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Baseball Musings On The Eve of the College World Series

I’ve had about 10 days to recover from the unfortunate end to my Columbia Lions’ baseball season. They did throw a scare into the University of Miami Hurricanes in the Miami regional, winning three of five games including a remarkable 3-0 shutout of Miami fueled by the stalwart pitching of freshmen Bryce Barr and Zack Bahm.

However, in the rubber match on the last night of May, Columbia ran out of rested pitchers and fell behind 4-0 before they came to bat. It was 14-0 by the 4th and the final score was the football-like 21-3.

Still, nothing can take away from the great run that the Lions made in the 10th season of coach Brett Boretti’s reign. Columbia set program-high records with three Ivy
League championships in a row and 34 victories in a 51-game season.

Boretti was recently named the manager for USA Baseball’s tryout camp in late June for its under-18 team this summer, and his star has never been brighter.
“To overachieve you must overbelieve” is just one of Boretti’s memorable aphorisms.


Major kudos are due to the five seniors who provided incredible leadership and solid play in the 2015 season: Right fielder Gus Craig, designated hitter Joey Falcone, center fielder Jordan Serena, third baseman David Vandercook, and southpaw Mike Weisman.

The Co-Ivy League Player of the Year, Craig was drafted by the Seattle Mariners in the 30th round of the MLB amateur draft, the 905th player picked in the nation. He joins his former teammate fellow outfielder Dario Pizzano CC ‘12 in the Seattle organization.

Before games of June 10, Pizzano put up these impressive numbers at the Double A Jackson Generals franchise in Mississippi’s capital:
.316 BA, 3 HR, 28 RBI, .834 OPS (On Base + Slugging) – once again he is
showing a good eye with 18 walks and only 18 strikeouts in 210 AB.

Southpaw David Speer CC ’14 is pitching to a 2-3 record with 2.48 ERA for Cleveland’s Lake County franchise in the Midwest League. In 33 1/3 innings,
he has given up 35 hits with 8 BB, 2 intentional BB, and 32 strikeouts, almost
one per inning.

Two more Lions were picked before the draft ended on June 10th.
Junior righthanded starter George Thanopoulos in 35th round by the Mets.
Jordan Serena 35th round by the Angels.

Best wishes to all of them as they have a chance to follow their dream!

If you can tolerate the sound of metal bats, and I know it is hard for those of us raised on wood to accept it, the College World Series should be an absorbing one beginning in Omaha on June 13. Last year’s finalists, victorious Vanderbilt and runner-up Virginia, are returning and could meet in the final best-of-three series from June 22-24.

Miami, conquerors of Columbia, cruised past surprise Super Regional entrant Virginia Commonwealth to make the Elite Eight. As did top remaining seed LSU and
formidable Florida.

Texas Christian (TCU) dramatically eliminated NC State in the regional and survived a 16-inning rubber match with Texas A & M in the super-regional to make Omaha.
Unseeded teams that made the double-elimination tourney are Arkansas and Cal-Fullerton.


MLB MUSINGS
After losing 10 out of 11 games, the Yankees ran off 7 victories in a row until they lost a Wed June 10 day game to the Nationals. It was the first game without ace closer Andrew Miller who went on the DL with a strained flexor muscle in his forearm. The Yanks still have command of the AL East race but Toronto, always a streaky team, has now won eight in a row and Tampa Bay is hanging tough.

My Orioles are trying to scratch their way to the .500 mark and beyond. Their trademark defense has finally settled in, not coincidentally with the return to the lineup of shortstop JJ Hardy. Not since Cal Ripken Jr have the Birds had a shortstop doing all the little things to help his team win. Crossing fingers on his health.

The return to the lineup of catcher Matt Wieters after Tommy John surgery is another welcome sight for the Birds. Wieters is a free agent at the end of the year and he may only be auditioning for his next employer.

Nonetheless, I refuse to wallow in resigned negativity. Wieters provides great defense and an occasional big blast from his switch-hitting bat - his return is truly welcomed.

Now if only we can get Jonathan Schoop back at second base with his superior defense and occasional big bops, too. Ryan Flaherty is an excellent defensive sub for Schoop - his footwork and quick throws are wonderful to watch. Flaherty’s competence at every position in the infield is another big plus, but his left-handed bat is an iffy proposition.

Interesting Quirk I have noticed in the early going of 2015:
Rangers’ reliever Ross Olmendorf has taken to an exaggerated full windup not seen since Paul Byrd a few years ago. Don’t know how long this journeyman can keep it up – he may be the most intelligent player in the big leagues, a Princeton grad who has worked in high level government positions with the Department of Agriculture.
But his full windup is sure a pleasant antidote to the no-windup cookie cutter kind of pitchers I see too often.

That’s all for now – always remember: Take it easy but take it!
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Teny Ymota Says: Roar Lion Roar & Other Early May Baseball Musings

Before an enthusiastic home crowd at Robertson Field at Satow Stadium, Columbia on Saturday May 2nd won its third elimination game in seven days, beating Penn, 4-2 to earn the Gehrig Division title in the Ivy League. Seven solid innings from George Thanopoulos, two spotless relief innings from Kevin Roy, and solo home runs by Jordan Serena, Logan Bowyer, and Dave Vandercook provided the margin of victory.

Rested Rolfe Division-winner Dartmouth comes into Robertson/Satow on Saturday afternoon May 9 for a best-of-three championship series to determine the Ivy League winner and the automatic NCAA tournament bid. Columbia is trying for its third consecutive title and third straight playoff victory over Dartmouth. If the Saturday doubleheader is split, a single winner-take-all game will be played on Sunday.

The Ivy League college season in the Northeast is regrettably short so to witness bonus baseball in May is a real treat. There used to be an old saying that Ivy League players are “half-baked potatoes – not good enough to eat but too good to throw away.”

The level of play has definitely improved in recent years, and recent graduates of both division-winning programs are working their way through the minor leagues - notably Columbia outfielder Dario Pizzano with the Mariners affiliate at Double A Jackson, MS, and Dartmouth's second-third baseman Joe Sclafani with the Astros organization also in Double A.

Of course, for most Ivy League athletes the championship games will be the high point of their careers which makes for intense competition. I dislike the ping of the aluminum bat as much as anybody, but don't let that irritation keep you away from the action.

I highly recommend a visit this weekend to picturesque Satow Stadium on the banks of the Hudson River, a little bit up the hill northwest of the corner of 218th Street and Broadway in northern Manhattan.

Meanwhile, Major League Baseball has entered its crucial second month. The biggest surprise so far has to be the Houston Astros, riding a 10-game winning streak with an 18-7 record. The long-dormant Astros are the only team above .500 in what was once considered a strong AL West division.

Houston’s early emergence is not totally shocking. They have a budding mound ace in Dallas Keuchel and the defending AL batting champion in pepperpot second baseman Jose Altuve who is playing like a future MVP. They also have a star-in-the-making in right fielder George Springer from the University of Connecticut.

How I love it when players from the Northeast make their mark in their majors!
Cold weather prevents talent in this area from playing as many games as their counterparts in Florida and Texas and California. But since baseball is a game of character and adversity, tough conditions harden the players. It could well be that agile and powerful George Springer is on his way to join another great product of this region, southern Jersey’s Mike Trout of the Angels.

What the Astros have to watch out for is a bad streak once their long winning streak eventually ends. The Mets won 11 in a row and have since lost 7 out of 10 but still hold on to first place in the NL East.

With so many games to play, position in the standings is less important than consistent play and winning as many series as you can. Which is why two game and four game series are annoying to many in baseball. It is very hard to win a four game series against one team but inter-league play every day has necessitated this crazy-quilt unsatisfying scheduling.

A record must have been set on Saturday May 2 when TWO games ended with base runners being hit by batted balls. The victimized teams were the Angels who lost a 5-4 game to the Giants when pinch runner Taylor Featherston was hit by the ball, and the Diamondbacks who lost 6-4 to the Dodgers when Jordan Pacheco was similarly struck heading to second base.

It was a tough weekend for Pacheco. In the top of the 13th inning in a scoreless Sunday game against the Dodgers, Pacheco was tagged out at home plate trying to score on a wild pitch. After a throw from catcher Yasmani Grandal, reliever J.P. Howell made a remarkable behind-the-back tag to nip Pacheco by an eyelash. Moments later, Grandal homered to give the Dodgers a dramatic walkoff win.

Nothing matches, though, what the Orioles went through this past week. Rioting in Baltimore after the death in police custody of 25-year-old African-American Freddie Gray forced the Orioles to postpone two of three home games with White Sox and to transfer its entire weekend series to Tampa Bay.

On Wednesday afternoon one game was played with the White Sox before an entirely empty stadium at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. It was a first in the long history of MLB – a game without fans. Kudos to Oriole catcher Caleb Joseph who mimicked signing autographs for invisible fans before the game.

Back in the Orioles glory years of the 1970s and early 1980s, another Oriole catcher Rick Dempsey entertained fans during rain delays by pantomiming Babe Ruth running the bases. It looks like the Birds have another appealing receiver on their roster.

And perhaps the Orioles as a team are beginning to catch fire. They won three out of the four games played in these unusual circumstances. They are heading to New York for a week – two inter-league games with the Mets followed by a four-game series with the red-hot Yankees at Yankee Stadium. Center fielder Adam Jones continues to sizzle with a batting average over .400 and sparkling play in center field.

T. S. Eliot famously said April is the cruelest month – I guess he didn’t like the coming of flowers and new blooms – but in baseball May is usually the most revealing month. We’ll see how the pennant races look by the end of the month. More than 60 per cent of the time, division leaders as June begins are in the playoffs come October.

That’s all for now. Always remember: Take it easy but take it.

YIBF (Yours In Baseball Forever), Teny Ymota (The Earl of New York, Your Man On The Aisle)  Read More 
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