Last season, the Columbia baseball team’s quest for back-to-back Ivy titles was cut short due to an injury-stricken lineup. So for the past few months, the Light Blue has kept busy with 13 Lions competing in various summer leagues. Among the baker’s dozen were junior Nick Cox and sophomores Jon Eisen and Pat Lowery. If the summerball results are at all indicative of the upcoming season, then the Light Blue have reason to be optimistic.
Outfielder Nick Cox performed well with the Mat-Su Miners in Palmer, Alaska, batting .293 with 39 hits in 41 games. Cox, who hit an admirable .290 in 2009, totaled 20 RBI with a .392 on-base percentage and 27 runs scored during the summer. Cox ranked atop several offensive categories for the Miners and contributed to the team winning its six-team division with an overall record of 31-17.
Junior Roger Aquino took the mound but stayed a little closer to home by pitching for the Allegany County Nitros of the New York Collegiate Baseball League. Aquino was the Nitros’ No. 1 pitcher, leading the squad in ERA (2.27) and innings pitched (35.2). Additionally, Aquino threw two complete games in four starts and snagged 27 strikeouts while only surrendering 24 hits. These impressive stats are a sign of improvement for Aquino, who struggled with a 6.64 ERA and 1-3 record last season.
“Last year wasn’t my strongest and this summer was a big-time help because it basically solidified that I was going to be doing better this upcoming season,” Aquino said.
Jon Eisen also experienced success this summer playing alongside teammate Pat Lowery for the Monmouth Monarchs in New Jersey’s Atlantic Baseball Confederation Collegiate League.
“I would say the competition level was below that of the Ivy League,” Eisen explained. “We don’t play as many games in the ABCCL, but I was one of the only guys on the team who was able to start every game so I was really able to get my reps in and get better for the season.”
Eisen, who had the second-best batting average for the Lions in 2009 at .331, hit .320 for the Monarchs in 122 at-bats. Eisen’s league-leading 39 hits, 28 runs scored, and 21 stolen bases earned him the opportunity to play in the ABCCL All-Star Game. While Eisen posted outstanding offensive numbers, he focused on improving his fielding as well.
“One thing I really wanted to work on this summer was my defense,” Eisen said. “The ability to play second base every game and really work on getting better in the field was probably the most important thing I got out of the summer.”
And his hard work at second paid off as he recorded a much-improved .954 fielding percentage with only six errors this summer after finishing last season with a .936 fielding percentage and committing 12 errors.
Pitcher Pat Lowery joined Eisen on the Monarchs and fanned 30 batters over his 36 innings on the mound. Lowery went 4-3 in his nine appearances with a 5.25 ERA and a 1.6 WHIP.
Sophomore reliever Harrison Slutsky proved to be a valuable asset for the Staunton Braves in Virginia’s Valley Baseball League. Slutsky helped carry the Braves to the league’s playoffs with 20 strikeouts over 36.2 innings of work and a 2.70 ERA. Slutsky, who went 2-2 with a 6.57 ERA last season, was more consistent this summer than he was with the Lions this past season.
Zach Epstein, Brain Valero, Mark Heil, Anthony Potter, Billy Rumpke, and Kevin Roberts also participated in summer leagues to refine their games before the start of the Ivy League play.
When Lions kick off the 2010 season this March, all eyes will be looking for signs of improvement.