Updated on March 14 at 1:20 p.m.
The Lions will spend spring break road-tripping across Texas, traveling to four schools as they continue their tough nonconference schedule. Coming off a series split against Kennesaw State, Columbia (4-4) will first face the University of Texas at San Antonio (12-5) in a four-game series this weekend.
San Antonio’s high-powered offense should test the Light Blue’s strong rotation. On the mound for the Lions, senior lefty David Speer has been dominant. In his two starts, he has struck out 13 batters and given up just two runs in 16 innings of work. Senior righty Joey Donino has also been successful with a 3.00 ERA, while sophomores Kevin Roy and Thomas Crispi have struggled on the mound. Sophomore righty Adam Cline had trouble in his first start of the season, but gave up no runs to Kennesaw in three innings of work in relief.
“The big positive with Adam [Cline] is he’s good at starting and coming out of the pen,” Columbia head coach Brett Boretti said. “With him, he throws strikes, gets a lot of ground balls, he gets a lot of contact, so he’s been good at both, and that’s a decision we’re mulling over right now, as far as where we feel he helps us the most.”
In addition to wanting to solidify the rotation, Boretti is looking at multiple pitchers who can close out games. Senior righty Zack Tax has a lot of experience in relief, sophomore righty Matt Robinson is an option after not getting playing time in 2013, and sophomore righty George Thanopoulos can strike out opponents.
San Antonio’s potent offense was on display this week as it defeated Sam Houston State on Tuesday, recording 15 hits and nine runs. Catcher John Bormann hit two homers and collected five RBIs. Seventeen games into the season, five everyday Roadrunners are batting over .300. Outfielder and leadoff hitter John Welborn already has two triples on the season and is batting .400, while fellow outfielder Jesse Baker has a .338 average and three homers. Rounding out the offense, Mitchell Matulia, Mike Warren, and Horacio Correa III boast batting averages of .327, .309, and .301, respectively.
The Lions are looking to break out offensively, but doing so against San Antonio’s pitching staff, which has a team ERA of 2.32, will be a challenge. San Antonio pitchers Nolan Trabanino and Brock Hartson lead the rotation with ERAs of 1.07 and 1.59, respectively, after four starts, while reliever Jeremy Filipek has yet to give up a run in over 10 innings of work.
“I think as a whole, as our team, our hitting hasn’t been as consistent as where we want it to be just yet—I think that’s kind of the norm at this time of the year,” Boretti said.
Most notably, 2013 second-team All-Ivy outfielder Joey Falcone has struggled at the plate, with just one hit in 24 at-bats.
“I think with Joe—I feel like his strike zone awareness is better than it was a year ago, and I don’t feel like he’s striking out a ton,” Boretti said. “At this time of the year, for some guys, they start to overthink some things, instead of just sticking with what got them there and continuing to work through it. He’s a big part of our lineup—he’s a fixture in the middle and he’ll be there when it’s all said and done.”
The upcoming week will continue to let the team see which players work best in different situations, in preparation for the Ivy season, which starts in a little over two weeks.
“I think it’s a positive—playing as much as we can during spring break,” Boretti said. “The guys are together 24/7, which is great—it’s a good bonding experience, a good team experience. And with all the games, we use a lot of pitching, we use a lot of different lineups—it’s a good opportunity to get everybody involved.”
The first game of the series is Friday at 7 p.m., followed by a doubleheader on Saturday, and a 2 p.m. game on Sunday.
A previous version of this article stated Columbia pitcher Thomas Crispi is a righty. He is a lefty. Spectator regrets the error.