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