Editor’s Note: This story was written by and republished with the permission of the Big Red Sports Network, which provides excellent Cornell sports coverage throughout the year for alumni, parents, students and fans everywhere.

The 21st Century Library Campaign – Tompkins County Public Library

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After inclement weather forced the Big Red to cancel their trip to George Mason University, they instead took their talents further south to the Ripken Experience at Myrtle Beach to play Seton Hall, Hartford, and #1 Virginia.

The big story from the weekend was the game against Virginia — which Cornell ultimately lost but came stunningly close to their biggest upset in years.

Here are our summaries of each of the three games:

Game 1: 0-3 loss

In Game One against Seton Hall, there wasn’t much to talk about. Michael Byrne threw four innings and allowed three runs (two earned) and struck out six. It wasn’t his best day command-wise, as he walked four. Balestrieri relieved him and threw 3.1 innings of scoreless ball. Offensively, it was a no-show. The Big Red were one-hit by Seton Hall’s Zach Prendergast, and it’s impossible to win games when you don’t record any hits. They fell, 3-0.

Game 2: 4-3 win

Game Two saw no offensive outburst, but it was something. Cornell got out to a quick 1-0 lead in the first, but they quickly lost it in the second frame as Kellen Urbon allowed two unearned runs. Those would be the only runs he would allow, and he would finish the day with five innings pitched, two unearned runs, two walks, and five strikeouts. Hartford tacked on one more against Nick Busto (who threw four innings in relief), and Cornell went into the bottom of the eighth down by two.

They rallied, as a Jordan Winawer double with Frankie Padulo on first led to a Kevin Tatum sac fly, and then Winawer scored the tying run on a wild pitch. And then in the final frame, the comeback was complete as a fielding miscue allowed an infield hit off the bat of Dale Wickham to end the game. So finally Cornell won their first game of the season by a score of 4-3.

Game 3: 4-5 loss in walk-off

The real story of this weekend, though, came on Sunday as Cornell took on #1 Virginia.

They were the consensus top team in the country coming into this game, and everyone expected for the Big Red to get steamrolled. But that’s why Coach Walkenbach handed Brian McAfee the ball, and he decided to twirl a gem, possibly the best of his college career.

To help McAfee out, Cornell got out to a quick 1-0 lead in the first on a Dan Morris double and double play ball from Spencer Scorza, and then one more run in the fifth on a wild pitch that scored Elliot Lowell. And while all of that went on, McAfee dealt. He threw seven shutout innings against the best team in the country, striking out seven and walking no one.

Scouts were in attendance, and they took notice:

And for your viewing pleasure, there is also video courtesy of Baseball America and Hudson Belinsky:

It was a career day, and then it all went down hill after that. Once the pen was summoned, the best team in the country showed why they were the best team in the country.

Eric Upton was brought in for the eighth, and then followed by Paul Balestrieri and Matt Horton; the pen gave up a four-run inning, rife with defensive miscues and missed location, which seemed to doom the team.

But when it appeared that all was lost, the Big Red came to bat in the top of the ninth with a brief hope, and that was due to Jamie Smith. Smith never had a collegiate home run, and this was the perfect time for his first. Dale Wickham was on first due to a dropped fly ball, and Smith followed up with this:

And just like that, the game was tied. But nonetheless, the tie could not be preserved. The Big Red quickly loaded the bases with no one out in the ninth, and then a sac fly ended the game. The biggest upset for Cornell in years was so close to attainment, and it crumbled rather quickly. (Baseball America still called it an “#instantclassic.”)

But there was a lot to be happy about. Cornell went into this game thinking and possibly knowing they would be handily defeated, and they gave a top team in the country a run for its money. They made Virginia treasure each run and out accordingly, and that’s victory enough. This team needed a pick-me-up, and they got it here.

The Big Red will take next week off, and they’ll resume play in two weeks time for the Russmatt Invitational where they will take on LIU Brooklyn, Bowling Green, the University of Maine, and Huntington University. The full time and schedule, as well as box scores, can be found here.


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Jeff Stein

Jeff Stein is the founder and former editor of the Ithaca Voice.