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NEW YORK – Winners in eight of its last nine games, the first-place Columbia baseball team continues divisional play with a critical four-game series at second-place Princeton this weekend. The Lions are set to face the Tigers in a doubleheader on Saturday, April 20 at 1:00 p.m., followed by a doubleheader on Sunday, April 21 beginning at noon.

Sitting atop the Ivy League standings, the Lions are poised to make another run at the Ivy League championship. At 17-16 overall and 9-3 in Ivy League action, Columbia has seen a balanced effort on both the offensive production and defensive fight this season.

As a team, Columbia ranks 36th in the nation with 1.67 stolen bases per game and 39th with 55 on the season. With speed and ability to get on base, Jordan Serena has grabbed just over half of the Lions’ swipes this season, as the sophomore ranks 10th in the nation with 23 stolen bases, while checking in at 11th nationally with just under one steal per game (0.7).

Columbia is dominating in conference play on the hill, leading the Ivy League with a team ERA of 2.27 along with 94 strikeouts (34 looking), four saves, and three pick-offs.  David Speer (4-2) holds a team-best 2.00 ERA, scattering 10 earned runs on 39 hits in 45 innings of work. Tim Giel (2-2) has also been strong on the mound with a 3.13 ERA in seven starts, allowing 16 earned runs and 47 hits in 46 innings. Joey Donino remains unbeaten at 4-0 with a 3.34 ERA.

The Lions are batting .257 as a team, led by designated hitter Joey Falcone and first basemen Alex Black, who are batting .324 and .306, respectively. With a rising .388 on-base percentage, Falcone is currently on an 11-game streak of getting on base, with hits in 10 of those contests.  Black, with a .418 on-base percentage, leads the Lions with 34 hits, five home runs and 54 total bases. Columbia has seen strength throughout the top of its order, as Nick Ferraresi leads the squad with 20 RBI, and Serena leads in doubles (10) and runs scored (26).

Princeton comes into the weekend sporting an 11-22 overall record and an 8-4 Ivy League mark. Most recently, the Tigers were downed by St. John’s by a 17-2 score in midweek non-conference action in Queens, N.Y. The Red Storm outhit Princeton by a 16-5 margin, while two pivotal errors by the Tigers in the first frame proved costly throughout the game. In comparison, the Lions earned a 5-3 victory over the Red Storm on Tuesday, April 9 at Robertson Field.

Last weekend, Princeton went 3-1 at Penn, kicking off the series with a 7-2 win behind Zak Hermans’ complete game. A ninth-inning rally fell short for the Tigers in game two, as they fell just short by an 8-7 score.  A doubleheader sweep was in order the next day, as Princeton won 7-1 in game one behind the complete game performance of Mike Ford, who let up just two hits through seven frames. The final game was a battle, forced into extra innings after the Quakers used a three-run rally in the ninth to knot the score. Princeton ultimately came away with a 7-6 win thanks to a two-out walk-off home run by Alex Keller in the 10th.

At the plate, the Tigers lead the Ivy League in conference-only games in nearly every category, including batting average (.297), on-base percentage (.380), runs scored (79), hits (116), RBI (70) and home runs (11). Individually, Keller leads the league with a .431 batting average and 22 hits in conference games, while Ford holds conference-bests with a .547 on-base percentage and 16 RBI. Successful in drawing walks, Ford has reached base 27 times, ranking 29th in the nation.

On the hill, the Princeton pitching staff has combined for a 5.64 ERA, led by the unbeaten 4-0 arm of Ford, who holds a team-low 1.15 ERA in 47 innings of work, good for 16th in the nation. The Tigers also boast the reigning Ivy League Pitcher of the Week in Hermans following his third complete game victory. In Princeton’s series-opening 7-2 victory at Penn, Hermans fanned a season-high 12 batters while holding the Quakers to two runs on five hits in seven innings on the mound. With four complete games on the season, Hermans checks in at sixth in the nation.

Columbia kicked off Lou Gehrig interdivisional play by hosting a four-game series vs. Cornell last weekend. The Lions knocked 21 hits and tallied 13 runs, while only allowing Cornell to score once in back-to-back wins over the Big Red Saturday on day one of action at Satow Stadium. The Lions took game one by a score of 8-1, and then shutout Cornell, 5-0, in game two. Joey Donino and Mike Weisman pitched a shutout gem in the second game in game two, as the Lions’ offense generated 12 hits and five runs to sink the Big Red, 5-0. The following day, Columbia earned a Sunday split against Cornell at Satow Stadium. The Lions dropped a tough 5-4 loss in the opener Sunday in 10 innings, but bounced back to capture game two by a score of 5-2.

Last season, Columbia went 3-1 over Princeton in the four-game series at Satow Stadium. Columbia won game one 4-1 behind six strong innings from Pat Lowery and started game two with a 2-0 advantage but Princeton came back in the middle innings to rally for a 5-2 win. The next day, Columbia scored twice in the seventh to come back and defeat Princeton 8-7 in game one and got out to a quick start in game two and captured the nightcap, 8-5.