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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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Cheers for Columbia and Wisconsin Basketball on The Eve of Spring Training 2014

I have long believed that bad winters create good baseball fans. If so, 2014 should be a banner season because we are enduring in New York City and much of the country the worst winter in recent memory. There is no relief in sight as March is coming in as a lion with more snow predicted for next week.

At least my Columbia Lions are providing thrills and hopes for the future on the basketball court. Picked for the basement by the pre-season "experts," Columbia has established itself as a first-division team with four games to play in the Ivy League season. With no seniors on the team, the prospects are seemingly bright for the future.

Under fourth-year head coach Kyle Smith, Columbia has an aggressive team with two possible All-Ivy players in forward Alex Rosenberg and guard Maado Lo providing consistent double-digit scoring. The roster is versatile and talented and Smith is using almost all of them. They provide "deep depth," to use Earl Weaver's wonderful phrase
to describe a winning team.

Columbia baseball won the Ivy League last year and beat New Mexico in a NCAA tournament game, a first-time achievement for a Lions nine. Those dreaded "experts" now pick us to repeat but it will depend of course on merit on the field beginning at U of South Florida in Tampa Feb 28 through Mar 2.

Coach Brett Boretti enters his 9th year as head coach with a balanced squad led by tri-captains, catcher Mike Fischer, shortstop Aaron Silbar and southpaw ace David Speer. It is very pleasant to be talking about successful Lions teams and not hearing the tired jokes about moribund Columbia football that has nowhere to go but up in 2014.

The cagers at my graduate alma mater the University of Wisconsin-Madison started the year with 16 straight W's, then lost five out of six in the tough Big Ten. They now have righted the ship with seven straight wins and look poised to give a good showing in March Madness.

Spunky 66-year-old Badger coach Bo Ryan has gone to the tourney every year since he became head man in Madison in 2001. I'm rooting hard for this year's edition to go all the way into April. The emergence of 7' foot center Frank Kaminsky as an offensive threat has given Wisconsin a very potent lineup.

I spent five winters in graduate school in Wisconsin in the 1960s and bigtime sports were mediocre until Cleveland-born Donna Shalala, the former president of Hunter College of the City of New York, arrived in the 1980s. Her hiring of Barry Alvarez as football coach brought the pigskin boys to national attention and Bo Ryan has done the same for basketball. On Wisconsin!

It's been a long time since my alma maters have done so well in college basketball and I'm savoring every moment. With the opening of the baseball exhibition season I am experiencing additional pleasure..

I'm sorry, marketers, they will always be exhibition and not pre-season games for yours truly. I still cherish memories from the 1950s of listening to games from Florida on the radio. Oh, how the sounds of bat on ball and softly buzzing crowds warmed me in my eighth floor apartment in midtown Manhattan.

The Orioles have suddenly been active on the free agent front, signing RHP Ubaldo Jimenez to a four-year contract and former Texas Ranger slugger Nelson Cruz to a one-year contract. I love the latter - I wish most players in baseball were on one-year deals because the desire to get another deal next year by playing hard this year would never be doubted. Wishful thinking I know. More on spring training and how the season looks in the next post.

That's all for now. Always remember - take it easy but take it!
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