Princeton Wins Two Close Contests on Monday, Dashing Columbia's Gehrig Division Hopes
PRINCETON, N.J. – Although the Lions held leads in both games on Monday, Princeton pitchers Mike Ford and Matt Grabowski held the Columbia offense in check most of the way, allowing Princeton to win game one, 3-2, before rallying in the nightcap for a 4-2 victory to clinch at least a share of the Gehrig Division title. With the two losses on Monday, the Lions were eliminated from a shot at a second straight Gehrig Division crown.
The Tigers struck for a run in the first inning against Lion starter Dan Bracey. Matt Bowman led off with a single and Mike Ford and Sam Mulroy each singled with one out. With the bases loaded, Steve Harrington hit a grounder on the infield and beat the relay throw to first base as Princeton went ahead, 1-0.
After Bracey retired the side in order in the second, Columbia took a 2-1 lead in the third. Nick Ferraresi started the frame with a single on an 0-2 pitch and moved up to second on a sacrifice bunt by Aaron Silbar. Ford then plunked Mike Fischer with a 3-2 pitch and both runners moved into scoring position on a long fly ball out by Alex Godshall.
Crucet then drove a 2-1 pitch the other way into right center and legged out a two-run triple that scored both Ferraresi and Fischer, putting the Lions on top, 2-1.
In the bottom of the third, Princeton's Sam Mulroy drove in the tying run with a two-out double and Harrington flared one that dropped just fair inside the left field line to plate the go-ahead run as the Tigers regained the lead, 3-2.
Columbia had a chance to tie in the sixth when Crucet walked with one out and stole second base with two outs. Ford was able to work around the one-out walk in the sixth and then closed out the game with a 1-2-3 seventh inning.
Bracey allowed three runs on eight hits in six innings. He did not walk a batter and struck out three in his second complete game of the season.
Columbia starter Geoff Whitaker was in control early on the mound, setting down the first 13 Princeton batters to come to the plate.
Princeton starter Kevin Link was nearly as good, allowing a single to Nick Ferraresi in the second and nothing more through the first four innings.
In the fifth, Ferraresi collected his second straight single with one out. Two batters later, Alex Ferrera hit a towering shot over the center field fence for his first home run of the season that gave Columbia a 2-0 advantage.
The Tigers finally reached Whitaker for a base hit in the fifth when Steve Harrington singled with one out but Whitaker got Alex Flink on a ground ball that Ferrera made a nice play on and then Whitaker struck out Ryan Albert to end the inning.
Columbia continued to lead 2-0 heading into the bottom of the sixth when Princeton struck for three runs on five hits, all singles, as the tying and go-ahead runs came home on two-out base hits.
Matt Grabowski, who came on in relief of Link after he allowed the two-run homer to Ferrera, settled in after walking three of the first five batters he faced.
Columbia received base hits in each inning from the sixth to the ninth inning and had the potential tying run on second base in the eighth when Jason Banos doubled with two outs but Grabowski got the final out of the inning on a fly ball to center.
Princeton tacked on an insurance run in the eighth to lead 4-2 and Grabowski worked around a leadoff single to Ferraresi in the ninth inning to finish the game and earn the victory in relief.
Whitaker tossed a complete game for Columbia, his second of the season. He did not walk a batter in eight innings and struck out eight, a career high for the senior right-hander.
Columbia is back in action on Wednesday, April 27 in a doubleheader at Fordham, beginning at 4 p.m.
Geoff Whitaker had tied his career high for strikeouts in a game (seven) in a complete-game win at Yale earlier this season ... Nick Ferraresi went 3-for-4 in the second game and had four hits in seven at-bats in the doubleheader ... in game two, Princeton hurlers Kevin Link and Matt Grabowski each threw 54 pitches and each threw 30 of those 54 pitches for strikes ... Alex Ferrera's home run was the 17th of his career, which ranks ninth all-time in program history at Columbia ... Nick Crucet's two-run triple was his third three-base hit of the season ... Banos stroked his eighth double of the season in game two and the 43rd of his career, moving him six behind the all-time mark in Columbia history (49) set by former teammates Matt Buckmiller '02 and Billy Hess '03.