Coming off its second straight Ivy League Championship, the baseball team will begin regional play Friday in Coral Gables, Florida.
This season has already been a historic one for the Lions (29-18, 15-5 Ivy). After sweeping Dartmouth in the Ivy League Championship Sereies for the second year in a row, the Light Blue took took two-of-three from Bucknell (30-19-1)—which is also tournament-bound—to set a new program record with 29 victories on the year. Columbia, which earned its first-ever NCAA tournament win in 2013 against New Mexico, will now have a chance to make a splash on the national stage once again.
With senior lefty David Speer recovering from an emergency appendectomy that was performed Monday, sophomore righty George Thanopoulos will get the nod for Columbia in its first game of the double-elimination NCAA regional against No. 23 Texas Tech (40-18). Thanopoulos is 5-2 with a 2.81 ERA and three saves on the year, one of which came in the Lions’ decisive game 2 win over the Big Green in the ILCS that clinced the title.
The Red Raiders’ bats will not make things easy for Thanopoulos.
First baseman Eric Gutierrez headlines a potent Texas Tech lineup that is hitting a collective .294 and slugging .422 on the season—the best team marks in the Big 12. Individually, Gutierrez led the conference with 12 home runs and 56 RBIs, to go along with a .313 average and a .416 on-base percentage.
The other two teams in the Lions’ regional are Miami and Bethune-Cookman, which will play Friday at 7 p.m. The Hurricans are the regional’s top seed, followed in order by Texas Tech, Columbia, and the Wildcats. The Light Blue will be the Ivy League’s first-ever three-seed at an NCAA regional.
The game against the Red Raiders is slated for 2 p.m., and will be available to stream on ESPN3. The losers of the first two games will play each other Saturday at 2 p.m., and the winners will play the same day at 7 p.m. Sophomore righty Kevin Roy will start the Lions’ second game.