Baseball Championship Series Preview
ITHACA, N.Y. -- After waiting until the final weekend of the regular-season to clinch their trips to the Ivy League Championship Series, Cornell and Dartmouth are prepared to battle for the right to represent the League in the NCAA Tournament with a three-game set that will take place at Cornell's David F. Hoy Field in Ithaca, N.Y.
The Big Red is in the Championship Series for the third time in program history, where it will face Dartmouth for the second time while hosting for the first time. The Big Green, on the other hand, is competing in its eighth Championship Series and fifth-straight. But come Saturday, May 5, history will not matter as both teams will be focused on the present.
Both Cornell and Dartmouth came into the final weekend of League play needing just one win against its respective opponent, Princeton and Harvard, to win its respective division. Dartmouth made things easy on itself, defeating the Crimson in game one, 11-3, to make its fifth-straight trip to the Series.
Princeton, on the other hand, decided to take the race to the Gehrig Division title down to the wire, sweeping the Big Red in Ithaca on Friday to move within a game of Cornell. After an off-day on Saturday, the series resumed on Sunday in Princeton, N.J., and the Tigers won game one by a score of 6-0 to move into a tie for the Division lead. In a win-or-go home contest that was as thrilling for the fans as it was stressful for the teams, Cornell was able to take a 3-2 lead heading into the ninth inning, but the Tigers rallied once again to tie the game and send it to extra innings.
Finally, with one out in the top of the 12th inning and the game tied at three, Big Red sophomore Ben Swinford sent the ball deep to left field to give his team a 4-3 edge. Freshman pitcher Kellen Urbon did the rest, closing down the Tigers in the bottom of the 12th to give Cornell its second outright Lou Gehrig Division title and its first since 2009.
The series will serve as a classic offense vs. defense matchup, as Cornell leads the League in ERA and opponents' batting average, at 3.69 and .261, respectively, while Dartmouth holds the League's best batting average (.303) and ranks second in runs scored (248).
Cornell has scored an Ivy-best 254 runs this season and features a trio of .300 hitters in Brian Billigen (.355), Kevin Tatum (.328) and Frank Hager (.303). Billigen has been the Big Red's best batter and leads the team in runs (31), hits (49), triples (three) and RBI (35). Chris Cruz has hit a League-leading 11 home runs and has 31 RBI and 30 runs.
On the mound, pitchers Connor Kaufmann and Brian McAfee lead the League with six wins apiece. Rick Marks is 4-3 with a League-leading 2.65 ERA and Brent Jones is 402 with 38 strikeouts.
Dartmouth's Jake Carlson and Jeff Keller are 1-2 in the League in batting average, hitting .398 and .385, respectively. Keller and Dustin Selzer have each hit five home runs and Selzer leads the League with 40 RBI. Joe Sclafani has been solid for the Big Green, batting .296 (45-of-152) with 32 runs, 13 doubles, three triples, two home runs, 22 RBI, 24 walks and four stolen bases.
Four of Dartmouth's pitchers have won four games in Mitch Horacek, Adam Frank, Michael Johnson and Louis Concato. Horacek leads the League with 45 strikeouts; he and Kyle Hunter have three complete games apiece.
WHEN LAST WE MET…
Cornell swept its two-game set against Dartmouth, winning 2-0 and 5-2. The story of the first game was Kaufmann, who no-hit the Big Green for the first no-hitter for the Big Red since Kerry Brooks, Rob Wilson and Doug Petillo combined to no-hit Rochester on April 5, 1989 in another seven-inning affair. The previous solo no-hitter for Cornell was April 8, 1979, when Greg Myers worked five innings in a 1-0 victory over Canisius. Larry Rafalski's had the Big Red's last solo no-hitter of at least seven innings with a nine-inning blanking of Hartwick on April 25, 1968.
Kaufmann worked around two walks, striking out four while facing the minimum 21 batters. The Big Red took the lead in the second inning, started by a two-out double from Brandon Lee. He moved to third on a wild pitch and came around to score on a single by Swinford.
Hager provided the Big Red with its other run on a line-drive home run in the fourth inning.
The second game found the Big Red trailing by two runs early, but a home run by Hager in the fifth inning and an RBI triple by Tom D'Alessandro the following inning tied the score at two. In the seventh, Cornell took the lead for good on Marshall Yanzick's RBI double and an RBI single by Lee. The Big Red added another run came in the eighth when Brenton Peters hit a sacrifice fly to score D'Alessandro.
Marks started the game and worked into the eighth inning to get the victory, while Urbon set Dartmouth down in order in the ninth for the save.