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.
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If there is one thing that will keep the Big Red in Lou Gehrig division contention, it is Brian McAfee. McAfee, arguably the best pitcher in the Ivy League, continued his dominance in a weekend where Cornell faced both Dartmouth and Harvard in a four-game series.
McAfee started the first game against Dartmouth, and he quietly pitched a complete game shutout, allowing just two hits and no walks (!) while striking out six over the full seven innings. The Big Red picked up just one run on an RBI double from Tommy Wagner in the fourth inning. That was all they would need, and they won game one, 1-0.
Game two against Dartmouth featured some of the resilience we have seen from this club early on in the Ivy League season, but it wasn’t enough to get the job done. Eric Upton, the long-time reliever, started the game and allowed six runs (five earned) over five and one third innings, but it was encouraging to see eight strikeouts and just one walk.
And when Cornell was down 6-1 in the sixth inning, Ellis Bitar hit a bases-clearing double to cut Dartmouth’s lead to just two. But the rally would prove futile, as the Big Red allowed two more runs and scored just one more, falling 8-5.
Going to Cambridge
Cornell then spent its last day of the weekend in Cambridge to face off against Harvard. In game one of the doubleheader, it was… ugly.
Michael Byrne, the lefty who matched ace Brent Jones blow-for-blow in 2014, fell apart as he allowed nine runs (eight earned runs) on eight hits and three walks while striking out just one. The bullpen didn’t help much either, as Justin Lewis allowed five earned runs over four innings. Cornell would muster just two runs on a Kevin Tatum two-run home run, and they would fall 14-2.
In the final game of the doubleheader, Cornell squeaked out a win to finish off the four-game weekend at two wins and two losses. Kellon Urbon had the start, and he pitched competently as he allowed one unearned run on seven hits and one walk over six innings. Cornell scored three runs in the fifth inning on RBI singles from Frankie Padulo and Kevin Tatum, and they tacked on one more run in both the seventh and eighth innings to give them what looked like a commanding 5-1 lead. But when Paul Balestrieri came in to close the game out in his third inning of work, things almost fell apart. He allowed three runs (two unearned) in the ninth inning to make the score 5-4, and the tying run made it all the way to third base with just one out. But Balestrieri got two outs to finish the game.
Cornell is now 5-3 on the Ivy League season, and they currently sit two games out of first place. They will face Binghamton University on April 7th, and then they will take on first place University of Pennsylvania (7-1 in Ivy League play) in a crucial Lou Gehrig division match-up this weekend.