Article Image
David Brann / Senior Staff Photographer

Lefty David Speer put together an impressive career at Columbia, earning first-team All-Ivy honors twice and being selected as the 2014 Ivy League Pitcher of the Year.

This senior profile is part of Spectator's 2014 commencement special issue. Check out the 17 other senior profiles, the class day ceremony recaps, and a timeline of the biggest events of the last four years.

They came to Columbia together as roommates, and they are leaving together as back-to-back Ivy League champions.

In a program that preaches pitching and defense, lefty ace David Speer and catcher Mike Fischer, both seniors, have come to exemplify the Lions' philosophy.

As the Light Blue's top starter over the last two seasons, Speer has dominated Ivy competition to the tune of a 9-0 record and 1.06 ERA during the regular season, winning the Ivy League Pitcher of the Year award in 2014. Fischer, meanwhile, is one of the league's best behind the dish, and has drawn praise from both teammates and coaches for his ability to handle the staff, block balls, and shut down opposing base runners. 

“We're spoiled, that's all there is to say about that. We're completely spoiled by our catching situation in the last four years,” Speer said. “Watching other catchers, it's not even close.” 

According to Columbia head coach Brett Boretti, Fischer and Speer have been exemplary away from the diamond as well. 

“Both of them are guys that obviously developed into leaders, and lead by example, and get it done in the classroom—both of them—the right way,” Boretti said.

With Speer and Fischer at the helm, the Lions are gearing up for their second straight appearance at NCAA Regionals, looking to build on last season's historic win over New Mexico and to send their seniors—Speer, Fischer, shortstop Aaron Silbar, righty Joey Donino, and righty Zack Tax—out in fitting fashion. 

“Every single day, I think about the fact that I can't imagine anywhere else would have been a better four years than what we've had here,” Speer said.

The First Two Years

Although they said their recruiting class was not highly touted—Columbia was Speer's only Division I offer and Fischer had limited options as well—both players managed to carve out important roles in the Light Blue squad early in their college careers.

“Both of them have been four-year starters for us, and were impact guys as soon as they got here,” Boretti said. “Pretty quiet competitors early on, but when they were in the game … there was a big fire burning inside, and I think that's one of the things that stood out from the get-go with both of them.” 

Speer made three starts and a total of 11 appearances as a first-year, posting a 2-1 record and 5.01 ERA before getting moved into the weekend rotation as a sophomore. He went 3-1 in his second season, posting a 4.91 ERA and nearly throwing a no-hitter at Dartmouth, flashing signs of the control and diverse pitch selection that would make him a force to be reckoned with over the following two years.

Fischer made his presence felt behind the dish from day one. He started 32 games in his first season, and immediately made it clear that he was not an easy guy to run on, catching 48.6 percent of would-be base thieves. He was just as effective his sophomore year.

But while both were adjusting smoothly to the college game, the team finished third in the Lou Gehrig Division in 2011 and 2012. 

“Our first two years, we played our last two weekends of the year with no stakes, we were out, and that really was awful,” Speer said. “It felt miserable to be there, know that even if we win every single game on out we're not making it to the playoffs, we have a set date that's our last game.”

That all changed in 2013, Speer and Fischer's junior season.

Ivy League Champions

Following a strong 16-4 Ivy League campaign, during which Speer in particular was dominant, the Lions faced Dartmouth in the Ivy League Championship Series. 

With Speer slated to start game 1, the duo entered with the same mindset as in any other opening game.

“Game 1 sets the tone for the weekend, especially when it's a doubleheader,” Speer said. “I think that a lot of it is our hard work together and our ability to be a cohesive unit, like as the battery, to lead the team to get that game 1 win. From there, we roll.” 

Following a tough first inning, Speer retired 16 consecutive Dartmouth batters, finishing with 12 strikeouts in 7.1 innings.

The game remained close, and went into extra innings.

In the 10th, Fischer­—who already had two RBIs—hit a ground-rule double and scored the winning run on a single by junior outfielder Gus Craig.

That first game set the tone, as the Lions won the second game, 12-5, and captured their first Ivy League Championship since 2008.

“As you see it, it just finally sinks in. We just did it,” Speer said. “That's an unmatched feeling.”

After earning their first championship, Speer and Fischer entered their senior year with a strong message for the younger Lions.

“Don't take it for granted. Cherish the fact that every game you've played in has mattered,” Speer said.

“Don't be satisfied,” Fischer added.

The Lions took these words to heart, and fought hard to earn a berth in the 2014 Ivy League Championship Series. Starting Ivy play 2-3, the Light Blue recovered to force a playoff with Penn for the division crown. Speer threw a complete-game shutout as the Lions advanced to face Dartmouth again in the Ivy League Championship Series.

Speer once again started game 1 of the ILCS and made the most of the opportunity. He led Columbia to a 6-2 win, giving up just two earned runs while striking out seven in eight innings.

The Lions took the momentum into game 2 and defeated the Big Green, 4-1, which gave Columbia back-to-back titles for the first time since 1960 and 1961.

And with NCAA Regionals on the horizon, Fischer and Speer still have a chance to help their team make some more history.

Turning Pro

Once the season ends, both players said they hope to get a chance to pursue baseball professionally.

“I just want to play baseball—I can't see myself doing anything else right now,” Speer said. “I just feel like I can play another level up.”

In addition to good performances in the Cape Cod League, the success Speer has had over the last two seasons with Columbia makes him an appealing prospect. He was particularly outstanding this season, in which he threw four shutouts against Ivy League teams—including a whitewashing of Penn in the critical one-game playoff for the Lou Gehrig title.

Fischer acknowledged that he has something to prove offensively, but his defensive ability is certain to get the two-time second-team All-Ivy catcher some looks at the next level.

“One of the best catch-and-throw guys in this region, if not in the country,” Boretti said. “When guys saw him on TV last year in the regionals, I got texts and emails from my buddies saying, ‘Who the hell is your catcher? That guy's unbelievable.'” 

While their futures are not set in stone, both Fischer and Speer have shown that they have what it takes to be successful on and off the field.

And as for Columbia's program, it's safe to say Speer and Fischer will leave it in a good place.

This senior profile is part of Spectator's 2014 commencement special issue. Check out the 17 other senior profiles, the class day ceremony recaps, and a timeline of the biggest events of the last four years. | @CUSpecSports

Baseball Senior profile commencement
From Around the Web