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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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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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