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Pre-Birthday Oriole Musings + Hail to the Virginia Cavaliers, Winners of Their First College Baseball Title

I turn 73 on June 27. For a good chunk of my birthdays since I became an Orioles fan nearly a half-century ago, I’ve spent them watching my team in person. Ah the steamy humidity in 1969 – Bethlehem Steel Night at old Memorial Stadium – when the Birds pounded Denny McLain, a year removed from his 30-win  Read More 
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Columbia-Penn Need One More Game This Saturday May 2

I have to confess that though I am an ardent fan of the Columbia Light Blue and White, I wanted a playoff game against the Penn Quakers just like last year to decide who will play Dartmouth for the Ivy League title and the automatic NCAA tourney bid.

My love for more good games between good teams was rewarded as both doubleheaders were split, home field advantage meaning little. Columbia did succeed the hard way, losing the first games each day only to reward themselves with close victories in the nightcaps.

The Quakers and Lions are so evenly matched that no team this weekend ever led by more than three runs. So this Saturday May 2 there is a one game playoff at Columbia to decide who meets Dartmouth, winners of the 14 in a row coasting to the northern Rolfe Division title, on May 9-10 for the automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

College baseball in the Northeast remains a niche sport, and fields are often hidden away far from campuses. Columbia plays five miles north of Morningside Heights on the northern tip of Manhattan behind the football stadium. Robertson Field at Satow Stadium is a gem with the Hudson River streaming behind the outfield fences. The clatter of Metro-North trains and the whistles of Hudson River Day Line excursion boats add lovely touches.

If Columbia’s field is far away, words can barely describe how remote Penn’s Meiklejohn Stadium stands far from the main campus in Philadelphia. I finally figured out the location on foot by winding my way alongside historic football Franklin Field across two bridges and then down and around a circuitous path alongside a highway to finally reach the stadium located on the Schuylkill River.

One plus about Meiklejohn Stadium is that it possesses a readable electronic scoreboard that records hits and errors. One glaring negative: It does not have bathrooms – just Port-o-Johns.

Now back to the most important subject, game action:
Penn’s two victories in the opening seven-inning contests were led by complete games from senior Ronnie Glenn, a 4-3 victor, and righty sophomore Jake Cousins who won 2-0, holding the Lions to one hit. A fourth inning homer by Ivy-leading home run hitter senior shortstop Mitch Montaldo provided the only run Cousins needed. Columbia junior starters George Thanopoulos on Sat. and Kevin Roy on Sun. pitched creditably in defeat.

In its 1-0 Sat. nightcap triumph, Columbia junior starter Adam Cline pitched six gritty innings despite yielding 9 hits. After giving up a leadoff double, sophomore Ty Wiest retired 9 Penn hitters in a row for the save. Senior dh Joey Falcone drove in the only run with a fifth inning single.

On Sunday the entire Lions team contributed to the victory with every starter getting at least one hit except Falcone who drove in the first run in a 3-run first inning with a sacrifice fly. Sophomore speedster Will Savage, who previously walked four times in a row, started the 10th inning winning rally with an infield single. He raced home on junior catcher Logan Boyher’s long double to left. Ty Wiest got the save for the second straight day.

One of the joys of watching Ivy League and small college baseball is that you see the players grow from year to year. Baseball remains the most difficult game of all to master and it is wonderful to see how these young fellows try to do it. Here’s to them and their coaches, Columbia’s Brett Boretti and Penn’s John Yurkow, and their parents who have spent countless hours and significant family funds to give their offspring the chance to create memories and friendships to last a lifetime.

A FEW CLOSING THOUGHTS ON THE PROFESSIONAL FRONT:
My intuition that the 2015 MLB season would be hard to predict has certainly come true in the early going. My only hope for your teams, including most definitely my Orioles, is that they stay in sight of .500 into May.

As of Monday morning April 27, 2015 only the Milwaukee Brewers at 4-15 have dug themselves a significant hole, 9 games behind St. Louis. But the loss of the Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright might bring the soaring Redbirds down to an earth in the highly competitive NL Central. The Cubs with the influx of their highly touted rookie infielders Kris Bryant and Addison Russell might hang tough as I think so will the Pittsburgh Pirates.

The Joe Maddon-less Tampa Rays under new skipper Kevin Cash are tied with the Yankees at 11-8 but the tailing Orioles and Blue Jays are only two games behind with the Red Sox definitely in the mix. However, as someone not enamored with but reluctantly accepting the DH, I am offended by the Bosox having two DHs as key players - David Ortiz and Hanley Ramirez who on paper is purportedly playing left field.

The Mets have built a 7-game cushion in the NL East with the surprisingly underperforming Washington Nats in the basement. But there is a long long way to go. My advice remains enjoy these wonderful days of spring with increasing daylight until late June and games every night to enthrall you and yes occasionally infuriate you.

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)

PS Teny just saw the musical “An American In Paris,” inspired by the Gershwin score and the Gene Kelly movie. All who love dance and great American music should put a visit to the historic Palace Theatre on Broadway and 47th Street on their calendar.
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