For the first time since 2002, the baseball team picked up a win in its season opener, taking down the University of South Florida on Friday.
The Lions (2-2) went on to earn a split in the four-game series against a Bulls (9-2) team that had already seen some action. Columbia, on the other hand, came in without having had much of a chance to get in a rhythm, as snow severely limited the Light Blue’s practice options.
“I think our expectations coming down here was ... if we played to our potential, we were going to be able to be successful,” Columbia head coach Brett Boretti said. “To come away with a split—it’s not satisfying by any means at all, but we’ll take it and learn from it.”
Senior David Speer pitched Game 1 for the Lions and turned in a stellar performance. The lefty tossed eight scoreless innings, striking out eight and walking none. The only run in the game came in the top of the first—off a single by Columbia senior shortstop Aaron Silbar—but that proved to be all the offense that the Light Blue would need in the 1-0 victory.
“His command was outstanding,” Boretti said of Speer. “He was just working both sides of the plate with the fastball. … He was dropping in his curveball in different situations, he’d go to a cutter in different situations, and he just kept them off balance. It was a great performance.”
The Lions jumped out to a 2-0 series lead after taking the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader. Senior righty Joey Donino started for the Lions, and despite surrendering four walks in three innings of work, gave up only one run. The game went to the ninth knotted at 4-4, thanks in part to two innings of scoreless relief by sophomore righty George Thanopoulos, and the Light Blue broke through in the top of the final frame.
Junior center fielder Jordan Serena doubled home first-year second baseman Will Savage to put Columbia up 5-4, and Silbar plated Serena to give the Lions a two-run edge.
Thanopoulos retired the Bulls in order in the bottom of the ninth to seal the 6-4 win.
But things went sour for Columbia in the second game of the doubleheader.
“Game 2 on Saturday got away from us,” Boretti said. “Tie ball game after three, and then they get an eight-spot in the big inning. We’re putting too many guys on base, and they ended up getting a couple hits and hitting their way in. That one got a little ugly.”
Sophomore righty Adam Cline had a rough start, giving up six runs in 3.1 innings, and the Lions couldn’t recover, ultimately losing 13-5.
The finale didn’t go Columbia’s way either, as the Light Blue’s pitchers struggled with command, giving up 10 walks and hitting three batters.
“Today was disappointing, to be honest with you. We really felt that we were in a position to take the series and win today,” Boretti said after Sunday’s game. “It’s tough. We gave them 13 free bases, and in today’s game, you’re not going to really beat too many teams when you do that. That was a bit of a disappointment, because we could’ve shown better today.”
Sophomore pitcher Kevin Roy was saddled with the loss in the 7-2 Lion defeat.
Columbia will be back in action next weekend at Kennesaw State in Kennesaw, Ga.
Myles Simmons contributed reporting.