Cornell Baseball vs. The Pros: Free Passes
Walks kill pitchers. They burn up pitch counts, sap confidence, and give batters a free 90 feet closer to scoring. Pitching coaches hate them more then home runs, and opposing managers love to face wild pitchers more then anything. However, walks alone cannot win games. It definitely helps if runners get on base for free, but after that, the run must be driven in. That is why getting those runs back home after the free pass is issued by the pitcher can be crucially important.
Cornell’s series against Penn is a perfect example of how walks can affect a game. The starting pitchers in the first game on Sunday only walked three batters, one by the Quakers and two by the Big Red. Even though these numbers appear to be minuscule, they had a big impact on the game.
In the last four Cornell wins, the team scored in the first inning. Due to a walk to Ellis Bitar and a single by Tommy Wagner in the first, the Big Red had two chances to score a runner who reached on a walk. However, they were unable to do so, and the danger passed. Penn starter Gabe Kleiman learned from his mistake and proceeded to not allow a walk for the rest of the game.
In contrast, Cornell starting pitcher Tommy Morris experienced worse luck regarding walks. He led off the fourth inning with one, and after a double and a sacrifice fly, that runner came around to score. He was put on base for free, and came around to put the Quakers on the board. This placed pressure on the Big Red for the rest of the game — pressure that the team, ultimately, could not overcome.
Morris’ second walk of the afternoon had a large effect as well. During the top of the seventh with a runner on first base and no one out, he walked his next batter. This allowed a sacrifice bunt that knocked Morris out of the game, as the next batter hit a three-run homer. Even if the batters who walked had scored, Cornell still would have lost.
A game on this same Sunday between the Pittsburgh Pirates and New York Yankees showed how similar the college and professional games are in regards to the importance of capitalizing on walks. The final score was 2-1 in favor of the Pirates, and the difference proved to be who was able to drive in runners that reached base on walks. The pirates had a walk in the first inning, and that man came around to cross home plate. There was a second walk in the fourth inning, and this runner also came around to score. The Yankees had three walks over the course of the game. In the eighth and ninth inning, those walks moved runners into scoring position. However, the Yankees were unable to take advantages of the benefits these walks provided and ended up losing as a result.
It is not just about plating batters who have walked, but also taking advantage of how walks push runners into scoring position. For the most part, the team that takes advantage of this, regardless of whether in the professional or collegiate game, ends up with the win.