Penn State Falls to Cornell in Sloppy Performance
Maybe it was the juxtaposition of the reggae warm-up music with the gloomy, overcast weather that kept the stands at Medlar Field nearly empty. Maybe neither team’s focus was there. Penn State plays a conference series this weekend against Purdue while Cornell faces off with Ivy League rival Princeton in three games played between Saturday and Sunday.
No matter what it was, something seemed off before Penn State’s Wednesday night matchup against the Cornell Big Red. It turns out, just about everything and everyone was off in some way.
The Nittany Lions lost to Cornell 10-6 in what can only be described as a sloppy, weird baseball game.
Just before the first pitch, a fog started to form near Medlar Field. Not enough to be significant, but enough that it was noticeable.
Cornell’s Austin Wahl and Penn State’s Bailey Dees started the game on the bump. Each had an ERA higher than 10, neither had started a game on the season and the pair combined for a total of 5.2 innings pitched in 2018 before Wednesday
Both allowed two runs in the first two innings, both walked multiple batters and both were out of the game by the end of the third.
In the fourth inning with two outs Cornell was up 4-3 and Marko Boricich was pitching relief for the Nittany Lions.
Home plate umpire Kirk Domanick called a pitch foul then a few seconds later decided the batter was hit by the pitch. Cornell’s Ellis Bitar was happy to take the free base, but Penn State manager Rob Cooper was noticeably less enthused. He berated Domanick for over a minute before the umpire threw him out of the game.
Cornell scored two more runs that inning to go up 6-3.
Penn State and Cornell each cycled through several relievers on Wednesday. Penn State threw five pitchers; Dees, Boricich, Conor Larkin, Jeff Taylor and Jake Pilewicz. Cornell threw four; Wahl, Jeb Bemiss, Adam Saks and Colby Wyatt.
As the pitching changes mounted, the fog kept getting thicker and the game kept getting messier.
By the end of the sixth, with Cornell winning 8-5, both teams had allowed 11 free bases on either walks or hit batters.
Penn State had 6 hits, Cornell had 5.
Penn State scored on a throwing error in the seventh to make it a two-run game, but before the eighth, the fog started thickening even faster. It was difficult to see the outfield fence from behind home plate.
In the eighth with Jake Pilewicz on the hill, Dale Wickham hit a fly ball towards Penn State center fielder Mason Nadeau. He broke in on the ball as if it were going to land short, but it carried all the way to the warning track, allowing Bitar to score from first. On the very next play, Josh Arndt doubled on a ball to left-center that both Nadeau and Braxton Giavedoni lost track of.
After that, Cornell’s manager, a Penn State coach and the umpires conferenced behind home plate and decided to call the game.
Because Cornell’s two runs in the eighth did not affect the outcome of the game, the 10-6 score stood.
While Penn State catcher Derek Orndorff and Giavedoni both said the fog never really affected pitchers, batters or catchers, Giavedoni mentioned after the game that it affected fielders almost the whole time.
He also thought the number of walks contributed to interrupting the flow of the game.
“Being a fielder it kind of hurts when you’re walking a lot of guys, it gets you out of your rhythm,” he said.
Cornell finished the game with 10 walks and two hit batters. Penn State had just as many walks and one more hit batter. The two teams combined for 13 hits.
Cooper lamented the fact that his team couldn’t convert more of those baserunners into runs.
“I think guys are pressing [with runners in scoring position] but again, you can only use that as an excuse for so long,” he said. “We’re 19 games into this at some point you’ve got to go, ‘I don’t care what my average is, I don’t care what it is, you know I don’t care if I make a mistake as long as I make a mistake doing it the right way.’”
Cooper said he was so disappointed with his team’s effort that he was canceling practice on Thursday and possibly past that unless the Nittany Lions, “fight hard and we compete and we play the game at the level that I think we can.”
Penn State kicks off a three-game homestand against the Purdue Boilermakers on Friday at 6:30 p.m.
Tyler Olson is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism and political science. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.