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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The Big Red displayed some offensive firepower this weekend, as the team jumped out to a great start to Ivy League play. Cornell swept Yale on Sunday by scoring a total of 17 runs with 10-1 and 7-5 wins. The Big Red split with Brown after a comeback in the second of Monday’s doubleheader, as Cornell fell 5-4 and then answered with a 10-6 victory.
In game one against the Bulldogs, Brian McAfee shined, as the senior pitcher threw a seven-inning complete game to finish with only one earned run on five hits, seven strikeouts, and no walks.
The Big Red finally provided some run support to give McAfee a strong offense behind him. Cornell put up three runs in the fourth inning and a whopping seven in the sixth. Seniors Kevin Tatum and Dan Morris led the squad’s offensive efforts with two RBIs each, and Tatum went 2-for-4, while Morris concluded the game going 2-for-3.
The lone Yale run came on a mistake from senior JD Whetsel, who made his season debut after undergoing wrist surgery in the winter. He hesitated and misjudged a fly ball to centerfield, which dropped behind a diving Whetsel, allowing an inside the park home run. Whetsel showed some rust, struggling in his return as he went 0-for-8 on the day.
The Bulldogs went ahead in game two with a 5-3 lead heading into the top of the seventh inning. Cornell responded with four runs, which began with a two-run single from Sophomore Tommy Wagner with the bases loaded to bring home Tatum and Spencer Scorza. Morris then scored Ryan Karl and Wagner with a double to right field, giving the Big Red the lead for good.
Junior Michael Byrne got the start on the mound for Cornell, but had some trouble and eventually was replaced by Eric Upton after five innings pitched, allowing four hits, three earned runs, three walks, and four strikeouts. Upton conceded one earned run on two hits in three innings before giving way to sophomore reliever Paul Balestrieri in the ninth inning, who closed out the game for his third save of the year.
In the first game on Monday against Brown, the Big Red fell into a whole early, finding themselves down 5-0 through four and one-half innings. The team fought back to cut the deficit to two with three runs in the bottom of the fourth. Cornell struck again in the following inning to trail by just one run, but failed to complete the comeback in the remaining two innings.
The Big Red was led by sophomore shortstop Frankie Padulo, who hit a perfect 3-for-3 with one RBI, which came on a double in the fourth inning to score Morris and give Cornell its final run of the inning.
Big Red starting pitchers struggled in both games of the doubleheader, as Kellen Urbon lasted only 3.1 innings after giving up six hits and five runs, but only two of which were earned. However, sophomore walk-on Peter Lannoo provided a bright spot for Cornell with a terrific outing of three-inning relief for Urbon. Lannoo stuck out three batters and allowed just two hits and zero runs.
Game two started in similar fashion after the Brown Bears led the Big Red 6-3 following six innings of play. However, this time, Cornell exploded for a seven-run eighth inning response.
Brown pitcher Jake Spezial walked three consecutive batters to load the bases in the bottom of the eighth. Tatum was hit by a pitch, which drove in one run, and Scorza followed with a single to bring home Padulo and Whetsel, knotting the game at six. After another walk to Karl, Wagner hit a sacrifice fly to left-center and scored the speedy freshman Eason Recto from third base, who was inserted for Tatum as a pinch runner. Following an additional walk to Morris, freshman Ellis Bitar cleared the bases with a high, powerful fly ball that bounced off the glove of Brown right fielder Will Marcal, giving Cornell a 10-6 lead.
Nick Busto continued the trend of an off day for Big Red pitchers. The senior starter conceded three runs and six hits in just over two innings of action. Freshman Justin Lewis entered the game following Busto’s outing, but fared similarly by allowing just as many runs in 2.2 innings of work. Eventually, Ray Brewer provided some consistency, posting two strikeouts, four hits, and no runs before Balestrieri came in for the ninth inning to earn his second save in two days.