Ithaca College has the Cortaca Jug — its annual football rivalry game with SUNY Cortland. Cornell University has its hockey rivalry with Harvard University dating back to 1910.
But what about the rare matchup when the Big Red and the Bombers square off? Even casual fans on both sides know Cornell is more than triple the size of the college and competes at the Division I level, while the Blue and Gold compete in Division III. Despite this apparent mismatch, the history between the two Ithaca schools is actually one that is relatively balanced.
To be fair, some of the college’s teams face Cornell in individual sports like gymnastics, wrestling and swimming and diving. Our track and field teams have also competed at Cornell’s Barton Hall for almost as long as the program has existed. In fact, before the Athletics and Events Center, Barton Hall was the Bombers’ official indoor training facility.
However, these matchups typically aren’t head-to-head and are instead part of a larger tournament — one in which Cornell usually is victorious. The track team used to have a scoring meet with other Division I schools every January at Cornell, but now the NCAA states we can’t score against them for it to count as an official Division I meet. We were still invited this year, but couldn’t collect points in the meet.
Still, there are a few team sports in particular that have severed their matchups with the Big Red. For example, the softball team had the longest continuous streak of playing Cornell each year, usually facing off in a morning-afternoon doubleheader with the Big Red. Though the Big Red is leading the series 29–9, the history behind the rivalry has been exciting. Believe it or not, the Bombers actually defeated the Big Red six-straight times when the rivalry began in 1994. In the last four seasons the Bombers defeated Cornell, the Big Red has had a winning record. Though Cornell swept the last doubleheader the teams played in 2013, the 2012 matchup proved to be an instant classic.
When I was a freshman, I covered the softball team as a beat writer, and in that game I remember the Big Red going ahead 3–0 early before now-senior captain Monica Capolongo hit a go-ahead grand slam in the fifth inning, as the Blue and Gold defeated Cornell 4–3.
Two years ago, former columnist Nate Bickell ’13 wrote about bringing back the Mayor’s Bat — a former trophy signifying the baseball team’s rivalry with Cornell. The Bombers actually hold the lead in that series, though the Mayor’s Bat trophy game ended after a 1–1 tie in 1996. However, the Ivy League has recently pushed its teams to play more Division I games against teams in more talented conferences to help the Ivy League teams come NCAA Tournament time.
The Bombers and Big Red played in 2010, when Cornell defeated the Blue and Gold 11–7, but the game did not have the trophy on the line, and the teams have not played since.
Though I understand Cornell trying to help out its postseason odds, I think the game should make a return to the community.
I’ll even offer this scenario: if both teams fail to make the postseason, which happened last season, make the final game for both teams a game with each other. You can even add softball in there too, if the same case applies. Even if the game is just an exhibition, it is still likely to draw a solid crowd given its locality.
By the time this game rolls around, the snow will have melted away, and there will be a chance for beautiful weather and a chance for people to come out and enjoy a college baseball game with the pride of Ithaca on the line and, hopefully with it, the Mayor’s Bat will re-emerge.