PHILADELPHIA—It took 21 games, but the baseball team is back in the Ivy League Championship Series.
Columbia (26-17, 16-5 Ivy) took down Penn (24-18, 15-6 Ivy) in Saturday afternoon’s one-game playoff, 4-0, as the Lions gave senior lefty David Speer more than enough run support. Speer followed up last Friday’s complete-game shutout against the Quakers with another whitewashing, ensuring that the Light Blue will play for a league championship for the second straight year.
“Can’t say enough about Dave Speer—he’s tremendous,” Lions head coach Brett Boretti said. “He’s been in big games numerous times here, and he’s delivered consistently. And that’s a credit to him—just his presence, and his mindset, not making the situation bigger than it needs to be.”
Columbia’s ace struck out nine in nine innings, giving up five hits and two walks and hitting two Penn batters, while extending his scoreless innings streak to 23.
“It’s just been a good four-pitch mix for me, my slider’s been great—throwing it for strikes and throwing it out of the zone for swings late in the count,” Speer said. “Just being able to command my pitches, inside and out, just keep the hitters guessing.”
Speer also benefited from some stellar defensive play by the Light Blue. Junior center fielder Jordan Serena made a diving catch to take away an extra-base hit, and sophomore left fielder Robb Paller had an outfield assist, thanks in part to an excellent relay throw by senior shortstop Aaron Silbar that prevented Quakers designated hitter Matt Greskoff from coming across to score in the fourth.
The only blemish on an otherwise sterling performance was an uncharacteristically high walk total. Speer had given up just three free passes all season before issuing a pair of walks against Penn.
“I do get more upset when I give up walks than hits,” Speer said, smiling. “In the game I’m just thinking, ‘win,’ so I don’t really care how it gets done or what happens. But yeah, I have pride in my strikeout-to-walk ratio.”
While the Quakers were never able to score off Columbia’s star lefty, the Lions bats did a good job against Penn ace Connor Cuff.
Cuff had struggled against the Lions in his last outing, giving up six runs, and ran into trouble early on once again. Columbia got runners on in each of the first two innings, and finally broke through in the third when Paller knocked in sophomore designated hitter John Kinne.
Sophomore first baseman Nick Maguire hit one over the right field wall to make it 2-0 Light Blue in the top of the fourth, and Columbia added a pair of runs in the top of the sixth as well—including one on a balk—to knock Cuff out of the game.
“It’s a different guy every game that’s doing something offensively,” Boretti said. “Today, Nicky Maguire had a nice day. It’s just a total team effort.”
Quaker lefty Ronnie Glenn held the Lions scoreless after coming into the game in relief of Cuff in the sixth but the damage was done and Columbia closed out the win.
“Our guys put all the work in, and they’re reaping the benefits,” Boretti said. “Give them all the credit in the world for working through the year.”
The Light Blue will host Dartmouth in a best-of-three series for the Ivy League title next weekend.