Baseball closes 15-26 season with series loss to Cornell

by Baily Deeter | 5/6/19 2:10am

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The Big Green lost two of three games this weekend to Cornell University, ending the season tied in last place in the Ivy League.

by Elsa Ericksen / The Dartmouth

Per the old adage, baseball is a game of inches, and Dartmouth learned this lesson the hard way in its final week of competition. The Big Green lost three nail-biters, falling to the University of Maine 8-7 on Wednesday and losing to Cornell University 2-1 and 8-6 on Saturday. But the team rebounded to end its season on Sunday, winning 6-1 to give 30-year veteran head coach Bob Whalen his 600th career win.

With the season officially in the books, the Big Green finished 15-26 and tied with Cornell for last place in the Ivy League, marking a disappointing season for a squad predicted to finish third in the conference before the season. In a season with multiple injuries to key players and a handful of brutal losses, things did not fall into place in Hanover. 

Even in a challenging final week, however, there were a number of bright spots, mostly on the mound. Captain Cole O’Connor ’19 pitched a complete game in his final outing in green, surrendering seven earned runs in nine innings in the first game against Cornell. For O’Connor, it was a sentimental outing given that it marked the end of an amazing career with the team. 

“I just tried to stay in the moment and focus on pitching, taking things one pitch at a time,” O’Connor said. “That’s the best way I know how to get better and compete.” 

Justin Murray ’22, who started the second game against Cornell, said that O’Connor has been a tremendous mentor in helping him adjust to college baseball. 

“He’s been such a huge help with the mental aspect of the game,” Murray said. “He’s been very successful for four years, so he knows what he’s doing.” 

Given what O’Connor has meant to the program, losing his final start, especially in such a close game, was disappointing. However, O’Connor’s final start was his first career nine-inning complete game, and it took only 113 pitches.  

“He threw really well, much better than the score would suggest,” Murray said. 

Murray followed up O’Connor’s outing with a pitching gem, throwing 7.1 two-run innings. In a season where he expected to primarily star as an infielder while mixing in some innings on the mound, he excelled as one of the team’s primary three starting pitchers. He finishes his first-year campaign with a decent 5.93 ERA and five starts in which he surrendered two or fewer runs. 

“It’s just being confident and adjusting to the game,” Murray said. “Coming from high school to college is going to be different, so just learning from [my coaches] and working at every day is key.”

Offensively, it took some time for the Big Green to hit its stride in both games. Dartmouth was down 5-0 in the top of the fourth inning in the first game, and though the team nearly came back by scoring six runs, the Big Green ultimately fell short. Still, every player in the starting lineup registered a hit, with Nate Ostmo ’19 hitting a two-run homer in the seventh and Trevor Johnson ’20 knocking in two with a single in the fourth. 

In the second game, runs were harder to come by. Cornell pitcher Jonathan Zacharias was outstanding in 6.1 one-run innings, and the bullpen was able to slam the door on a Dartmouth rally in the bottom of the ninth. Ostmo singled with two outs before Ubaldo Lopez ’21 was hit by a pitch, but Steffen Torgersen ’19 struck out to end the game. 

“We were squaring a lot of balls up,” Bryce Daniel ’22 said. “Part of it was just unlucky. But you have to give their pitcher credit — he pitched a great game.” 

Daniel joined first-years Kade Kretzschmar ’22 and Ben Rice ’22 in the lineup for the opener, with the three of them combining for five hits. With talented senior hitters like Matt Feinstein ’19, Ostmo, Sean Sullivan ’19 and Torgersen on the way out, the underclassmen will have big shoes to fill next season. 

“For the class as a whole, I think we’ve done a good job of competing, but there’s a huge learning curve that comes with adjusting to DI college athletics,” Kretzschmar said.

The best part of the weekend came yesterday, when Dartmouth broke a scoreless tie with six runs in the bottom of the sixth inning. Feinstein plated the first two runs with a single and Ostmo doubled another run home. Lopez dealt the biggest blow, crushing a three-run homer. Nathan Skinner ’22 — who has already won Ivy League Rookie of the Week twice, was brilliant, pitching 6.2 innings of o —e-run ball before Max Hunter ’21 finished out the win.

Before the Cornell series, the Big Green took on Maine on Wednesday in a game that played out very similarly to the first Cornell game. Maine took a huge lead early, and Dartmouth’s late rally came up just short. Dartmouth scored four in the bottom of the eighth, including three from Johnson bases-clearing triple, but the team needed five runs to tie the game. Maine slammed the door in the ninth en route to victory. 

Dartmouth did a great job with runners in scoring position, plating seven of the 12 runners who reached base. However, starting pitcher Alec Vaules ’20’s struggles were too much to overcome, as he gave up six runs — five earned — in his three innings. Trystan Sarcone ’22 had a solid four-inning, two-run relief appearance before Jack Schmidt ’21 and Zac Bygum ’19 each pitched a scoreless inning, but their efforts ultimately proved futile. 

The Big Green finishes with an 8-13 Ivy League record. While there were some bright spots, including important wins over Harvard University and Yale University and series victories against Princeton University and Brown University, the season did not go Dartmouth’s way. The 21-inning loss to the University of Pennsylvania on April 6 still stands out as the most brutal loss of the season, as Dartmouth ended up getting swept handily in the series after its exhausting Saturday contest. 

With the Class of 2019 in line to receive their diplomas next month, it is time for the Big Green to turn its attention toward the 2020 season. It will not be easy to replace stellar seniors like O’Connor, Ostmo and Torgersen, but one positive for next year is that Dartmouth will not lose many of its pitchers, with the notable exception of O’Connor. Murray and Skinner both have three more years’ worth of games to start, and key relievers Hunter, Jonah Jenkins ’21 and Sarcone should all prove effective weapons out of the bullpen. The team will lose some offensive contributors, with three-quarters of the team’s starting infield being seniors. 

“I think we’re going to be a lot better as a freshman group and as a team next year,” Kretzschmar said. “It’s hard not to be excited for these next few years.”