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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.

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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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.

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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