Updated on May 11 at 6:35 p.m.
The William C. Matthews trophy will stay in New York for at least one more year.
The baseball team secured its second straight Ancient Eight title on May 10, sweeping Dartmouth at home in the Ivy League Championship Series for the second year in a row. Senior lefty David Speer gave the Lions a solid outing in game 1 as Columbia took home a 6-2 win, and in game 2, a two-run home run by junior right fielder Gus Craig gave the Lions the lead en route to a 4-1 victory.
“This is probably the funnest group of guys, as far as looseness, and enjoying and joking around ... that I’ve had,” Columbia head coach Brett Boretti said. “They find a way to just let the moment not get to big on them.”
Things did not start well for the Lions on the big stage, though. Center fielder Nick Ruppert laced a double down the third base line and came around to score on a Dustin Selzer double in the top of the first to end Speer’s 23-inning scoreless streak and giving the Big Green an early lead.
But Speer settled in after that.
“I wasn’t discouraged by it. I just stuck with the process. Two good swings isn’t enough to change anything,” Speer said. “I just figured I’d just stick with my approach, keep throwing strikes, and they’re going to get themselves out, and that’s what happened.”
Columbia got a run back in the bottom of the frame, and added three more in the fourth, one of which came on a solo shot by sophomore left fielder Robb Paller. Speer did not allow another run until the top of the fifth, and when Dartmouth was finally able to get a run across the Lions responded with one of their own in the bottom of the frame.
“We’ve been really resilient all year,” Speer said. “Any time an opposing team’s had an inning, or they’ve scored a run, we’ve come right back. We’ve had no problem putting a run back up.”
Junior third baseman David Vandercook launched a round-tripper to right that put the Lions up 5-2, and after Speer—who cruised through the sixth, seventh, and eighth—hit the leadoff man in the top of the ninth, sophomore righty George Thanopoulos came on to get out of trouble and secure the 6-2 win.
The Big Green drew first blood again in game 2 when shortstop Matt Parisi came around to score in the bottom of the third, but as it had in the first game Columbia struck back quickly.
Senior shortstop Aaron Silbar knocked in first-year second baseman Will Savage in the top of the fourth to make it 1-1, bringing up Craig. With a 2-2 count and two outs, the Light Blue right fielder launched Dartmouth righty Duncan Robinson’s offering over the right field fence to put the Lions ahead.
“Coming up with a three-run inning, all with two outs—two-out RBIs are incredible,” Boretti said. “It’s just guys stepping up and getting it done. It’s a total team effort. Up and down the lineup—it hasn’t been one guy or two guys.”
Vandercook gave the Lions an insurance run in the top of the ninth with his second dinger and third extra-base hit of the afternoon.
“It’s exciting, seeing the crowd standing up, clapping,” Vandercook said. “Can’t help but smile.”
Buoyed by a strong start from sophomore righty Kevin Roy and solid relief efforts by sophomore lefty Thomas Crispi and Thanopoulos, the Light Blue hung onto its lead to seal the victory and clinch a win in the best two-of-three series.
Columbia began its title defense with a win at South Florida—its first win in a season opener since 2002—and went on to earn a pair of four-game series splits against South Florida and Kennesaw State, both of which were already well into their seasons by the time the Light Blue faced them. The Lions hit a rough patch over spring break, dropping eight of nine against UT San Antonio, Texas A&M, UT Arlington, and Texas, but bounced back with a shutout win over Army in their final tuneup before Ivy play.
The Light Blue opened its Ancient Eight slate with a sweep of Brown, but suffered a sweep at the hands of Yale the following day. A loss to Dartmouth in the next weekend’s opener put the Lions at 2-3 in league play—an inauspicious start to the Light Blue’s title defense.
But for the rest of April, Columbia was nearly unbeatable. The Lions took game 2 in Hanover, New Hampshire, and swept Harvard, Princeton, and Cornell, as part of a 15-game winning streak that also included wins over non-conference opponents Rutgers, St. John’s, and Fordham, and a win in the opener at Penn.
The Light Blue caught up with the Quakers—who started conference play 8-0—and forced a one-game playoff after splitting the regular season’s final series. Behind a dominant Speer, the Lions prevailed in Philadelphia, 4-0, to earn the right to represent the Lou Gehrig Division in the Ivy League Championship Series.
The Lions will find out who they will face in NCAA Regionals during the selection show on May 26.