Ryan Plantier did a lot of work in the offseason and that’s clear. He looks like he’s really filled out a bit more physically and his bat has a lot more pop. It’s no surprise that he’s hitting fourth.
  • Chris Cruz was only 1-12 in the series, and you could tell that his bat speed wasn’t 100%. Obviously he’s just getting game-time swings in right now, but hopefully he gets more comfortable.

Keep a look out for more Cornell At Bat coverage. There will be more articles throughout the week, and our weekly radio show, the BRSN Inside Pitch, is scheduled for Wednesday at 2 PM; Coach Walkenbach and Brent Jones will join us. Next week the Big Red will be playing GW for a four-game set—stay tuned for our coverage schedule.

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Predictions from the Broadcast Booth: Cornell Baseball 2014

JESSE SHERMAN

Cornell baseball in 2014 is entering uncharted territory from a school history perspective: expectations have probably never been higher, as the dynamic between the players and their teammates and the sheer talent and depth of this team makes them a sure-fire contender in the Lou Gehrig division and the Ivy League as a whole. That being said, the landscape of college baseball can change drastically from one year to the next, and Cornell is looking to regain supremacy in the Ivy League, which was all but dominated in the final weeks of the 2013 season by the Columbia Lions.

This year, the Big Red have lost key contributors like second baseman Brenton Peters, outfielder Spenser Souza, and reliever Houston Hawley, just to name a few. However, the starting rotation remains fully intact and is as strong as it has been over the past two seasons (two seasons that have been defined by unprecedented Big Red success). So it’s time for the predictions for 2014. If the team is to reach its full potential, who will be at the center of its success? Here’s my take:

Most Valuable Player:Tom D’Alessandro- Last season was the first time D’Alessandro took over the starting shortstop role for the Big Red, inheriting the position full-time from Marshall Yanzick. I was personally extremely impressed by the range that he displayed and the effortless throw to first base from deep in the hole between second and third. I think he will come into his own even more at the shortstop position in 2014. But beyond his defensive capabilities, which cannot be overstated, D’Alessandro seems to be a prime breakout candidate for the Big Red this year. While his average was just over .250 in 2013, he had the second highest on-base percentage on the team for qualified candidates (.377), only trailing behind 2013 team MVP, J.D Whetsel (.402). His team leading 23 walks certainly contributed to this trend. Although he also led the team in strikeouts (31), D’Alessandro had the second highest hit total (33) and stole 11 out of 13 bases successfully. His all-around production and potential reminds me of what J.D Whetsel brought to the table in his breakout 2013 season, and I would not be surprised to see the same thing happen for Tom D’Alessandro this season.

Big Red “Cy Young”:Brian McAfee- He was the pitcher of the year for the Big Red in 2013; he was the epitome of consistency, and has all of the tools to repeat in 2014. McAfee posted a sparkling 2.28 ERA and walked only 8 batters in 55.1 innings pitched in 2013. The control that the right-handed junior displays along with his overall calmness on the mound makes it hard to vote against McAfee. That being said, it’s also hard to vote against a nationally regarded prospect in Brent Jones, one of the nation’s best pitchers in terms of hits per 9 innings in 2013 (Michael Byrne), and another pair of lefties in Nick Busto and Zach McCulley, who each showed signs of dominance when they were at their best last season. And I’m just scratching the surface; there is a slew of arms that this team can boast about, and it will be exciting to see who jumps to the top of the list this season.

Most Irreplaceable: J.D Whetsel- From one year to the next, Whetsel has gone from a candidate for “Most Improved” player to one of the most indispensable assets on the Cornell team. The threat that he provides on the bases, his ability to consistently reach in the first place in the leadoff spot, and his impressive defensive play in center field make Whetsel a player whose presence would be missed most if he were not in the lineup every day. Whetsel was the team’s only player to have a batting average at .300 and to start in all 40 games in 2013, and despite a slow-start in Fall scrimmage games, I have no doubt that he will take his success from last season and use it to his advantage this year.

Most “Improved” Player:Chris Cruz- Cruz has been set back and frustrated by a few injuries to his wrist over the past year. But the university’s single-season home run record holder (12) is primed to bounce back from a year defined by inconsistency at the plate, as Cruz finished with a .211 average, 4 HR and 11 RBI, playing in just half of the team’s games. Despite his limited play, Cruz was third on the team in extra base hits, including five doubles and an inside the park home-run. If the left-handed power threat from Bay Shore, New York can rebuild the strength in his hands and wrists enough to play on a consistent basis, he is going to regain his form as one of the more threatening bats in the Ivy League.

Look out for… Ryan Karl: A transfer from the University of Louisville, Karl brings an array of positive attributes to the team; for one, he is constantly smiling, always trying to  learn, and has a massive amount of power from the left side of the plate. Karl’s role defensively is still up in the air- he can play first base, outfield, and has even been doing some work at third base. Wherever his glove ends up, Karl is sure to be inserted in the middle of the lineup, and if his power display in the Fall is any indication, he’ll be a new force to be reckoned with in the Ivy League.

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