ITHACA, N.Y. – The University of Pennsylvania baseball team (22-15, 7-7 Ivy) had to settle for a split with Cornell (19-14, 7-7 Ivy) on Saturday at the home of the Big Red, David F. Hoy Field. Penn shut out Cornell for a 6-0 win in the opener of the four-game series, tying the single-season record for road wins in the process with 15. In search of a clean sweep of the twinbill, the Quakers were unable to figure out Michael Byrne, who limited Penn to two hits over eight innings and earned the win in a 4-2 Cornell victory.
Game One – Penn 6, Cornell 0
Connor Cuff (5-3) worked his third complete game of the season to lead Penn to the shutout victory over the Big Red in Saturday’s seven-inning contest.
Penn executed its gameplan of putting early pressure on the Cornell defense in the top of the first inning. Mike Vilardo led off the game with a scorching single past Eliot Lowell at third, and then moved into scoring position as Brandon Engelhardt laid down a sacrifice bunt on the first pitch he saw. Ryan Deitrich brought Vilardo in to score on a looping single into shallow left for a quick 1-0 lead.
Cuff was on point right from the start, striking out the side in the first inning. Still, it took a hustle play from Austin Bossart to keep Cornell from tying the game up. JD Whetsel, the Big Red’s best hitter, poked a one-out single into center field and stole second. With two down, strike three on Ryan Plantier got away from the Penn catcher and rolled toward the Quaker dugout on the fast turf of Hoy Field. As Plantier sprinted down the line, Whetsel was rounding third and not even considering stopping. It took a clean pick and a rocketed throw to first to get Plantier for the last out of the inning and keep Cornell scoreless.
The Quakers continued to attack Big Red starter Nick Busto in the third inning. Engelhardt led off with a single on the first pitch he saw, making him the third Penn lead-off hitter to reach base. After a steal that didn’t even draw a throw from Cornell catcher Chris Burke, Deitrich brought him in to score with a double to up the lead to 2-0. The hit parade kept going as Rick Brebner reached on an infield chopper, and Bossart scored Deitrich from third with a RBI single to extend the Red and Blue to a 3-0 edge.
After the offense established a nice working margin, it was Cuff’s ability to deal with Cornell hitters with men in scoring position that proved to be the difference. The Big Red had one hit in each of the first five innings and each time had that runner make it to at least second base, but the home team came away empty-handed on each occasion.
Penn all but put the game away in the top of the seventh inning as Busto lost his control and the Quakers were able to open the game up even more while barely having to take the bat off their shoulders. Vilardo started the inning with a lead-off walk and Engelhardt moved him up to second with his second sac bunt of the game. After an intentional free pass to Deitrich put two men on, Brebner advanced both men with a groundout to first base. Though Busto was one out away from escaping the inning, he followed with a four-pitch walk to Bossart and a full count walk to Spencer Branigan to force Vilardo in to make it 4-0.
Those walks ended the day for Busto, but it didn’t close the book on him officially as the bases were loaded as reliever Houston Hawley came in. Ryan Mincher added to Busto’s misery with a double into the left field corner that scored two more runs which were charged to the Cornell starter, give Penn a six-run lead headed to the last of the seventh. Cuff closed it out with his second consecutive 1-2-3 inning to end the ballgame.
Deitrich led the Quakers, going 3-for-3 from the plate along with an intentional walk and two runs batted in. Mincher (2-for-4, two RBI) and Bossart (2-for-3, one RBI) were the other Penn players with multiple hits in the game.
Game Two – Cornell 4, Penn 2
Another fast start for the Penn offense seemed to set the table for a big day, but it wasn’t to be as Cornell’s Byrne settled in and shut down the Quakers for eight innings.
Penn again got off to an immediate lead with a run in the top of the first inning. Vilardo hustled down the line for an infield single leading off the game and found himself on third base with two down in the inning. Clean-up hitter Brebner singled up the middle to plate the Quaker second baseman to give Penn a one-run lead.
The Big Red answered and took the lead in the second inning as Jeff McGarry was on the wrong side of an inconsistent strike zone. Given some extra pitches to work with, the bottom of the Cornell batting order was able to deliver a pair of RBI singles to take a 2-1 lead before McGarry struck Whetsel out looking to end the side.
Those two first inning hits would prove to be the extent of the Penn offense until the ninth inning. In that stretch, the Quakers only reached on two walks and a hit by pitch against Cornell starter Byrne. Beginning with a sacrifice bunt from Mitch Montaldo that moved Mincher to second base after the shortstop had led off the third inning with a walk, Byrne retired 16 straight hitters before Joey Greco drew a one-out walk in the eighth.
McGarry worked out of trouble for much of his 5.1 innings, but it finally caught up to him in the sixth. Kevin Tatum led off the inning with a double into right, and a single put runners on the corners with no one out. Tom D’Alessandro then popped a ball up into shallow right field, but the wind took over and the ball dropped quickly, bringing Tatum in to make it 3-1. After a sacrifice bunt, McGarry exited the game with two men in scoring position and Mitch Holtz entered the game trying to limit any further damage. Though Holtz easily could have gotten a third strike called on a 1-2 count, Plantier took advantage of his second chance and hit a sacrifice fly into left field to up Cornell’s lead to 4-1 before Penn could send the game to the seventh.
With Byrne giving way for closer Eric Upton in the ninth, the Quaker offense was finally unshackled. Vilardo took the first pitch he saw back up the middle for Penn’s first hit since the first inning. Though Upton retired the next two batters, Brebner kept the Red and Blue alive with a two-out walk and Bossart knocked a single into center to score Vilardo and put the tying run on base. But when Branigan got on top of an Upton offering and tapped it back to the mound for the final putout, it turned into a case of too little-too late for Penn in the game, who suffered a 4-2 setback.
Penn and Cornell are back at it tomorrow beginning at 12 p.m. Dan Gautieri and Pat Bet will get the starts for the Quakers in the doubleheader.
Download: Penn-Cornell 1.pdf