Baseball players are notoriously superstitious, so today's Friday-the-13th doubleheader between Penn and Cornell will probably put a few of the Turk Wendell-types on edge. This weekend's four-game series is much too important for triskaidekaphobia to get in the way, though. Four losses by either of these teams could sink their Ivy League title hopes, and a sweep could give the victor a huge boost in the right direction. The Quakers enter the Friday-Saturday set with an impressive 16-9 overall record but a 3-5 Ivy League mark. Gehrig Division rival Cornell is 6-13 on the year and 2-4 in the league. Both teams are two games behind Gehrig leaders Princeton and Columbia. Coach Tom Ford's Big Red -- who have never won the Gehrig Division since the advent of Ivy baseball in 1993 -- are coming off a 2000 season in which they went 11-9 against their Ancient Eight foes. Although the Big Red are currently mired in a five-game losing streak, Cornell and the Quakers have had similar success against the rest of the Ivies this spring. Like the Quakers, Cornell lost both ends of its doubleheader against Dartmouth, one close and the other in a blowout. Also like Penn, the Big Red split their double-dip with Harvard, winning a squeaker in the matinee, 3-1, and getting blown out of the water in the nightcap, 17-5. On the whole, Cornell has had its share of ups and downs this season -- a doubleheader against Penn State in which it was outscored 39-5 and a 2-1 dogfight loss to national powerhouse Miami come to mind. Cornell does have a number of weapons it can rely on, however. Junior Eric Rico, a la Penn junior Andrew McCreery, has performed well for his team both in the outfield and on the pitcher's mound. He is batting .314 with a team-leading five home runs, while also posting a 1-1 record as a mid-week pitcher for the Big Red. Cornell senior third baseman Raul Gomez -- who, like Rico, hails from Miami -- leads the team with a .374 batting average. The Cornell pitching staff has not been overly impressive in the early going this season. The Big Red staff carries a combined earned run average of 7.25, with opponents hitting .299 against them. As far as numbers are concerned, Penn seems to have a clear advantage in most major categories. While Cornell is batting .281 as a team, the Quakers boast a .310 squad average. Penn has 246 hits compared to Cornell's 175. Also, the Red and Blue staff has pitched its way to a much-more-respectable 4.88 ERA. And in contrast to Cornell's current five-game slide, Penn coach Bob Seddon's troops have won their last three, including a sweep of Yale and a convincing 10-3 victory over La Salle. There's no guarantee who Penn will send to the hill in these outings, but McCreery, Ben Krantz and Mike Mattern have been the prohibitive top three all season. The fourth weekend starter is never set in stone, but pitching coach Bill Wagner's decision will probably come down to a choice between Dan Fitzgerald, who pitched a complete game win against Yale last weekend, and Matt Hepler, who got the nod in the fourth spot earlier this season and who looked solid against La Salle.Comments powered by Disqus
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