After a 13-2 rout of Rutgers on Wednesday, Columbia (12-15, Ivy 5-3) will host Lou Gehrig Division rival Princeton (9-15, 4-2 Ivy) in two doubleheaders this weekend. Last year, the Lions took three of four against Princeton and finished the season five games ahead of the Tigers.
The Tigers are currently in second place in the division, five games behind Penn and two games ahead of Columbia. Last weekend, Princeton took both games of a doubleheader against Brown on Saturday, but was swept by Yale on Sunday.
Outfielder Danny Baer leads the Tigers' offense with a .351 average in 17 games, but utility player Alec Keller is close behind, batting .348 after starting all of the team's 23 games.
Other bright spots in Princeton's lineup include sophomore shortstop Danny Hoy, who is batting .319, and utility player Zack Belski, who is batting .313. The team is hitting .266 overall.
The pitching staff, with an overall ERA of 6.09, is led by lefty Michael Fagan, who enters the series with a 2.48 ERA.
“I know we're going to see good pitching—their starting pitching has improved,” Columbia head coach Brett Boretti said.
Fagan has pitched two complete games this season and has struck out 38 batters in 29 innings. Righty Chad Powers, righty Cameron Mingo, and lefty Keelan Smithers make up the rest of the starting rotation and have ERAs of 5.18, 3.63, and 6.37, respectively.
Righty Luke Strieber has a 7.94 ERA after pitching 22.2 innings, mostly in relief. Righty Jonathan York has fared better, entering the series with a 4.30 ERA after pitching 14.2 innings and notching four saves. Lefty Chris Bodurian has held opponents to a .146 batting average after pitching 13.1 innings.
Columbia's starters for the weekend—senior lefty David Speer, sophomore righty George Thanopoulos, senior righty Joey Donino, and sophomore righty Kevin Roy—enter the series with a 3.72 ERA, while the pitching staff as a whole has an ERA of 4.34.
“Dave, he's been pitching great all year. He's definitely our leader, one of the leaders of the team,” Boretti said. “I think guys are comfortable, and they know he's going to give his best effort, and they're going to play their best baseball behind him—do our best to support him as much as we can.”
While Donino has had some ups and downs this season, Boretti said he is still confident in the powerful righty.
“Joe goes out and competes his butt off every time,” Boretti said. “It hasn't been the easiest season so far for him, but he wants the ball, and we're going to give him the ball every time, and he's going to go do his thing. I expect both of them to have great outings this weekend.”
First-year second baseman Will Savage has been one of the Light Blue's top performers offensively, and leads Columbia with a .314 average.
“He's done a good job of continuing to get better at the dish,” Boretti said. “He's had a good approach up there. He's just really competitive. He doesn't really give away at-bats. He's fast—he gets down the line. When he puts the ball in play, he busts his butt down the line and puts pressure on the defense and makes things happen.”
Sophomore first baseman Nick Maguire has also hit well, right behind Savage with a .310 average after playing in 24 games, while third baseman David Vandercook, who has been on a power-hitting tear lately, hit his second homer of the season on Tuesday.
“I think the bats are coming around,” Boretti said. “We're getting a little more consistent on the offensive side.”
First pitch of Saturday's doubleheader is scheduled for noon. The Lions will take on the Tigers in another doubleheader on Sunday, which will also start at noon at Robertson Field at Satow Stadium.
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