NEW YORK – In its Ivy League opener, Columbia hit, hustled, pitched and fielded its way to a doubleheader sweep of Harvard. The Lions captured the first game, 8-3, thanks to three multi-run innings and rallied, then held off Harvard in the second game to win 8-6.
Senior hurler Joe Scarlata took the mound for the opener and worked around a single in each of the first two innings to keep the Crimson off the scoreboard.
In the bottom of the second, Mike Roberts drove an 0-1 fastball over the wall in straightaway center field for his second home run of the season to open the scoring. The next batter, Anthony Potter, then took his turn, connecting for back-to-back homers to lift Columbia to a 2-0 lead after two.
Harvard promptly came back in the third with a two-out rally. After sharp singles by Taylor Meehan and Matt Rogers, Harry Douglas doubled into the left-center field gap to tie the game at 2-2.
Patient at the plate all day, Columbia then scored four times in the bottom of the third to open up a 6-2 lead. With two outs after getting the first two runners aboard, Alex Ferrera singled sharply through the left side to load the bases.
Billy Rumpke then drew a four-pitch walk, which chased Harvard starter Dan Berardo from the game. Marcus Way came on in relief and allowed a two-run double to Jon Eisen, making it 5-2. After Nick Cox walked, Dean Forthun drew Columbia's third walk of the inning to plate another run, giving the Lions a 6-2 edge.
Columbia scored twice in the bottom of the fourth on run-scoring singles from Ferrera and Eisen.
After Scarlata allowed a solo home run to Tom Stack-Babich to lead off the fourth inning, he shut down the Crimson from there, retiring 11 straight Harvard batters until allowing a two-out walk in the seventh.
Scarlata got the final out on a groundout to give the Lions the win in their league opener, while picking up his first win of the season.
Dan Bracey took the ball for the Lions in the second game and worked around a pair of Harvard singles to start the first inning to put up a zero in the opening frame.
Columbia quickly took a 1-0 lead after Jon Eisen led off with an opposite field single on the ninth pitch of his at bat. After Nick Cox moved Eisen to second on a groundout, Dean Forthun came through with a run-scoring double to plate Eisen with the first run of the game.
After retiring the side in order in the second, Bracey ran into trouble in the third. The first four Crimson batters reached and two runs came across to give Harvard a 2-1 lead. Harvard would make it 3-1 on an RBI groundout to cap the inning's scoring.
Columbia came back with an unearned run in the fourth after a leadoff walk issued to Alexander Aurrichio, who was erased on a fielder's choice. With Ron Williams on first and one out, Mike Roberts hit one that the third baseman gloved but threw low to first. The ball skipped down the right field line and Williams came all the way around to slide into home ahead of the throw, bringing the Lions within a run.
The Lions tied up it the fifth on another hustle play. After Jon Eisen walked with one out, Chris Meininger entered as a pinch runner. Nick Cox ripped a single into left field to put runners on first and second. Dean Forthun then flied out to medium-deep right field and Meininger tagged to go to third.
Meininger made it to third and after seeing the throw miss the cutoff man, Cox broke for second. After receiving the throw from the outfield, Harvard third baseman Harry Douglas tried to nail Cox at second, but his throw skipped under the second baseman's glove into the outfield, allowing Meininger to score the tying run.
Bracey and Harvard starter Conner Hulse continued to pitch well, keeping the game at 3-3 until what became a decisive bottom of the eighth.
Cox continued to be a thorn in Harvard's side, starting the Columbia eighth with a single that found the hole on the left side, and soon advanced to second on a wild pitch. Dean Forthun then drove home the go-ahead run with a sharp double just inside the left field line to score Cox, making it 4-3.
Harvard's Jonah Klees came into the game to face pinch-hitter Kyle Roberts in his first at-bat of the season. Roberts then laid down a beautiful bunt base hit between third and the mound to put runners at the corners.
After Roberts stole second, Mike Roberts was intentionally walked, bringing Anthony Potter to the plate. The sidearming Klees got the count to 0-2 before Potter fouled off a pair of nasty sinkers. Potter finally got a pitch he could handle and drove it the other way, into the left field corner for a bases-clearing double, giving Columbia a 7-3 lead.
Alex Ferrera singled home Potter to give Columbia an 8-3 lead heading into the bottom of the ninth.
Harvard made it interesting with three runs in the ninth, all coming with two out, against Zach Epstein, who came into finish the game. After a two-run homer by Matt Rogers made it 8-6, Epstein got the final out when Ron Williams made a diving stop at first base and beat Harvard's Harry Douglas to first base, completing the sweep for the Lions.
Bracey won his second straight outing to improve his record to 2-3 this season.
With each team coming off doubleheader sweeps on Saturday, Columbia and Dartmouth will meet tomorrow, Sunday, March 29 at Robertson Field, for a doubleheader slated to begin at noon.