Magical Run Ended by ECU; St. John’s Wins Regional
Posted by Alex Gimenez on June 5, 2012
With big win after big win falling for the Big Red all year long, the Cornell baseball team was no stranger to facing elimination. On the last day of the regular season, the Big Red were in a tie with Princeton for the Lou Gehrig Division lead heading into a game against the Tigers that afternoon. It took twelve innings before Ben Swinford gave the Big Red a 4-3 lead on a solo homerun allowing Kellon Urbon to shut the door on Princeton sending Cornell to the Ivy League Championship Series. Against Dartmouth in the Ivy League Championship Series, the Big Red took it to the bottom of the eleventh inning of game three of the best of three series to win it all on a walk off two run homerun by Chris Cruz. So going into the elimination game against ECU, you had to feel good about the Big Red’s chances of sending the Pirates home and moving on in the regional.
The Big Red were the home team against the visiting ECU Pirates as they sent Brian McAfee out to bring home the victory. The Pirates countered with lefty ace Kevin Brandt and both pitchers worked scoreless innings in both the first and second frames. Cornell threatened in the bottom of the second getting three base hits but a pickoff by Brandt and a lineout by Kevin Tatum allowed the Pirates to escape from the inning unscathed. ECU would ride the momentum to score a run in the third on a solo homerun by their DH Drew Reynolds, and then another in the fourth on a single by shortstop Jack Reinheimer.
Facing a two run deficit going into the bottom of the fourth, the Big Red rallied back. Brian Billigen started it off with a base hit and Cruz followed with a hit by pitch. Frank Hager came to the plate and placed a sacrifice bunt attempt down but Brandt over threw his target at first base loading the bases for the Big Red. With the bases loaded, Brendan Lee and Tom D’Alessandro each delivered RBI singles to tie the game at two. After a lineout by Tatum, Swinford delivered his fourth hit of the year with the bases loaded knocking in a run and giving the Big Red their first lead in the Regional. Later in the inning, Marshall Yanzick was drilled by a pitch with the bases still loaded giving Cornell their fourth run of the game in a 4-2 lead.
After ECU stormed back in the top of the 5th scoring five runs and pushing their lead to 7-4, the Big Red would again mount a comeback. In the bottom of the inning, Cruz singled and Lee doubled to put runners at second and third with only one out. D’Alessandro singled in a run and after Tatum walked, Swinford was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded making it a 7-6 ballgame.
With the bases loaded and two outs and Marshall Yanzick at the plate, ECU reliever Tyler Joyner committed what appeared to be an obvious balk, which should have tied the game for the Big Red. None of the four umpires called the balk and after Big Red Head Coach Bill Walkenbach exchanged a few words with the home plate umpire Ryan Broussard, the call would remain the same.
The Pirates went on to score three more runs and put the finishing touches on a 10-6 victory over the Big Red with Joyner working 4 2/3 innings allowing just one hit in relief of starter Kevin Brandt. For the Big Red, it marked just the second time they had ever appeared in an NCAA Regional.
Despite the team’s two losses at Chapel Hill, they completed what was arguably the best season in their existence as a program, winning the most games in program history at 31 while hosting and winning their first Ivy League Championship over Dartmouth.
Following the Big Red’s loss to ECU, #6 UNC fell to St. John’s sending them to a potential elimination game against ECU. North Carolina pulled out a victory 5-3 and were then faced with having to defeat St. John’s twice in order to move on to the next round. St. John’s didn’t waste any time finishing the Tar Heels off on their home turf, winning 9-5 by overcoming an early 3-1 deficit to win the Chapel Hill Regional.
The Big Red will be back in action in 2013 looking to build on their outstanding 2012 campaign.