Gehrig Division Up For Grabs as Baseball Clashes with Penn in Final Series
•Columbia and Penn enter the final Ivy League weekend of the season tied atop the Gehrig Division at 13-3.
•If one team wins three games this weekend, it will host the Ivy League Championship Series May 3-4, as the team with the best Ivy League record.
•If the Columbia and Penn split the four-game set, a one-game playoff would be needed next weekend, pushing the Ivy League Championship Series to the weekend of May 10-11.
•Columbia will honor its five seniors: Joey Donino, Mike Fischer, Aaron Silbar, David Speer and Tax, prior to Saturday’s doubleheader at Robertson Field at Satow Stadium.
•Columbia swept Penn last season to end the regular season and this senior class is 9-3 during their careers against the Quakers.
SCOUTING THE LIONS
The ‘business as usual’ mentality has paid dividends for Columbia, as it will head into the final weekend of the season sporting the nation’s longest win streak at 14 games. Since a 5-4 win at Dartmouth on April 5, Columbia has swept Ivy League foes Harvard, Princeton and Cornell, to go with defeats of Rutgers, St. John’s and Fordham, rising to the top of the Gehrig Division, matching Penn with a 13-3 conference record.
Last weekend, Columbia swept Cornell for the first time since 1994, including shutting out the Big Red in the first three games of the series. In a midweek clash, the Lions rallied from a 4-1 deficit in the second frame to top Fordham, 7-5.
Columbia’s exceptional pitching staff holds a 2.27 ERA and has sat down 132 batters during Ivy League play, pacing the conference. George Thanopoulos has struck out 31 Ivy League hitters in four conference starts, second-most among Ancient Eight hurlers. The sophomore from Highland, Calif. is a perfect 4-0 in those starts with a 1.33 ERA.
Senior left-hander David Speer is among the best command pitchers in the nation, holding a Division I best 23:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. With just two walks allowed all year, Speer is also second nationally with a 0.32 walks per nine innings average. He is 3-0 in Ivy League starts with a 1.33 ERA.
Kevin Roy has been lights out for Columbia, holding opposing batters to an Ivy League-best .197 batting average against in 45 innings of work.
Rookie standout Will Savage leads a Columbia offense that ranks second conference games with a .278 average. Savage, a local product from Bronx, N.Y., is hitting at a conference-best .446 clip against the Ivy League, while his season average of .360 in second among all Ancient Eight hitters. On the base paths, Savage has eight steals, just one behind teammate Jordan Serena for the Ivy League lead.
Savage’s stellar play has earned him three Ivy League Rookie of the Week honors, the first time ever a Columbia player has earned the award three times in one season.
Third baseman David Vandercook is enjoying a breakout year at the dish in terms of power numbers. Vandercook has 21 RBI and nine doubles in 16 conference games, leading the Ivy League. His 29 RBI on the year leads the Lions and is second in conference.
SCOUTING THE QUAKERS
The Quakers held a three-game lead in the Gehrig Division standings at the start of division play, but a 9-0 loss at home against Cornell and a split with Princeton last weekend on the road has them tied with Columbia at 13-3. Penn won the series opener, 2-0, and the finale, 6-1, against the Tigers, but dropped the two middle games, each by two runs.
Penn enters the weekend as the best-hitting team in conference play with a .284 average at the dish. Ryan Mincher has been the best hitter against Ivy League pitching for the Quakers, ranking fourth at .375. Teammates Austin Bossart (.356) and Jeff McGarry (.328) are also in the top-10 of the Ivy League rankings with averages above .325.
On the hill, Penn is second in staff ERA at 2.86, trailing Columbia by 0.59. Senior right-hander Connor Cuff has been the ace for the Quakers, posting a 5-1 overall record and a 1.16 ERA. His 1.32 ERA in conference games is fourth-lowest.
Jake Cousins also has an ERA under two at 1.50 in 30 innings of work. Cousins comes in at 4-0 on the year. Dan Gautieri is just 2-5 in eight starts this year, but the junior right-hander has a team-high 50 strikeouts.