The baseball team entered the weekend tied with Penn atop the Lou Gehrig Division, and after four games between the Lions and Quakers, the deadlock remains.
Columbia (24-17, 15-5 Ivy) took game 1 of Friday’s doubleheader, 6-0, and game 2 of Saturday’s, 5-2, while Penn (24-16, 15-5 Ivy) took the nightcap on Friday, 12-4, and the opener on Saturday, 3-2. The two teams will face each other in a one-game playoff next weekend to determine who gets to represent the Lou Gehrig Division in the Ivy League Championship Series.
“It’s nothing that’s new. It’s happened before,” Columbia head coach Brett Boretti said. “I think it’s pretty neat that the two best teams on our side, we split, and we get to play again to see who the better team is.”
The Lions kicked off the series with a decisive victory thanks to another strong start from senior lefty David Speer. Though Speer gave up his first walk of the Ivy League season, he kept the Quakers off the scoreboard, striking out seven in seven shutout innings. But sophomore righty George Thanopoulos struggled in game 2, as Penn cruised to a big win to even the series. And after a 3-2 win in Saturday’s first game, the Quakers had a chance to claim a place in the Ivy League Championship Series for themselves.
Penn jumped ahead early in the finale. Center fielder Brandon Engelhardt led off the game with a double and scored on a two-out single by right fielder Matt Greskoff to give the Quakers an early 1-0 edge.
But after the first inning, senior righty Joey Donino—who started the game for Columbia—settled in. Donino kept Penn off the scoreboard for the next four innings before exiting in the top of the sixth with the bases loaded.
“He’s had a couple rough outings the past few times, but for him, it’s just throwing strikes early and throwing that curveball of his for a strike,” senior catcher Mike Fischer said. “That’s something I think he did better today. He was able to throw it for a strike early in the count.”
The Lions tied the game at two in the bottom of the second and then added two runs in both the fourth and fifth innings to go up 5-1.
But when Donino ran into trouble in the top of the sixth, loading the bases with one out, sophomore righty Adam Cline came into the game with the tying run at the plate and the Lions’ Ivy title defense on the line.
It didn’t take Cline long to get himself out of trouble. He got first baseman Jeff McGarry to ground into a double play on his second pitch to end the threat.
“It was phenomenal. It was a huge situation—he gets exactly what we needed,” Fischer said of Cline’s effort. “Coach [Pete] Maki took him out—he said, ‘Adam, I’m putting you in the game to get a ground ball right here.’ He comes out, second pitch into it, gets a ground ball right away. He throws the ball with a lot of sink. He’s great at that.”
The Quakers never really threatened after that, as the Lions took game 2, 5-2, to force the one-game playoff.
Sophomore left fielder Robb Paller, who grounded out to end Saturday’s first game with the tying run 90 feet away, scored a pair of runs and knocked in another in the second game. Junior right fielder Gus Craig drove in three runs in game 2 to help the Light Blue pull away.
Next weekend’s playoff will be in Philadelphia. Columbia and Penn finished with identical conference records, and because of this weekend’s split, the head-to-head tiebreaker does not clarify the picture. Instead, whichever team has the better record against the team with the league’s next-best conference record will have home-field advantage. That team will be either Dartmouth or Yale, and Penn had a better record than Columbia against both of them.
Boretti said that Speer will start for Columbia.