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MOUNT VERNON — Jesse Applehans wasn’t concerned with the all-time wins list when she reached Cornell College.
The senior pitcher from Highlands Ranch, Colo., was unaware of where she ranked on it until recently. She knows now that she is tied for the most career victories in Rams history.
“Obviously, I hoped to do well and accomplish a lot of wins,” Applehans said. “It’s kind of cool to hear about it. It definitely feels good.”
Applehans struck out four and allowed just four hits in the opener, helping Cornell sweep three-time defending Midwest Conference champion Lake Forest, 5-2 and 6-4, Saturday at Mount Vernon Softball Complex.
Cornell improved to 21-7 overall and took sole possession of third place in the conference at 9-3. The Rams notched their seventh straight 20-win season under 11-year head coach Shanda Ness, who will leave to become Athletics Director at Thomas College (Maine) next year.
“Honestly, I couldn’t have done it without the team,” Applehans said. “We worked really hard this year. Harder than we have before.”
Applehans raised her record to 7-4 this season and earned her 38th total win, tying the mark of Ashton Horn (2007-09). Applehans has a chance make the record her own Sunday against Beloit during Senior Day.
“My team backed me up,” Applehans said. “We got the hits we needed to get. That was a really good team we faced, so it’s really exciting. More than anything, I think get that win for the team was more exciting than the record.”
Applehans is 38-19 overall with a career earned-run average of 2.50. She was 18-4 with a 1.51 ERA as a sophomore. She said practice is key and working hard in the offseason has paid dividends. Even with her focus in the circle, she is dependent upon her teammates.
“You have to have everything go right to win a game,” Applehans said. “Just working hard and doing everything right that you can control.”
Mental toughness plays a key role in her pitching performance. She gave up all four hits in the second inning, falling behind 2-0. She stifled the Foresters the rest of the way, keeping the Rams in position to come back.
“She’s calm,” Ness said. “She doesn’t get too high or too low. She’s steady.”
She also plays shortstop, getting a putout in the nightcap. She helped her own cause in the first game, hitting an RBI single and scoring in the four-run fourth. Her impact isn’t limited to wins and hits.
“It’s not just pitching,” Ness said. “She’s done so many things on the field and off that’s helped our program.
“She’s a strong leader. She’s a hard worker.”
Sunday’s start will be just another game for her. If she gets the record, it will be a special occasion, but it isn’t the top priority for her. The team’s success comes first.
“It’s exciting,” Applehans said. “It’s a good opportunity, but it’s not something I will think about on the field. I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing and trust my teammates.”
Cornell had to erase early deficits in each game. Jana Froehle provided a three-run double in the opener, breaking a 2-2 tie in the fourth.
The Rams trailed 4-0 after two, but rallied for a five-run fifth in the second game. Pinch hitter Kat Edmond had a two-run single in the frame. Melissa Orton and Froehle added RBI singles, helping starter Haley Harmon improve to 14-2.
All the Rams needed was for one to provide a spark and they caught fire for big innings, leading to their ninth straight victory.
“We’ve had some pinch hitters come through in clutch moments and scored runs,” Ness said. “We’ve stayed calm and confident and that’s been key to getting things done.
“We have a strong lineup from top to bottom. ... We can hit with the best of them.”
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