Over the weekend, the Red struggled to get off the ground, as the team dropped the first three games of its weekend series to Princeton. However, Cornell (29-14-1, 14-6-0 Ivy League) was able to fight back and pull away with win in the fourth game in extra innings due to a solo home run by sophomore Ben Swinford. With the win, Cornell officially took home the Ivy League Lou Gehrig Division championship title.
Senior outfielder Brian Billigen explained the importance of what was at stake for the Red based on the weekend’s results.
“The senior class, we were the last guys to experience an Ivy Championship, so we have been there,” he said. “We had to fight our way the last time we got there, so we all haven’t been here before but [coming into the weekend leading the division] added the exact opposite of pressure. We just needed to get one or two games to steal home field for the championship.”
On Friday, Princeton (20-19-0, 13-7-0) overtook Cornell, 13-3, in the first game at Hoy Field. Senior infielder Frank Hager grabbed his third homer of the season, and senior infielder Marshall Yanzick also gave a solid performance, going 2-for-4 and scoring a run.
In the second game of the day, Zak Herman threw a three-hit shutout for the Tigers, stealing the win from the Red, 1-0. Princeton struck out 14 batters for the day, with the three hits coming from three walks.
Cornell hit on the road, travelling to New Jersey on Sunday to play the second half of the four-game series. In the first game, the Tigers struck out 11 batters and overtook the Red once again. Junior infielder Brenton Peters grabbed the only two walks of the game against Princeton, becoming the only base runner for Cornell to advance to second base in both the first and sixth innings.
During the second game, the Red finally moved past the Tigers in extra innings. Already with a program record nine saves, freshman pitcher Kellon Urbon improved his record to 2-1, with the relief and the win, while lowering his ERA to 0.59. Princeton scored first on a home run to right field in the first inning. The Red answered in the fifth, with freshman Kevin Tatum starting the action off for the Red by hitting a single and advancing to second base on a groundout. Freshman Matt Hall was hit by a pitch, which put two runners on bases for the Red. Peters continued the momentum and hit an RBI single to right that brought Tatum home and tied the score, 1-1. Princeton rallied in the sixth, which ended the day for Cornell’s freshman starting pitcher Brian McAfee and brought in relief from Urbon.
“We are in a really good spot for our starting rotation,” said head coach Bill Walkenbach.
Billigen said that the efforts from the mound this season have been some of the strongest he has seen at Cornell.
“This has been the best pitching I have seen in my four years,” he said. “Our four starters, they are pitching lights out for five or six innings every day. When we get to the back end … it’s a real big strength of ours.”
Cornell came back in the seventh, as Tatum led off with a single and moved to second on a sac bunt from senior catcher Brandon Lee. Hall followed up with his first collegiate home run, giving Cornell its first lead of the series. The score remained unchanged until the ninth inning, forcing the game to go into extra innings. Swinford scored big for Cornell with a homerun, after two outs and the last 12 batters were retired.
The Red will continue its season, playing at home against Dartmouth (22-16-0, 14-6-0) on May 5 and 6 on the road toward grabbing the Ivy Championships.
“[Our] team goals are to win an Ivy League championship and get to the NCAA regionals,” Billigen said.