Columbia Rallies for First NCAA Tournament Victory, Defeats New Mexico 6-5 in 13 Innings
Post-Game Press Conference
FULLERTON, Calif. – The Columbia Lions used a five-run eighth inning and a RBI single from Nick Crucet in the 13th inning to knock off New Mexico for the first NCAA Tournament win in Columbia baseball history.
The win is the first in six NCAA tournament games for Columbia, with its previous two appearances resulting in 0-2 records in 1976 and 2008. The win is also the first by an Ivy League school since Dartmouth in 2010. The Big Green downed Florida International, 15-9, in the Coral Gables Regional that year.
Columbia moves to 28-20 on the season. The 28 victories matches the 1987 program record for wins in a season by a Columbia team.
"From our end, it was a tremendous comeback," said head coach Brett Boretti in the postgame press conference. "Credit goes to our guys for staying positive mentality and staying focused on it."
Seniors Nick Crucet and Alex Black led the resilient Lions. Black got the Lions on the board first with a two-run homer in the top of the eighth, while Crucet accounted for three RBI, including the game-winner in the top of the 13th. Black then came on in the bottom of the inning and procured the save and victory for Columbia.
"From the start of the season, the start of the off season, this is the hardest working group I've been around and it feels incredible," commented Black after the game when asked about how the win felt.
"I can't describe it honestly," said Crucet when asked about his game-winning hit. "I was looking for a pitch in the zone to hit the other way and it's all a blur from there."
Similar to Friday evening, the Lions’ opponent got on the board first. Chas Harris gave the Lobos their first base runner, when he was hit by a pitch in the leadoff at bat of the bottom of the first. Following a sacrifice bunt, Mitch Garver brought Harris home with a single to left center.
The next three innings went by scoreless, but not without the Lions threatening. In both the second and third innings, Columbia advanced base runners to third base, but the Lobos were able to get out of each inning without the tying run coming around to score.
In the fifth, DJ Peterson increased the Lobos’ lead to 2-0 with an RBI double to right center. That double piggybacked Sam Haggerty’s two-bagger in the previous at bat. Giel would limit the damage in that inning to one run for New Mexico, striking out Garver for the third out.
The Lions continued to get runners aboard early, with Alex Black singling to start the sixth. He would move up to second on a wild pitch, but be stranded in scoring position once again, as Wolff would get a fly out to end the inning.
The Lobos conversely took advantage of its base runners in the bottom half of the frame, plating three to improve their lead to 5-0. Alex Allbritton recorded the first RBI with a ground-rule double that bounced over the right center wall. The Lions then changed pitchers, bringing on Joey Donino in relief, but Jared Holley was unnerved. The freshman singled up the middle to bring home two of his teammates.
Sixteen innings of play in Fullerton ended up being the necessary primer for the Columbia offense, as the eighth inning saw the Lions score five runs on three hits and three walks.
Jordan Serena got things going with a one-out double to right center. Black then stepped up and ripped a shot over the left field wall to cut the Lobos’ lead to three, 5-2. A trio of walks followed, with Falcone, Aaron Silbar and David Vandercook taking four balls to load the bases. Crucet then posted his first clutch hit of the contest, knocking a 2-2 pitch to right field for a two-RBI single, closing the gap to just one, 5-4. Mike Fischer provided the equalizer with a single to center field to bring in Vandercook.
The next four innings passed with relative ease despite the growing tension at Goodwin Field. Donino continued to compile the strikeouts, bringing his total to eight for the game.
In the 13th, the Lions found themselves reverting back to their old ways, using the small-ball mentality to manufacture runs. Nick Ferraresi opened the inning with a single on a 1-2 count and then he advanced to second on a Silbar sacrifice bunt. Two batters later, Crucet made contact with the first pitch he saw, sending a grounder through the right side, giving Ferraresi the ability to score the go-ahead run from second. The RBI was Crucet’s third of the game and second clutch hit of the ball game.
Black then came on, and after a lead-off walk, he got a pair of ground outs to make it two outs with a runner on third. Going up against one of the best hitters in the nation in Peterson, Black sat down the Lobo’s power bat with a strikeout, sending the Columbia faithful into a frenzy.
Black finished the game 3-for-5 with two RBI, to go with his fifth save of the season, tying the Lions’ single season record. Serena, Joey Falcone, Ferraresi and Crucet all finished with two hits as Columiba pounded out 13 hits as a team.
Columbia is back on the diamond tomorrow at 7 p.m., taking on Arizona State. The winner of that game will advance to take on Cal State Fullerton at 11 p.m.