NEW YORK - The Columbia baseball team continues westward to Arizona this weekend for a trio of games against the Wildcats at Hi Corbett Field, marking the first time in program history the Lions will take on a defending national championship team. The series runs from March 8-10, with Friday and Saturday's games beginning at 8 p.m. EST and Sunday's finale starting at 3 p.m. EST.

Columbia (0-4) will look for its first win of the fresh season after being swept by Lamar last weekend, which is receiving votes in the latest National Baseball Collegiate Writers Association (NBCWA) poll.

The Lions fell 5-1 in their season opener in Beaumont, Texas after Lamar's Eric Harrington tossed a complete game allowing one run on five hits. On the second day of action, the Lions dropped both ends of a doubleheader to the Cardinals by scores of 7-5 and 9-5. Columbia rallied late but could not overcome an early four-run deficit in part one of the doubleheader. Alex Black went 2-for-2 with two runs scored as he cranked his first home run of the season and added a double to lead the Lions at the plate. Aaron Silibar also stepped it up as he went 2-for-3 with a double and RBI. In the series finale, Columbia recorded nine hits but was shut down by the strong arms of Lamar's pitching staf, falling 6-0. Nick Crucet led the Lions at the plate, going 2-for-3 with one stolen base and one sacrifice hit. Aaron Silibar was also 2-for-3 on the day, increasing his batting average on the season to .417.

The Lions enter the weekend with a clean slate, as the upcoming three-game set marks the first meeting in program history between Columbia and Arizona.

Arizona (10-3) continues an 18-game homestand against the Lions this weekend at Hi Corbett Field.

The Wildcats lead the nation in triples per game (1.0) and sacrifice flies (14 overall) while checking in at sixth in stolen bases (33 overall). Trent Gilbert is ranked first in the nation with five triples on the season and third with 0.38 triples per game.

Columbia currently leads the nation in double plays as part of a three-way tie with Penn and Indiana, as each team is averaging 1.5 per outing. Jordan Serena picked up the first stolen base of the year for the Lions in their season opener, and Nick Crucet added the team's second of the season in the series finale against Lamar.

2013 LIONS
The 2013 Lions feature 20 returning letterman, including second team All-Ivy first baseman Alex Black and honorable mention All-Ivy selections Stefan Olson and Nick Ferraresi. Columbia has 10 position players with starting experience and nine pitchers that recorded innings last season. A talented class of 10 newcomers, including outfielder Joey Falcone, the 2011 CUNY and ECAC Rookie of the Year transfer from the College of Staten Island, rounds out the Columbia veterans. The Lions ended the 2012 season with 21 wins and a 12-8 Ivy League record. It was the second 20-win season and Ivy League winning season for the program in the last three years.

Columbia seniors Alex Black, Tim Giel and Nick Ferraresi will serve as Columbia's captains in the 2013 season. All three are All-Ivy League players and vocal leaders on and off the diamond.

Nick Ferraresi was recently selected as a candidate for the 2013 Senior CLASS Award. He is one of 30 NCAA baseball student-athletes in the running for the prestigious honor. An acronym for Celebrating Loyalty and Achievement for Staying in School®, the Senior CLASS Award focuses on the total student-athlete and encourages students to use their platform in athletics to make a positive impact as leaders in their communities. To be eligible for the award, a student-athlete must be classified as an NCAA Division I senior and have notable achievements in four areas of excellence - community, classroom, character and competition.

Columbia racked up a variety of preseason accolades prior to kicking off the 2013 season. Among Ivy League players, named senior outfielder Nick Ferraresi the conference's "most underrated hitter," Nick Crucet the "best baserunner" and Mike Fischer the "best defensive catcher." From a leadership standpoint, Columbia head coach Brett Boretti was picked as the "best game coach." Baseball America also previewed each league and predicted Columbia right-handed pitcher Tim Giel to be the Ivy League Pitcher of the Year.