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OMAHA = Opportunity-Makeup-Attitude-Hustle-Always Put The Team First

When I visited the University of Oregon campus in Eugene a few years ago to speak on the Branch Rickey-Jackie Robinson story, I made time to check out the baseball field of the Oregon Ducks coached by George Horton.

I noticed an acronym on the outfield wall for Omaha, the host city of the College World Series.
Always Put The Team First

On Sunday May 10th, Columbia became the first team to qualify for the 64-team NCAA tournament by beating Dartmouth for the third straight year. As always in this exciting 2015 season, the Lions had to do it the hard way. Losing the first game of a Saturday home doubleheader 7-6 but rallying to win the nightcap 7-2.

It all came down to a Sunday single game on a beautiful summer-like day with the sun burning down on Robertson Field at Satow Stadium. The Lions took the early lead on a first inning two-run homer to left field by senior DH Joey Falcone who added a monster three-run homer to right in the second.

It was 6-1 entering the top of the third but the Big Green fought back valiantly.
Junior DH Joe Purritano homered and sophomore first baseman Michael Ketchmark delivered a two-run triple to cut the lead to 6-4.

Columbia junior catcher Logan Boyher immediately answered with a two-run homer, adding to his impressive output from the number 9 spot in the lineup.
Dartmouth responded with single runs in the 4th and 5th – it was the kind of elimination game in which both closers were in the game by the 5th inning.

Columbia freshman closer Harrisen Egly entered the game with one out in the fifth and went the rest of the way giving up only an unearned run in Columbia’s 10-7 victory.

Senior leadership is always a key to a college team’s success and Columbia’s five seniors provided that in spades - two of the tri-captains, centerfielder and leadoff hitter Jordan Serena and southpaw starter Mike Weisman; cleanup hitter and right fielder Gus Craig; third baseman Dave Vandercook; and dh Falcone.

Watching the freshmen emerge also provided me great pleasure during the Columbia season. Harrison Egly came up big on Sunday but also saved 5 earlier games holding batters to a batting average well under .200. Shortstop Randell Kanemaru capably stepped into the shoes of graduated Aaron Silbar.

And kudos to the freshmen who stepped up for Dartmouth: right fielder Kyle Holbrook who had seven hits in the three games; the string bean 6’ 5” 175 pound second baseman Dustin Shirley who made every at-bat a tough one; and closer Patrick Peterson who earned Dartmouth's one save and pitched capably in the elimination game.

I know that “first year” is the politically correct term these days but the perks of a blog enable me to use a term that I don’t find offensive. In fact, the measure of a successful program like Columbia’s under Brett Boretti is to watch the leadership develop from the first year player through each and every season and beyond.

It was a delight to see many former players and their parents coming to root on one of Columbia’s most successful programs. Kudos too to the men’s tennis team that has entered the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA tennis tournament. They await a meeting against the highly ranked U. of Virginia Cavaliers next weekend.

On Monday May 25 Columbia will find out where it will play during the last weekend of May in the first round of four-team regional play. Last year without injured ace David Speer (the southpaw's now working his way up in the Cleveland organization), they lost two close one-run games at Miami. The year before at the Fullerton CA regional, the Lions beat New Mexico for the program's first post-season victory.

Why not dream of OMAHA as SUNY-Stony Brook in Long Island did successfully two years ago?

That’s all this time. Always remember: Take it easy but take it!

YIBF (Yours In Baseball Forever),
Lee Low’ aka Teny Ymota (The Earl of NY, Your Man On The Aisle)
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