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Baseball drops two of three to Northeastern

When I said last week that March will be one of tinkering and figuring out what works and what doesn’t, I wasn’t wrong. Baseball took on Northeastern this past weekend at Winter Haven, Florida, and they subsequently dropped two of three to a team that had eight more games of live play, a crucial advantage this early on.

In game one, Coach Dan Pepicelli decided to go with Paul Balestrieri, a pitcher we should be seeing more of this year. He tossed five innings and allowed four runs (three earned) on five hits, three walks, and seven strikeouts. The strikeouts are encouraging, but control is something that Coach Marsh and Pepicelli deem crucial to their success in 2016. The Big Red also committed three errors off the glove of Frankie Padulo, Cole Rutherford, and Ellis Bitar. If Pepicelli wants to reduce “freebies” as he’d call them, it was clear that game one was clearing the cobwebs off. They dropped this game, 6-0, and offense was a non-factor; the only extra base hit came off the bat of Dale Wickham.

If game one featured their shortcomings, then game two featured some of their strengths. Even though they committed another two errors (Eliot Lowell and Frankie Padulo) and walked eleven, they got competent performances from Michael Byrne (4.2 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 6 K) and Justin Lewis, who earned the win. After Northeastern rallied from a 5-1 deficit, Cole Rutherford delivered the final blow, with a two-run home run in the ninth that catapulted the Red to their first victory of the season. It was Rutherford’s first home run as a Cornellian, and it was his first big day: he went 2-5 with 4 RBI.

In the final game that was just a seven-inning bout, it was a blowout in favor of Northeastern. Tim Willittes got the start, and he allowed seven runs (five earned) on seven hits, two walks, and five strikeouts. Collin McGee got his first pitching appearance since being moved over from the catching position, and he allowed three runs (two earned) over just a third of an inning. Padulo made another two errors, and Lowell made another himself.

There aren’t many takeaways from just one series, but there are some things we can glean. Firstly, the rotation template makes a ton of sense. Balestrieri and Byrne will obviously be the headliners, and then players like Tim Willittes, Adam Saks, Peter Lannoo, and Justin Lewis will battle it out for the final two rotation spots. I would imagine Willittes and Lewis have the advantage; Lewis pitched well this weekend, Willittes already got the start which means something, and Lannoo seems to preferred out of the bullpen.

Secondly, defense is going to be a focus of practice going forward. Errors are not the benchmark for defensive analysis, but eight errors in just three games is by all accounts not good, so they’ll have to clean that up if they want a shot at the Ivy title. It was also an excellent weekend for Cole Rutherford, whose 3-8 performance goes a long way to solidifying his spot at first base. Boy, they could really use a bopper.

Cornell will go on the road to face Wofford College this upcoming weekend at Spartanburg, South Carolina, and check the schedule because there are live stats, audio, and video available for these games. For the first time this year, we can watch live Cornell baseball.

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