Sports | Baseball

Baseball set to take on Rutgers

  • Vanamali Porethi for Spectator
    The Kid | First-year second baseman Will Savage has already won two Ivy League Rookie of the Week awards, the first Lion to accomplish that feat since Dario Pizzano, ’CC 13.
  • In Sync | Junior third baseman David Vandercook leads the Lions with 18 RBIs and hit a grand slam at Harvard last weekend.
  • Base Thief | Junior center fielder Jordan Serena is among the most formidable base stealers in the Ivy League.

After Tuesday’s game against St. John’s was postponed to April 16 due to poor field conditions, the Lions will travel to New Jersey Wednesday to take on Rutgers.

The Scarlett Knights (12-16) are coming off a dominant 13-3 win over Fordham, but still rank in the bottom half of American Athletic Conference after dropping two of three games this past weekend to Houston. The Lions (11-15, 5-3 Ivy) fell to Rutgers, 15-6, in 2013.

Joe Litterio replaced long-time head coach Fred Hill at the helm of the Rutgers program this season. Litterio took over a very young team—more than half of his players are first-years.

“They’re coming off a weekend they dropped two out of three to Houston, which is a top 15 team—they played them tough,” Columbia head coach Brett Boretti said. “I’m sure they’ve got a lot of guys who are looking to improve themselves and they’re going to be in the Big Ten next year. And they’re in the AAC right now, which is a really good baseball league.”

Utility player Brian O’Grady leads Rutgers offensively with a .368 average. He has started in all 28 of Rutgers’ games, and has four triples and three homers on the season. Outfielder Vinny Zarrillo and shortstop Pat Sweeney also boast impressive batting averages of .352 and .343, respectively. The Scarlet Knights are collectively hitting .289 on the year.

The young Rutgers pitching staff—which has a 5.48 ERA on the year—is led by lefty Howie Brey, who has a 1.69 ERA after six appearances, including four starts. Other starters have not been as successful, as righty Ryan Driscoll, righty Gaby Rosa, righty Kevin Baxter, and lefty Ryan Fleming—all first-years—have ERAs of 4.03, 4.25, 6.75, and 7.50, respectively. Righty Max Hermmann, also a first-year, has had success on the mound in relief, and enters the game with a 2.82 ERA after striking out 21 in 22.1 innings.

First-year lefty Ryan Marks will get the start for Columbia. He has given up one run in 4.1 innings over two appearances, and has walked three and struck out four.

“Depending on how far he progresses, it’s one of those days—it’s a Wednesday—so you feel like you want to use a few guys and at the same time not burn anybody else for the weekend coming out of the pen,” Boretti said. “So I’m sure we’ll probably use four or five guys by the time it’s all said and done.”

Offensively, first-year second baseman Will Savage was named Rookie of the Week for the second week in a row and leads the Light Blue in batting average with a .324 mark. He is the first Columbia player to be named Rookie of the Week twice in a season since Dario Pizzano, CC ’13, who now plays in the Seattle Mariners system, was honored twice in 2010.

“I think to play Rutgers midweek is a good game for us,” Boretti said. “They beat us pretty good last year, so hopefully we’re good and ready to go.”

First pitch is set for 3:30 p.m. in Piscataway, N.J.

mollie.galchus@columbiaspectator.com | @molliegalchus

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