Fullerton Regional: #4 Columbia

Columbia traditionally wasn't known as one of the better programs in the academically prestigious Ivy League before Brett Boretti was hired to be the head coach prior to the 2006 season but he changed things around quickly in the Morningside Heights area of New York City.

No. 4 Seed – Columbia Lions
  • Overall Record – 27-19
  • Conference Record – 16-4 (1st place)
  • How they qualified for a regional – Automatic bid.  Won conf. championship series 2-0 against Dartmouth
  • Last regional appearance – 2008 (0-2 at Coastal Carolina regional – lost to Coastal Carolina and East Carolina)
  • RPI/ISR – 102/141 (Fullerton opponents ISR comparison – Oral Roberts 132, Hawaii 152)
  • SOS – 187 (RPI)/222 (ISR)
  • Record vs. tournament field – 1-2.  1-0 at Army, 0-2 at Miami
  • Record vs. top 50/top 100 RPI – 0-2/1-9

Season Summary

The Lions won the Ivy League championship in 2008 in his third season, which was their first conference championship since 1977, and qualified for a regional for the first time since 1976, which was their only previous appearance in a regional.  Columbia was the regular season conference champion in 2010 but lost to Dartmouth in the Ivy League championship series that is played to determine who will receive the conference's automatic bid.  The Lions were a middle of the pack team the last two years but thought they had something to build on this season despite losing Ivy League player of the year Dario Pizzano because they only lost three position players and one starting pitcher from 2012.

Columbia set up their schedule to challenge their veteran squad, going on the road to play for the first three weeks of March (Ivy League teams don't schedule games in February).  The Lions started out 2-11 after they lost all four games they played at a solid Lamar squad, lost two out of three in a competitive series at defending national champion Arizona where their losses were by one and two runs, lost three out of four games at Central Florida and lost two midweek games at Miami.  Since that road trip, Columbia is 25-9 and had the best record in the Ivy League at 16-4 with the only hiccups along the way being a two game series sweep by Dartmouth and a two game midweek sweep by Fordham.  The Lions won the Lou Gehrig division, named after one of the greatest players in baseball history and a Columbia alum, to qualify for the Ivy League championship series against Dartmouth and got revenge against the Big Green, who were 32-7 going into the series, by winning both games at home 6-5 in ten innings and 12-5 to win the conference's automatic bid.


Offense

·       Park Factor according to Boyd's World – 66 (decreases offense by 34%).  Field turf helps the fielders, bad weather most of the season helps the pitchers, unique dimensions with deep corners and a short CF with a 20 foot high fence because their ballpark is up against the Hudson River.
·       Batting Average – .268 (NCAA ranking – 174, conference ranking 3);  .286 in conf. games (1st).
·       Scoring – 219 (209, 3), 4.8 runs per game;  5.2 in conf. games (1st).
·       Home Runs – 19 (121, 2);  10 in conf. games (3rd).
·       Stolen Bases – 77-91 (32, 1);  42-46 in conf. games (1st).
·       Slugging Percentage – .374 (126, 3);  .400 in conf. games (1st).
·       On Base Percentage – .360 (129, 2);  .369 in conf. games (1st).
·       Walks – 153 (249, 2), 3.3 per game;  62 (1st) in conf. games, 3.1 per game.
·       HBP's – 63 (103, 1);  24 in conf. games (1st).
·       Sac Bunts – 50 (73, 1);  28 in conf. games (1st).
·       Strikeouts – 240 (DNR, 7), 5.2 per game;  95 (1st) in conf. games, 4.8 per game.

Columbia is an aggressive team at the plate that finished with the second most strikeouts in their conference and only had two players with over twenty walks, although both of those players have excellent BB/K ratios.  The Lions only had three players hit above .290 for the season after the team hit in the .240's during their non-conference schedule but their average went up by forty points against the softer competition they were facing in the Ivy League.  Columbia doesn't have much power with only two players having more than three HR's and they play quite a bit of little ball to put pressure on teams, leading the Ivy League in SAC bunts and averaging close to two stolen bases per game with two players having 20+ steals.  They will also stand in and take HBP's, another area they led their conference in.

Batting Order

LF – SR #12 Eric Williams (LH – .206/.337/.262, 0-15-4) doesn't have much power with only eight extra base hits (all doubles), has struggled with the bat all season and only hit .215 against Ivy League pitching.  The main positive attribute that he has at the plate is his bat control because he has an excellent 28/17 BB/K ratio and is second in the conference in walks.  Williams is also a very good bunter and was second on the team and in the conference with nine SAC bunts.

CF – Soph #3 Jordan Serena (RH – .284/.366/.401, 1-13-27) only hit .240 with three extra base hits as a FR but has been much improved this season and was 1st team All-Ivy League.  He has sixteen extra base hits and hit .300 in conference games and the main reason that he received All-Ivy League honors was his speed because he led the conference in stolen bases and was only caught stealing one time all season, using his speed to end up second in the conference in runs.  Serena will stand in and take a HBP to get on base and try to run and is second on the team and in the Ivy League with eleven HBP's.  He will also try to bunt to use his speed to get on base and is a very good bunter with seven SAC bunts.  An area that Serena struggles with is his bat control because he has a poor 11/40 BB/K ratio and led the conference in strikeouts.

1B – SR #27 Alex Black (RH – .320/.451/.510, 7-29-4) is a big guy who is the main power threat in the lineup and is the best hitter on the team.  He was 2nd team All-Ivy League and led the team and was among the leaders in the conference in AVG, OBP, SLG, HR and RBI and the player that opponents cannot let beat them.  Black was also solid in 2012 when he hit .370 and was 2nd team All-Ivy League but only started in a little over half of their games.  He has an excellent 27/17 BB/K ratio for a power hitter, was second in the conference in walks and hit .370 in Ivy League games.

DH – Soph #16 Joey Falcone (LH – .333/.398/.535, 5-27-0) is another big guy in the middle of the lineup and has solid potential after finishing among the conference leaders in HR, RBI and SLG despite starting about 2/3 of their games.  He was 2nd team All-Ivy League and hit four of his HR's in conference games.

RF – SR #6 Nick Ferraresi (RH – .270/.331/.380, 3-26-9) was honorable mention All-Ivy League as a JR when he hit .310 but hasn't had quite as good of a season but he has still been a productive player and is third on the team in HR's and RBI.  He has good speed and is also third on the team in SB's.

SS – JR #10 Aaron Silbar (RH – .314/.349/.384, 0-22-7) has been one of the most improved players on the team after only hitting .218 in 2012 and was 1st team All-Ivy League this season after hitting .343 in conference games.  He has some solid pop in his bat for a middle infielder and has eleven doubles but doesn't walk much with a 9/20 BB/K ratio.  Silbar has pretty good speed with seven SB's.

3B – Soph #18 David Vandercook (LH – .207/.348/.326, 1-16-4) has struggled at the plate and the one thing that he has excelled at is crowding the plate and getting hit by pitches because he led the Ivy League with 13 HBP's.  He has below average plate discipline with a 16/31 BB/K ratio.

2B – SR #11 Nick Crucet (RH – .271/.365/.306, 0-21-20) is a scrappy little player with excellent speed who is a threat to steal whenever he gets on base and was second in the Ivy League in SB's.  He has very little power with only five extra base hits (all doubles) but does an excellent job of putting the ball in play with only thirteen strikeouts (14/13 BB/K ratio).  Crucet is an excellent bunter who will use his speed to try to beat out bunts for hits and led the conference with 14 SAC bunts.

C – JR #4 Mike Fischer (RH – .196/.304/.304, 1-13-0) has struggled hitting all season but was 2nd team All-Ivy League due to his defense.  He has trouble making contact with a 14/29 BB/K ratio.


Defense

·       Fielding – .970 (78, 2) – 49 errors, 32 unearned runs.  Black is a good athlete at 1B, Crucet and Silbar have good range up the middle but have combined to make seventeen errors, Vandercook is solid at 3B.  Williams is average in LF, Serena and Ferraresi have very good range in CF and RF.
·       Stolen Base Attempts – 29-53 (DNR, 2).  Runners are only 19-37 against Fischer and he has been difficult to run on.
·       WP's/PB's Allowed – 55 (DNR, 8).  Fischer does not move well behind the plate so look for Fullerton to be aggressive on the bases on pitches in the dirt.


Pitching

Columbia figured their pitching would be the backbone of the team after returning three of their four starting pitchers from 2012 and they had a 3.50 ERA for the season and were excellent in Ivy League games, where they had a 1.94 ERA and allowed teams to only hit .213 against them.  The Lions had some solid arms that were also efficient because they are in the top thirty nationally in strikeouts per game and K/BB ratio.  Columbia held teams to four runs or less in 29 of their 46 games.

  • ERA – 3.50 (57/3); 1.94 in conference (1st). 
  • AVG – .355 (49/3); .213 in conference (1st). 
  • HR – 11 (DNR/1); 3 in conference (2nd). 
  • SLG – .329 (DNR/2); .263 in conference (1st).  
  • Walks – 134 (83/4), 3.2 BB's/9 IP; 38 in conference (2nd), 2.1 BB's/9 IP. 
  • HBP – 44 (DNR/7); 17 in conference (5th). 
  • OBP – .337 (DNR/3).  .281 in conference (1st). 
  • Strikeouts – 335 (16/1), 8.1 K/9 IP; 153 in conference (1st), 8.5 K/9 IP. 

Starters

JR #23 David Speer (LHP – 6-2, 2.17 ERA, 10 GS, 5 CG, 66 IP, 55 H, 15 BB, 63 K, .235 AVG, 1 HR, 6 HBP, 4 WP, 9-15 SB) was 3-1 with a 4.91 ERA in 2012 but has been much better this season and was 1st team All-Ivy League after winning all five of his conference starts with four complete games and a 1.06 ERA, led the conference in strikeouts and was second in IP.  His best start of the season could have been at Arizona when he held the Wildcats scoreless over six innings, allowing eight hits with one walk and six strikeouts.  Speer started the first game of the Ivy League championship series against Dartmouth and allowed four runs on seven hits in 7 1/3 IP with no walks and twelve strikeouts.  He isn't a hard thrower with a mid 80's fastball but he has good control of a changeup, curveball and slider to keep hitters off balance.  Speer has a good move to first and has picked off three runners.

JR #19 Joey Donino (RHP – 6-0, 3.06 ERA, 1 save, 12 apps, 8 GS, 50 IP, 42 H, 17 BB, 61 K, .228 AVG, 0 HR, 3 HBP, 9 WP, 2-3 SB) is the best prospect on the team because of his size and a low 90's fastball.  He throws from a 3/4 arm slot that is tough on RH hitters and also has a power breaking pitch that is his swing and miss pitch that he can sometimes have trouble controlling and was second in the Ivy League in wild pitches.  Donino was second in the conference in wins and strikeouts and was 2nd team All-Ivy League after going 4-0 with a 1.74 ERA in his five conference starts.  He started the second game of the Ivy League championship series against Dartmouth and allowed three runs on five hits in five innings.

SR #45 Tim Giel (RHP – 3-3, 2.73 ERA, 10 apps, 9 GS, 3 CG, 59 IP, 59 H, 13 BB, 47 K, .265 AVG, 2 HR, 9 HBP, 4 WP, 3-5 SB) led the staff in IP as a JR and was a workhorse again this season after ending up fourth in the conference in IP and was honorable mention All-Ivy League.  He was only 2-2 in his five conference starts but had an excellent 1.71 ERA with two complete games.

FR #36 Adam Cline (RHP – 3-3, 3.94 ERA, 11 apps, 7 GS, 46 IP, 42 H, 13 BB, 43 K, .251 AVG, 1 HR, 5 HBP, 5 WP, 4-8 SB) has solid upside with a good pitching frame and a solid arm but he struggled in his starts in conference and only had a 6.43 ERA in five Ivy League games.

Relievers

Columbia will let Speer pitch deep into games but they do have a deep bullpen with six relievers that have been effective and all of them have ERA's under four.

Alex Black (RHP – 0-1, 2.93 ERA, 4 saves, 12 apps, 15 IP, 16 H, 4 BB, 14 K, .271 AVG, 0 HR, 1 HBP, 0 WP, 1-2 SB) is most likely to come into a game to finish things off but they are cautious with doing that because he is also their 1B so he will usually only pitch one inning when he comes in.  He has a solid fastball that touches 90.

Stefan Olson  (RHP – 1-1, 1.86 ERA, 3 saves, 5 apps, 10 IP, 4 H, 6 BB, 11 K, .121 AVG, 0 HR, 2 HBP, 0 WP, 0-1 SB) was a starter in 2012 and was honorable mention All-Ivy League with a 3.65 ERA.  He suffered a hamstring injury and missed most of the season but returned for the last few weeks and pitched very well, throwing 3 2/3 scoreless innings to finish the conference title series clinching game with six strikeouts.

Kevin Roy (RHP – 3-1, 2.00 ERA, 13 apps, 2 GS, 27 IP, 20 H, 11 BB, 21 K, .200 AVG, 1 HR, 6 HBP, 2 WP, 2-3 SB) was honorable mention All-Ivy League and led the relievers in innings pitched.  He can tend to be wild and allowed seventeen BB's/HBP's in 27 IP.

Zack Tax (RHP – 4-1, 3.72 ERA, 11 apps, 19 IP, 20 H, 2 BB, 14 K, .282 AVG, 1 HR, 4 HBP, 3 WP, 1-1 SB) is a long reliever and would be most likely to come into a game if a starter was pulled early.

Mike Weisman (LHP – 0-1, 3.10 ERA, 3 saves, 14 apps, 20 IP, 21 H, 9 BB, 23 K, .259 AVG, 1 HR, 3 HBP, 5 WP, 1-2 SB) is a situational lefty who will be brought into a tight game if a team has some LH hitters coming up.

Thomas Crispi (LHP – 1-3, 3.38 ERA, 16 apps, 1 GS, 21 IP, 21 H, 15 BB, 16 K, .284 AVG, 0 HR, 1 HBP, 2 WP, 2-5 SB) was second in the Ivy League in appearances.


Outlook

Columbia is obviously the underdog in this regional as the four seed and Ivy League teams haven't fared well in regional play since the NCAA tournament went to the four team regional format with a 3-28 record.  The Lions have only played once since winning their conference championship series the first weekend of May so they figure to be rusty in their opening game against Fullerton.  Columbia is a squad that relies on pitching and small ball in a regional filled with teams that can bang the ball all over the yard.  The Lions have a pitching staff that could keep them in games but it doesn't look like they have the hitting to keep up with their opponents this weekend and it would be a surprise if they won a game in this regional.