NEW YORK - Columbia skipper Brett Boretti took some time out to recap the Lions' fall season and look ahead to the upcoming 2011 campaign as Columbia looks to return to the top of the Ivy League after having won two of the last three Gehrig Division titles.

Below are Boretti's comments on the Columbia fall season with an eye toward the spring season.

On the fall season in general:

We had a very productive fall. I think the fall season is always good for us as a staff to see the veteran guys coming back, how they look after a good summer of baseball. We had 15 guys who played in NCAA-sanctioned leagues and came back in good shape and ready to go.  The first-year guys coming in, it's their first experience of college baseball and we get them acclimated to the way we do things here. We waited a little longer this year to play our first games so we had about two and a half weeks of practice with the group before we scrimmaged New Haven University. 

On the pitching staff:

In the New Haven scrimmage, our pitching was very good and we feel that our strength this year is our pitching staff.  We return almost all of our pitchers from a year ago.  We graduated two seniors who worked out of the bullpen for us so each of our starters are back and I think our freshmen have added some quality depth to that group that will complement them well.  [Dan] Bracey, [Pat] Lowery, [Tim] Giel, [Stefan] Olson, [Geoff] Whitaker and [Harrison] Slutsky being the six returners that I see are stepping forward and really stepped their game up.  They've made it competitive to see who will be the four starters on the weekend.  That's something that will be determined down the road and during the preseason and during the early part of the season but I think there's good competition to see who are our starting four will be.

As freshmen on the hill, Dave Speer had a really good fall. He was impressive. We brought in a couple lefties and we need some more lefty depth and Dave really demonstrated his pitch ability right away.  He's got three good pitches he can locate very well.  Zack Tax is a right-hander who has made the most impact from the right side as a first-year guy.  He's a little more of a power pitcher than Dave and he has a couple different arm angles he uses so I can see us using him in a variety of roles in the spring.

On the competition at catcher:

We lost our catcher, Dean Forthun, who was a two-time All-Ivy guy and had been a leader here so we have a lot of competition behind home.  Mark Heil is competing with Mike Fischer and Enmanuel Cabreja and I think defensively we'll be in good shape there.  I think each of them brings some different things that they do well so it will be an interesting dogfight to see who comes out of that group to be the number-one catcher.

On the team's depth:

I think one thing that we've really tried to stress here and that's helped us develop as a program is competition, day in and day out.  I think we're deep at a lot of spots and it's very competitive.  It's something these guys realize when they come out to practice every day that they're competing against the guy next to him.  There are no set positions, there's no set lineup and I think that's really driven them to get better and better each day.

On Alex Ferrera leading the infield:

Al was kind of an unsung hero for us last year.  He played his best defensive shortstop that I think he's played since he's been here.  He's really tuned in and locked in this year to do some real good things and I'm excited for him to do a good job there.

On the outfield:

We have four good outfielders who we feel can play everyday.  Billy Rumpke filled in at center field last year and started the majority of the season after Nick [Cox] got hurt and Cox is back for his senior year and he's looking very good.  He's healthy and we have some very good athletes with Bill and with Nick out there.  From a hitting standpoint, we also have [Dario] Pizzano and [Nick] Ferraresi in that outfield as well.  Collectively, guys have done a good job in the fall and they're doing a good job in their individual and offseason program in working real hard to get better.

On the early season schedule:

We have always played an aggressive schedule early and that didn't change this year.  We open up under the lights at Stetson on Friday night in a tournament with Stetson, Illinois and Central Michigan, three very good opponents to open up with. 

During spring break, we're going into the deep south to play some very good teams.  Four games at South Alabama is going to be an eye-opening experience for some of the city guys who have never been down to Alabama before.  That will start off spring break on a very good note.  Coach Kittrell is retiring this year and he's a living legend.  Personally I'm excited to go down and play a program like that with the success he's had there. 

Florida Gulf Coast is a program that has been on the rise since they've become a four-year school.  They've done a great job recruiting and they're a power in Florida now, and UCF is another power in Florida now. Coach Terry Rooney, who I've known for a while, has done a heck of a job recruiting and landing top 10, top 20 recruiting classes the last couple of years.  We've got our work cut out for us in that early schedule.  That's why we play them.  We want to play the best, and play them the best we can, so when we come home, we know that we're ready to go.