NEW YORK – After a dramatic walk-off home run by sophomore Joey Falcone to steal game one from Penn (22-19, 7-11 Ivy), 3-2, the Columbia baseball team (22-19, 14-4 Ivy) left little doubt that they would capture the Gehrig Division, dominating the Quakers 14-1 in game two. With the doubleheader sweep, the Lions captured their fourth Lou Gehrig Division championship in program history and are in the driver’s seat to host the 2013 Ivy League Championship.
The Lions will be making their first appearance in the Ivy League title series next weekend since the 2010 campaign. If the Lions are able to finish off the sweep of the Quakers Saturday in Philadelphia, they will host the championships series at Satow Stadium, just as they did in 2010. Columbia faced Dartmouth that year, the current leader of the Rolfe division.
A sweep of Penn Saturday would also give Columbia 16 Ivy League wins, surpassing the program-best 15 set in 2008. That year Columbia beat Dartmouth in the rubber match of the best-of-three series to earn a trip to the NCAA Baseball Championship.
GAME ONE RECAP
Sophomore Joey Falcone hit a two-run walk-off home run into the Harlem River to lead the Lions to a 3-2 victory over the University of Pennsylvania, bringing Columbia baseball one game closer to the Ivy League Lou Gehrig Division title. David Speer (6-2, 5-0 Ivy League) pitched his fifth complete game to pick up the win.
Penn took the first lead of the game in the top of the second after Austin Bossart hit an infield single and Joey Greco sent him home to score with a double to left center, giving the Quakers a 1-0 lead.
Columbia came back to even the score in the fourth frame. Aaron Silbar led off with a single to center field and advanced to second with a base hit into left center off the bat of David Vandercook. A sacrifice bunt by Nick Crucet put them both into scoring position at second and third, and Mike Fischer allowed Silbar to reach home with a sacrifice fly to deep center field.
The Quakers came right back to in the top of fifth with a run of their own to retake a one-run advantage, 2-1. Mitch Montaldo opened the inning with a walk and then advanced around to third on a Gary Tesch sacrifice bunt and Michael Vilardo single. Brandon Engelhardt provided the go-ahead hit, racing out an RBI bunt down the first base line, while Montaldo ran home.
The Lions threatened to even the score in the sixth, putting two runners aboard with two outs, but the Quakers were able to get out of the inning with a strikeout.
Speer came on in the seventh and sat down all three batters on strikes, bringing his game total to 8 k’s and setting the stage for the heart of the Lions’ order in final half inning of the contest.
Alex Black, who went 2-for-4 in game one, ripped a 0-1 pitch to right field for a double to get things started. That brought cleanup hitter Falcone to the dish. Falcone, who had singled back in the third, crushed a 1-2 pitch to dead center over the raised wall at Satow Stadium and was then mobbed at the plate as his fourth home run of the year gave Columbia a walk-off 3-2 win over Penn.
Speer came away with his sixth victory of the season, allowing just the two runs on seven hits. Leadoff hitter Eric Williams joined Black and Falcone in going 2-for-4 in the game, as the Lions tallied nine hits over seven innings. John Beasley took the loss for Penn, giving up the Falcone homer.
Between games the Lions honored their seven seniors in front of the large crowd at Satow Stadium. Alex Black, Nick Crucet, Nick Ferraresi, Tim Giel, Ricky Kleban, Stefan Olson and Eric Williams were each recognized for their contributions to the Columbia baseball program during their careers.
GAME TWO RECAP
The second game of Friday’s doubleheader saw the Lions’ offense feed off the Falcone walk-off, as Columbia battered four Penn hurlers for 14 runs on 13 hits in an exceptional 14-1 performance. Falcone, just a sophomore, slammed another dinger in the second inning and finished the game with five RBI, going 2-for-3 and getting hit by a pitch. Williams, Black and Mike Fischer also recorded multi-hit games to ensure junior Joey Donino would remain unbeaten from the hill.
Donino gave up just one run on seven hits in six innings of work. He struck out six Penn hitters, before giving way to the Columbia bullpen, which continued to shutdown the Quakers. Zack Tax, Thomas Crispi and Kleban each threw one inning for Columbia, allowing no runs and just one hit.
Columbia jumped out quickly in the bottom of the first with a trio of runners crossing the plate. Falcone posted his first two RBI of the game, bashing a double to right field to plate Black and Williams. Two batters later, Aaron Silbar cranked a single through the left side to bring in Falcone for his first of two RBI in the game.
The second inning brought more runs for Columbia, and once again a familiar face was responsible for the tallies. With Black on first following his second hit of the game, Falcone belted a 1-1 pitch over the right field fence, his fifth of the season, extending the Lions’ lead to 5-0.
Fischer got in on the action in the third frame with his first RBI of the game, a single to left that scored Crucet. The Quakers were finally able to keep Columbia from scoring in the fourth, but the fifth saw the floodgates open.
Penn got on the board in the top half of the inning with an Engelhardt RBI, but Columbia responded fiercely, posting an eight-spot on the Quakers in the bottom half. Seven Columbia student-athletes registered a RBI in the inning, while Fischer scored on a wild pitch to push the Lions’ lead to 13 runs, 14-1. The Quakers’ pitching struggled through the inning, as three Penn hurlers took the hill, walking four Columbia batters and hitting two more with pitches.
The scoring would end there for both clubs, as the Lions cruised to the Gehrig Division championship, highlighted by senior Kleban pitching the ninth inning. Columbia’s four seniors that primarily play the field (Black, Crucet, Ferraresi and Williams), accounted for 11 of the 22 hits for the Lions Friday.
On the day, Falcone and Black each finished 4-for-7 at the plate. The senior, Black, scored four times and drove in a pair of runs, while the sophomore, Falcone, racked up seven RBI and scored three times to go with his two home runs.
These two squads will be at it again Saturday, this time at Meiklejohn Stadium in Philadelphia. The final regular season doubleheader for both the Lions and Quakers will begin at 1 p.m.