NEW YORK – The Columbia baseball team (20-19, 13-4 Ivy) will close out the 2013 regular season this weekend with a home-and-home series against Penn (22-17, 7-9 Ivy). The opening doubleheader will take place at Satow Stadium in New York on Friday, April, 26 with the final two games being held in Philadelphia at Penn’s Meiklejohn Stadium on Saturday, April 27. Both doubleheaders will begin at 1 p.m.

The Lions head into the final weekend with a three-game lead on Princeton and Cornell in the Gehrig Division and a one-game advantage on Dartmouth, the Rolfe Division leader, for the Ivy League lead. With two wins this weekend, Columbia ensures a spot in the Ivy League Championship and with one more win than Dartmouth, the Lions will secure the Ivy League’s best regular season record and host the title series at Satow Stadium. Dartmouth will play a similar home-and-home series with Harvard this Saturday and Sunday. The Big Green holds a four-game lead on the Crimson in the Rolfe Division.

In between games Friday, the Lions will take some time to honor the seven seniors on the 2013 roster. Alex Black, Nick Crucet, Nick Ferraresi, Tim Giel, Ricky Kleban, Stefan Olson and Eric WIlliams will be recognized for their contributions to the Columbia baseball program.

Scouting Columbia
The Lions are 3-3 over the last six games. Columbia visited Fordham for a midweek double-dip at Houlihan Park Wednesday, with the Rams capturing both games as the Lions played a varied lineup from their weekend starters. Last weekend, the Lions came away with another Ivy League series victory, taking three of four from Princeton on the road.

Pitching has been the strongest catalyst for Columbia’s success during conference action. The Lions lead the Ancient Eight in ERA during conference play at 2.01. Columbia has thrown a league-high 130 innings, striking out 125 batters and has given up just 29 earned runs in 16 games.

David Speer has been the spearhead of the Columbia pitching staff, leading the Ivy League with a 4-0 conference record and a 0.67 ERA. The junior’s overall ERA of 1.73 places him fourth the Ivy League and ranks as the 54th lowest in the nation. Speer also ranks ninth in the country with four complete games this season. Columbia has also gotten stellar outings from Joey Donino and Tim Giel. Donino is unbeaten in conference contests at 3-0, checking in with a 1.80 ERA. Also a junior, Donino has been a strikeout machine, mowing down 51 opposing hitters for an average of 11.77 sit downs per nine innings, the seventh highest total in the nation. Despite a 1-2 record in the Ivy League, Giel has posted a 2.10 ERA over 25.2 innings of work.

At the plate, the Lions have used a variation of power and speed to produce runs. With six home runs this season, Alex Black leads the Ivy League, while slugging at a .488 clip. The senior is also second on the club with a .310 batting average. Aaron Silbar’s .316 batting average and 42 hits are the top marks for the Lions heading into the regular season finale.

A pair of speedsters on the base paths have also led to the Lions’ ability to manufacture runs. Sophomore Jordan Serena and senior Nick Crucet have combined to snag 42 of Columbia’s 67 steals. Serena’s 26 stolen bases places him 11th in the national rankings.

Scouting Penn
The Quakers played their way out of contention for the 2013 Ivy League title, dropping the final three games of a four-game set at Cornell last weekend. Penn took the series opener against the Big Red, 6-0, behind Connor Cuff’s five-hit shutout, but only scored five runs the remainder of the series to fall in the next three games.

Penn’s lineup has been anchored by Ryan Deitrich, the league leader in batting average (.406) and hits (54). The senior has 15 extra-base hits, including four homers. Where Deitrich really excels though, is getting on base. With a .518 OBP, the Collegeville, Pa. native ranks sixth in the country.

Michael Vilardo and Spencer Branigan are also hitting at a rate above .300, with Vilardo coming in at .327 and Branigan at .313. Vilardo, a freshman from Cary, Ill. is one of the nation’s leaders in doubles, slamming 18 on the season to rank eighth in Division I baseball. As a club, The Quakers have racked up 82 doubles on the year, the 35th-highest total nationwide.

Where Columbia has been top-notch, the Quakers have struggled, ranking in the bottom half of the Ivy League with a team ERA of 4.50 against conference opponents. Dan Gautieri, who comes in with a 5-2 overall record, is the only starter with a sub-4.00 ERA at 2.29. Fellow five-game winner Cuff is third on the squad with a 4.56 ERA, while teammate Jeff McGarry edges him with a 4.41 mark. 

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.

WIth three RBI in the Lions game at Rutgers on April 2, senior Nick Ferraresi reached the 100 RBI mark for his career. The Wellington, Fla. native currently has 106 RBI, good for seventh all-time.

Tim Giel has sat down 136 batters during his Columbia career, including 40 batters this season. After tallying four strikeouts against Princeton, David Speer has now joined his classmate in the 100-K club, with 100 K’s on his career.

Ranked fourth in the Ivy League with a rising .438 on-base percentage, Alex Black is currently on a 13-game streak of reaching base, nearing his season-long 14 streak earlier this season. Eric Williams has recorded the longest streak of the year after reach base on 19 consecutive at bats.