NEW YORK - Under the direction of eighth-year head coach Brett Boretti, Columbia's baseball team is set to begin the 2013 season with a four-game slate at Lamar in Beaumont, Texas from March 1-3.
Due to low temperatures in the forecast, the series will begin earlier than expected. Friday's game has been moved up to 3 p.m., while Sunday's first pitch has been moved back one hour to noon.
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.
The Lions return a number of reliable arms to its rotation and bullpen in 2013 as Tim Giel, David Speer, Joey Donino, Joey Gandolfo and Spinosa will look to make an immediate impact on the mound this year.
Predicted to be the Ivy League Pitcher of the Year by Baseball America, Giel recorded a 3.83 ERA a season ago, allowing three earned runs or fewer in eight of his nine starts in 54.0 innings of work.
Speer made nine weekend starts in 2012 and ranked second on the team with 40 strikeouts in 47.2 innings pitched. Left-hander Gandolfo fanned 15 batters in 12 appearances a season ago in 13.1 IP.
Spinosa will look to anchor the bullpen after a strong rookie season in which he made a team-high 18 appearances on the mound and led the staff with four saves.
Columbia will look to co-captain Alex Black at first base, though first-year Nick Maguire will also make an impact. Black bounced back from an injury that wiped out his 2011 season to post strong offensive numbers in 2012 that earned him second team All-Ivy League honors. Playing primarily at the corner infield spots, the Woodlands, Texas native enjoyed a breakout season at the plate, leading the team with a .370 batting average to go with 40 hits, 14 which went for extra bases. He also made an appearance on the mound, pitching a scoreless two-thirds of an inning with a strikeout in Columbia's opening game at Manhattan.
Boretti expects Nick Crucet and Jordan Serena to see time at second base, as both are flexible throughout the middle infield after making 25 starts apiece last year. Crucet, who was tabbed the preseason Ivy League "best base-runner" by CollegeBaseballInsider.com, was efficient on base in 2012, stealing 10 bases in 11 tries.
At third base, David Vandercook looks poised to win the job. The sophomore played in 17 games in 2012, making seven starts at the corner infield positions.
Aaron Silbar is likely to see time at shortstop after starting 38 of 41 games as the cornerstone of the Columbia infield in his first full year as a starter last season.
Behind the plate, the Lions will turn to a familiar face in Mike Fischer, who was tabbed the preseason Ivy League "best defensive catcher" by CollegeBaseballInsider.com. Fischer made 25 starts as Columbia's top catcher last year, throwing out 41.2 percent of base runners while making just one error. Junior Enmanuel Cabreja will also see time as catcher, as he made 28 appearances while starting 17 times in 2012.
Expect to see veteran outfielder and co-captain Nick Ferraresi to make an impact in the outfield for Columbia. Ferraresi capped a strong 2012 season with his first honorable mention All-Ivy League honor. Consistent all season, he hit .310 with four home runs and 32 runs batted in. Also rotating through the outfield will be Gus Craig, Eric Williams, Logan Boyhers, Falcone and Serena, who each have unique skills and powerful bats.
All-Time Series vs. Lamar:
This season marks just the second time in program history that Columbia and Lamar have met. In their first meeting in 2009, the Cards took three out of four, but the Lions snapped Lamar's win streak to hand them their first loss of the season with a 15-8 win.