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Army, Fordham, and Stony Brook To Carry New York-area Banner Into College Baseball Regionals

Are you getting fed up with the epidemic of strikeouts in Major League Baseball?  For the second season in a row, it looks like a certainty that whiffs will eclipse wallops in The Show.  It disturbs me no end that doubles and singles are way down and triples nearly non-existent, but there is an alternative.

 

Try watching baseball on the college and high school levels. The pitchers are not yet fully developed or never will reach the mid-to-high 90 mph level. The hitters are not yet launch angle-crazy (though I fear a trend heading in that unfortunate direction).

 

So here's a salute to three New York area teams who will begin double-elimination regional play this weekend with a shot, admittedly a long-shot, at the College World Series starting in Omaha on June 15.

 
Last Sunday Fordham won the Atlantic Ten title at a conference tournament held on their Rose Hill campus in the Bronx.  They will open play against the host Big 12 conference winner West Virginia in Morgantown. Duke and Texas A & M are also in the same regional.

 
I didn't get to see the Rams play, but did watch the Davidson Wildcats advance with a victory over the Richmond Spiders coached by former major leaguer Tracy Woodson and with graduate transfer infielder Tyler Plantier, son of former Red Sox outfielder Phil.  (Yes, folks, Davidson in western North Carolina and the Dayton Flyers, runners-up to Fordham, are part of the Atlantic Ten which actually has 14 members.) 

 

Fordham has a proud baseball history that is immortalized with plaques that greet you as you enter Houlihan Park adjoining the football stadium. The list includes two early 20th century Hall of Famers, pitcher Ed Walsh ("the only man who could strut sitting down," in Chicago sportswriter Charlie Dryden's immortal phrase) and Frank "The Fordham Flash" Frisch who starred for both John McGraw's NY Giants and Branch Rickey's Gashouse Gang St. Louis Cardinals.

 
There is also post-Civil War star Esteban "Steve" Bellan, who helped to popularize baseball in his native Cuba; legendary broadcaster Vin Scully; sports and nature writer John Kieran (first "Sports of the NY Times" columnist); and Walter O'Malley, the man who moved the Brooklyn Dodgers to LA.  (I hated to write those last words but they are a part of baseball's rich if sometimes unpleasant history.)

 

Here's to a second New York-area champion:  Stony Brook, winners of the America East title, who will travel to Baton Rouge to face perennial contender LSU.  Seven years ago in 2012, Stony Brook shocked the college baseball world by winning the super-regional at LSU and heading to the College World Series.

 
In one of the greater sporting gestures I can recall, the ardent college baseball fans at LSU insisted that the conquering Sea Wolves run a victory lap around their ballpark.  Also in the Baton Rouge regional will be Arizona State, hoping to revive its storied college baseball history, and Southern Mississippi.


Army is the third NY team to make the tourney.  The West Point cadets will play host Texas Tech in a regional including Dallas Baptist and former CWS champion Florida.

 

Harvard, conquerors of defending champion Columbia in a thrilling playoff in Cambridge two weekends ago, will represent the Ivy League in Oklahoma City against host Oklahoma State.  Nebraska and Connecticut will also vie for the SuperRegional to be played the first full weekend in June at sites TBA.

 
A tip of the cap to Harvard's reserve infielder Evan Owolo who before the final playoff game in Cambridge played on solo violin one of the most beautiful National Anthems I've ever heard.  I think he played it as the notes were originally written and it took only 1 minute and 17 seconds.

 

Columbia fought Harvard valiantly.  Senior righthanders Josh Simpson and Ethan Abrams pitched brilliant baseball and ended their college careers on a high note.  But Harvard got great performances, too. 

 

Hunter Bigge pitched and batted the Crimson to a complete game victory in the first tussle.  And Patrick McColl's big bat couldn't be contained in the dramatic extra-inning clincher. 

 

One final note on amateur baseball - the New York PSAL high school semi-finals are set.  Tomorrow - Friday May 31 at 330p - Manhattan's Beacon travels to Brooklyn powerhouse Grand Street Campus (alma mater of Yankees reliever Dellin Betances).

Meanwhile two-time defending champion Bronx's Monroe journeys to upper Manhattan to play Gregorio Luperon. 

 
Each series is a best-of-three.  Winners play at Yankee Stadium on Wed June 12 at 7p.

Teams from smaller schools play their finals at 1p and 4p on that Wed.

 
So until next month when we may speculate on the results of Mon Jun 3's MLB amateur free agent, always remember:  Take it easy but take it!    

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How 13-22 Might Be More Hopeful Than 22-10 & Columbia Returns to Ivy League Baseball Playoffs (slightly revised)

On the first Saturday night of May on Star Wars Night at Camden Yards, struggling Dylan Bundy threw the best game of his career.  He pitched into the 8th inning to lead the Orioles to a 3-0 victory over the first place Tampa Bay Rays.

 
Last night (Mon May 6) rookie southpaw John Means contributed a similarly deep outing in a 4-1 victory over the Red Sox. Though my Birds seem consigned to permanent basement residence in  the AL East, they are now 13-22 and on a two-game winning streak.  Whoopee! and I am not being sarcastic.  

 
Two years ago harboring dreams of contention, the Orioles started 22-10 before reality set in.  They wound up 2017 under .500 setting the stage for the disastrous 47-115 of 2018.     

 
Allow me to note some cautiously hopeful signs for 2019.

 

**The overall defense is improved.

**Some decent offense has been provided (and good defense) by Blue Jays castoff outfielder Dwight Smith Jr. and young veteran Trey Mancini (gamely playing right field these days though better suited for first base). 

**Chris Davis is no longer an automatic out but certainly not yet a consistent threat.

**Rookie manager Brandon Hyde has the team playing hard if not always well or smart. 


Any solid hope will depend on the pitching staff.  Much has been expected of Dylan Bundy once a top pick in the draft.  His latest efforts have been encouraging.

 

Nothing was expected of John Means.  "I was never a prospect," he says, but he developed four pitches during his five-year minor league apprenticeship. So far he is rising to the occasion at the major league level.

 

A third starter veteran Andrew Cashner looks like he can provide five or six innings most of the time. Don't ask about where other starters will come from or what the bullpen will look like. Converted shortstop Mychal Givens has closer potential but hasn't shown consistency.

 

Repeat after me class - "If consistency were a place, it would be lightly populated." Don't know who coined the phrase but you can quote me.

 
One thing I've learned in nearly 70 years of intense baseball watching is that won-lost records don't mean much until at least Memorial Day weekend. In the 24/7/365 frenzied mass media world we live in today, it is a good point to remember. 

 
Good examples:  The once high-flying Seattle Mariners now limp towards .500 or worse.

The early promise of the Mets has sunk along with a record now below .500.


Turning to the much shorter season of college baseball, Columbia on Saturday May 4th earned its ticket into the Ivy League Championship Series with a 4-0 shutout in Philadelphia over perennial power Penn. 

 
Needing just one victory to make the playoffs, the Lions had lost four in a row. Gone was the hope of hosting the championship series that will now open at Harvard on Sa May 18.

 
The Lions faced elimination in Saturday's second game after a tough 5-2 loss in the first game when Penn got four runs in the bottom of the 8th. The Quakers had won a similar Winner Take All game two years ago. 

 
Short memories are so essential for baseball success. So senior righthander Ethan Abrams pitched shutout ball into the seventh inning and junior southpaw Leo Pollack earned the save in a 4-0 win. Junior catcher Liam McGill delivered two RBI, a single in the first and a huge insurance HR in the eighth.  

 

It's been quite a run for the Lions under coach Brett Boretti now in his 14th season.  A win over Harvard in two weeks will mean the fifth Ivy League title in the last seven seasons for the native of the North Shore of Boston. Though he still roots for all New England pro teams, there is no doubt that proud alums and all fans of the Columbia Light Blue and White feel that he is the answer to the question posed in the great school fight song, "Who owns New York?" 

 
Harvard will provide stiff competition for Columbia as they seek to repeat their thrilling series win two weeks ago. They have a deep pitching staff and a formidable one-two punch  in senior first baseman Patrick McColl, in the running for the Golden Spikes award as college player of year, and junior right fielder Jake Suddleson.

 
In case of a split on Saturday May 18, there will be a winner take all game on May 19. Games can be seen on the paying service ESPN+ but this is a matchup I must see in person.

You'll read about it and other college baseball matchups in this area in future posts. 

 

There are at least two college tourneys in the NYC area before Memorial Day: Fordham's Rose Hill campus in the Bronx will host the Atlantic 10 tournament May 22-25. On the same days the MAAC will have their tourney at the Yankees' Staten Island ballpark.

 

Coming up in early June will be the PSAL high school championship game. More info on these matchups in the next post.

 

The NYC PSAL has been using wooden bats for several years now. Colleges still use composite bats. I don't like their ping sound any more than baseball purists do, but if you want to see baseball with plenty of hustle and stress on fundamentals, check out the college game.  


That's all for now!  Always remember:  Take it easy but take it!

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