Cougars Repeat as Champs with Sweep

05/27/2014, 2:15am EDT
By Jeff Noreman (photos by Jeff Noreman)

SJB Junior Patrick Lagravinese went 2-for-2, drove in two, and extinguished a rally from the mound.

SJB Junior Patrick Lagravinese went 2-for-2, drove in two, and extinguished a rally from the mound.

Last year, the St. John the Baptist Cougars had a senior-laden baseball team, carrying 14 twelfth-graders on the roster. This year, there were three. Despite the change of faces, Coach John Habyan practiced with the same intensity. They started winning more consistently towards the end of the year, earning the third-place seed in the Nassau Suffolk Catholic High School Athletic Athletic Association. And from this spot, they again swept the top seeded team to earn the first back-to-back championship since 1998.

The Cougars bested the Chaminade Flyers 4-1, sweeping the best-of-three series this afternoon at Farmingdale State College. They scored two runs in each of the first two innings, and their defense and pitching made that hold up. Frank DeMaio started and pitched into the fourth, and that lead was held by the bullpen. After Peter McQuade, shortstop Patrick Lagravinese took the hill and got out of a two-out bases loaded jam in the bottom of the sixth, and fellow junior Andrew Mundy kept Chaminade off the board with a 1-2-3 bottom of the seventh.

 

SJB Senior pitcher Patrick DeMaio

SJB Senior pitcher Patrick DeMaio

“Frankie’s just a heart and soul guy,” said Habyan. “He pitched a huge game for us last year. He’s been a jack-of-all trades. He’s the kind of guy where you think you’ve got him on the ropes, but he digs down and gets out of it. As usual, he did the job that we needed.”

“This isn’t the same group as we had in the beginning of the year,” is how Habyan described his team. “I won’t even say they got hot. They got better, and this is well deserved.”

The defending champs bunched together their six hits and made the most of them.

“Everyone started recognizing the pitches, and they were throwing down the middle,” according to Lagravinese. “Everyone was being aggressive, getting after pitches early (in the count). I was just sitting on fastball,” he said of his second inning two RBI double. Those two runs, in addition to the two SJB plated in the first inning were enough more than enough to earn the victory.

SJB designated hitter Dylan Boyle.

SJB designated hitter Dylan Boyle.

For the day, Lagravinese was 2-for-2 with a double, a walk, a run scored, and two runs batted in. The designated hitter Dylan Boyle started the Cougar’s scoring in the first inning with an RBI triple, and did so with great presence of mind.

“That was for my grandma, right there,” explained Boyle. “She passed away yesterday. This one’s for her.”

Pictures of both teams from this event are available here…

St. John the Baptist Cougars revel in their 2014 Championship.

St. John the Baptist Cougars revel in their 2014 Championship.

Cougars Best Bayhawks, Move on to Championship

05/21/2014, 3:15pm EDT
By Jeff Noreman (photos by Jeff Noreman)

 

SJB pitcher Andrew Mundy

SJB pitcher Andrew Mundy

The spectre of facing the St. Dominic Bayhawks steamroller in the Catholic League Playoffs did not phase the Cougar baseball team from St. John the Baptist. After all, SJB has a storied record of accomplishment and are last year’s defending champions. Although St. Dominic won 14 of their first 16 games, they did lose their final two regular season games. The steamroller had seemed to slow.

The Cougars completed their two-game sweep of the Bayhawks with a 3-2 win at Farmingdale State College yesterday. Unlike game one, this matchup was a back-and-forth affair. Both starters, Andrew Mundy for the Cougars and Reiss Knehr for the Bayhawks pitched well and deep into the game. SJB’s bottom of the sixth inning was the difference.

 

SJB outfielder Kevin Dolan watches his sixth inning triple hit the wall.

SJB outfielder Kevin Dolan watches his sixth inning triple hit the wall.

The Cougars third baseman Andrew Ferrante drew a leadoff walk. After a strikeout and a flyout to left, centerfielder Kevin Dolan drove a ball to the fence in straightaway center for a triple, scoring Ferrante and tying the game at 2 runs apiece.

“I was looking for a first-pitch fastball, I got it right down the middle,” said Dolan. “I just took it and knew right off the bat it was a hit. I got on my horse and took off. I knew I was going for three. I wasn’t stopping.”

Dolan’s admitted biggest hit of the year was followed up by an RBI single by designated hitter Dylan Boyle, and that run proved to be the game winner. After seeing two curveballs, Boyle was prepared for a third, which he pulled into leftfield.

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SJB designated hitter Dylan Boyle drove in the game-winning run in the bottom of the sixth.

“I’ve got pretty quick hands, so I got one through the zone, and I put it over the shortstop,” explained Boyle.

“I’m really happy for these kids,” stated SJB Head Baseball Coach John Habyan. “They worked really hard all year. They’ve gotten better and better as the year has gone on. And this was a good win.

“It’s just one of those games… a lot of seeing-eye hits, and a lot of calls going our way. These kids battled through it. My pitcher gave me a gutsy performance, and just huge hits. Dylan Boyle with a two-out hit, and Kevin Dolan, my nine-hitter, hits a bases-clearing triple, that’s the type of stuff you need. You need the good players to be there, and you need the unexpected heroes.”

SJB starting pitcher Andrew Mundy went all the way, scattering nine hits over seven innings while allowing just two earned runs.

The Cougars will face the Chaminade Flyers at Farmingdale State College in the NSCHSAA Championship Series. It begins on Sunday, May 25 at 2:00pm.

Pictures of both teams from this event are available here…

St. John the Baptist Cougars celebrate their playoff win

St. John the Baptist Cougars celebrate their playoff win

BPM’s Derek Hirsch Named East Coast Conference Player of the Week

04/30/2014, 10:15am EDT
By East Coast Conference

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Spartan junior outfielder Derek Hirsch has been named the East Coast Conference Player of the Week after playing a big part in his team’s recent offensive barrage, leading the Spartans to a 4-0 week. Overall, he batted .615 (8-for-13) with a homer, a triple and nine RBI. His highlight effort was a 5-for-5 performance against Caldwell, and he drove in at least one run in each of STAC’s four games, amassing a 1.000 slugging percentage for the week.

One On One with Dan Bartlett

04/22/2014, 4:30pm EDT
By Jeff Noreman

 

1on1-slideshow_largeDan Bartlett, of Levittown, New York, is a senior at Caldwell College, a small liberal arts college in Caldwell, New Jersey. He played for the Long Island Whalers for five years under the well-respected coaches Tony Nunziato and Mike Herbst. He also played for the collegiate New York Atlantics for two summers.

According to Bartlett, his first memory of organized baseball was when his brother Jonathan was playing t-ball. “I was running around, chasing the ball. When it was my turn to play, I remember not being able to hit the ball very well.”

At the suggestion of the president of the Island Trees Baseball/Softball organization Dan Sguigna, he started “playing up” with his brother’s classmates who are three years older than Dan. At that time it became clear that he enjoyed pitching more than other baseball activities. Even in the summer on Island Trees “travel” team, he played with ballplayers a year older than him. When he was ten years old, Bartlett’s travel team won the Cal Ripken Metro NY Championship.

Bartlett’s high school team, the Island Trees Bulldogs, were also a successful team. When he was a junior they went to the Nassau County Championship game, and as a senior they got to the semifinals. Personally, he was named to the All-Conference Team as a junior, and received All-League accolades as a senior.

When researching colleges, Bartlett knew he’d achieve more in a school that had smaller class sizes. He saw that Caldwell College had an average class size of 22 students, which fit nicely with what he was seeking. He’ll graduate with a degree in digital graphic design in December of 2014.

As a freshman, Bartlett earned a record of 5-2 as a pitcher. He had an earned run average of 2.78 over 55 innings. He chalked up 50 strikeouts while allowing only 13 bases on balls. In fact, through his first three college campaigns he has maintained a strikeout to walk ratio of greater than 2.5-to-1. Bartett’s arsenal includes both a four-seam and two-seam fastball, a knuckle-drop (a pitch that is indigenous to Levittown), a slider, a split-change, and a knuckleball.

“Baseball taught me teamwork, leadership,” explained Bartlett, laughing. “I know it’s such a cliche answer.

“It’s also taught me to become a teacher. The kids on my team at school, if they need help with something (related to) pitching, I’ll help them out. My coach (Head Coach Jay Messina) all the time will say ‘They need help with this. Go work with them.’

“I ask people what they want to do and (guide) them through it. On a baseball field, I’m always trying to help everyone get better… making sure everyone is doing the right thing.”

Since he was three or four years old, Bartlett has said he wanted to be a baseball player when he grew up. He says it was a major reason he went to college, where his future changed. For now, he has a few months left in school, to earn his degree. Then his options for the future will become clear.

Bethpage Little League: For The Love Of The Game

04/18/2014, 11:30am EDT
By Mike Stainkamp, Photo Provided By Bethpage Little League

 

little-league-slideshow_3__largeLately, it seems as if only the negative side of youth sports is being talked about. Whether it’s a parent erupting over a call or driving their child too hard, the negative tends to out-weigh the positive.

One of the best to ever play the game, Yogi Berra once said, “Little League baseball is a very good thing because it keeps the parents off the streets.”

That may be true, but Little League baseball also has a huge impact on the kids that play the game, and the Bethpage Little League is in the business of having fun and keeping kids out of trouble. Isn’t that what youth sports is really about?

“We make sure that we not only cater to travel players, we cater to everybody,” Bethpage Little League commissioner Dennis Baggia said. “We promote the sport endlessly. We make sure we have something for the kid that just likes the sport, but might not be that good at it. We make sure there is a place for that kid to play.”

Bethpage Little League is made up of three different seasons, each with a different number of kids playing. The spring teams field about 800 total players, while the summer fields 400-500, and the fall ball program fields about 900, according to Baggia.

In a time today where the professional level of baseball is money-driven, the Little Leaguers from Bethpage have old-fashioned morals instilled in them at a young age.

“Our goal is old fashioned. We believe it is important to have the kids playing sports through high school. It keeps them focused, especially boys,” Baggia added. “It keeps them from getting into trouble, so we promote baseball. We’re more than happy to help out.”

“You gotta be a man to play baseball for a living, but you gotta have a lot of little boy in you, too.”  – Roy Campanella

In the case of the Bethpage Little League, the younger players also team up with the bigger guys on the high school level.

“The varsity coach, Rob Fisher, has been fantastic,” Baggia said. “He wants to build the program. He does a summer training camp with us and keeps the cost very, very low. The idea of the camp is to have the kids fall in love with the sport.”

In return, the league donated brand-new dugouts for the high school field and provided new clay and outfield fences for the other fields the schools use.

Baseball is a funny sport. You can fail 7-out-of-10 times, and still be considered a good ball player.

Baggia went on to say, “like Derek Jeter said, ‘it’s a game of failure.’ If kids learn how to deal with failure, it helps them later in life.

“I like the game of baseball because it’s the most American sport there is. It not only promotes teamwork, but it promotes individual accomplishments as well.”

In an effort to make the kids feel a little more “grown up”, Bethpage Little League puts the annual All-Star game in the kids’ hands.

“We have an All-Star game where the kids pick the teams, they manage it, they do the announcing and they do the field work,” Baggia said. “The parents have to stand on the side and watch.”

Bethpage Little League is one of the leagues that conducts itself in “the right way.” For more information, please go to www.bethpagebaseball.org.

The Path Of A College Pitcher with Tyler Manez

04/16/2014, 7:45pm EDT
By Jeff Noreman; Photo By Jeremy McKnight

Manez-spotlight-slideshow_largeTyler Manez is a 20 year old from North Massapequa, New York. He is currently a sophomore at Elon University, and a pitcher for the Phoenix baseball team. He attended Plainedge High School, where as a senior he helped the Red Devils win the Long Island Championship.

BPM: What is your first memory of baseball?
TM: My first memory of baseball would be going out in the backyard with my mom, playing catch and hitting wiffle balls off the tee while my brothers and sister were at school. I also remember going to field after field every spring and summer to watch my older brothers’ (Jason and Kyle) baseball games. When I was six, I went to Cooperstown, N.Y. with my family to watch my brother play and from that point on, I couldn’t wait to experience baseball at Cooperstown myself.
BPM: What was the first team or league you played in? Tell me what you remember about it.
TM: The first league that I played in was Plainedge Youth Baseball League and one of the best memories was playing on the White Sox with my good friend Ralph Caccavale and going undefeated and winning the World Series.
BPM: When did you know you were a talented baseball player? How did that become clear to you?
TM: When I was seven years old, I was asked to play up on the 8 year old travel team in the summer and was selected to be one of the starting pitchers. From that point on, I realized I was a pretty good player. I had a strong arm and loved to pitch. Even the 8 year olds had a hard time getting hits off me.
BPM: What positions did you play over the years? What was the most fun?
TM: Over the years I played just about every position, even catcher. As I got older, being a lefty, I was forced to settle in at pitcher, outfield and first base. Pitcher was definitely the most fun because I loved being a part of every pitch and every play and really having control over the tempo of the game.
BPM: Who is the coach that you played for that you think had the biggest impact on the development of your baseball skills? Describe him and tell me why.
TM: I was fortunate to have several great coaches over the years that helped me develop my baseball skills and make me the competitor I am today. Up until I was fifteen, my Dad and Coach Fred Kurz taught me the game, how to0 practice and made me understand that I needed to work hard if I wanted to be better than the next guy. Once I got to high school, I started working with pitching coach John Byrne and played in the summer for Coach Herbst of the Long Island Whalers. My Dad and Plainedge baseball coach Tom Pisani probably had the biggest impact on my short baseball career. Playing on varsity for three years helped me become the player I am today. Coach Pisani is a really hard worker and expects the best from you at all times. He was one of the best baseball coaches on Long Island and knows the game extremely well.
BPM: How did you decide on Elon University? What was your major when you started there? What degree will you have when you graduate?
TM: I decided on Elon University because I loved the school and liked that the coaches had a real interest in me. I heard great things about the baseball program and the coaching staff and when I met them, they seemed like great people who really knew the game. I also wanted to be part of a program that had a winning tradition and had a chance to win conference championships. Knowing Elon’s history and after seeing the all the championship banners at their field, I knew this was the place for me. My major at Elon is Sport and Event Management with a minor is Business. I’m currently on pace to graduate in three years so I hope to start my masters in my last year.
BPM: What has been the most memorable situation that you’ve experienced because of baseball? 
TM: The most memorable situation on the field would be winning the Long Island championship my senior year of high school in an 11-inning game against Shoreham Wading River allowing us to go to states. The opposing pitcher and I both pitched complete games where we both went 10 scoreless innings and in the top of the 11th we drove in 3 runs. I went back out there for the bottom of the 11th where I let up a run and had a man on first and second with two outs and struck the player out at the plate to end the game.
BPM: Where did you attend high school? Tell me about your time there, baseball-wise.
TM: I attended Plainedge High School where I was a three-year varsity player. I was a two time All-County selection my junior and senior years, and I was a first team All-Long Island selection my senior year. As a Sophomore I was mainly a reliever and had a few spot starts. We had an older team with lots of returning starting seniors. My junior year I became one of the ace of the staff when we had a undefeated season and lost in the county semi-finals. My senior year I was the ace of the staff, but as a team, we struggled in the regular season and just sneaking into the playoffs where we went on a major run to win the Long Island championship.
BPM: What is the best baseball moment in your life so far?
TM: One of the best baseball moments of my life was last year at Elon when we won the Southern Conference Championship. There was nothing like losing the first game in the tournament and having our backs against the wall and going on to win every game after that defeating The Citadel in the championship and then attending the Regionals hosted by The University of Virginia.
BPM: Did you play summer ball with your school friends and teammates? Or did you make a new group of people there?
TM: For majority of my career I played summer ball with a few of my good friends and high school teammates but also making a bunch of new friends on travel teams along the way.
BPM: Tell us about your summer baseball experience? What years? What teams?
TM: Up until I was 15, I played summer ball with the N. Massapequa Red Devils coached by my Dad and Fred Kurz. After that team broke up I continued to play summer ball for the Long Island Whalers with a few of my friends. I loved traveling to all the different tournaments and playing some of the best teams in the nation. The coaches of these teams really helped me develop not only as a player but as the person I am today.
BPM: What did you get to do or see because of summer baseball?
TM: Summer ball allowed me to play against some of the best competition in the country and also exposed me to a lot of college scouts which helped me earn my scholarship. My most memorable experience would be pitching a pretty good game in East Cobb, Georgia, and having a lot of college coaches call me after the game. Before this, I wasn’t highly recruited because I didn’t attend any showcases or win any major tournaments.
BPM: Where does the game of baseball fit into your life now?
TM: Right now, baseball is a really big part of my life and I’m constantly thinking about it and doing everything I can to make myself better.
BPM: Describe your experience with the MLB Draft. Who contacted you? When? When did you tell the team that drafted you that you’re deciding to go to Elon instead?
TM: I was being looked at by the NY Mets and Houston Astros in the last few games of my high school season. After pitching well in the finals, the Houston Astros called me and told me to listen for my name because they were going to draft me. It was an awesome feeling and I was lucky to be with a few friends when they called my name in the 32nd round. Even though it was exciting and I was seriously thinking about going to the minors, I was also really looking forward to going to Elon. The Astros came to my house and made me an offer, which I thought about for a few days. I later decided that a college education was important to me and figured if I was good enough, I would have another shot in the draft in three years.
BPM: What would your best possible future look like if it involves baseball? 
TM: My dream is to become a Major League Baseball player and I’m doing everything possible to make that happen. If that dream doesn’t come true, I would still love to be involved with baseball in some capacity with either coaching or scouting.
BPM: What would your best possible future look like if it did not involve baseball?
TM: If baseball isn’t part of my future after college, then I hope to work in my field of study which is sport and event management. I would love to work for a major sports organization planning and managing events in a state-of-the-art facility.

U.S. Military Academy (Army) Black Knights

04/16/2014, 7:00pm EDT
By U.S. Military Academy (Army) Black Knights; Photos By U.S. Military Academy (ARMY) Athletics“We are excited about the upcoming season. We have very good leadership and a good mix of veteran and younger players. We are working hard every day and hope to be playing our best baseball as the season progresses.” - Matt Reid, Head Coach
army-slideshow_largeThe Army baseball team will embark on the 2014 season in search of its eighth Patriot League Tournament Championship and seventh NCAA Regional bid.Army’s weekend rotation will have a bevy of arms to choose from. Gunnar Carroll, used primarily out of the bullpen amassing 14 saves, may move to a starting role. Nick Dignacco, who went 7-2 as a sophomore, is healthy for his senior season. Junior Alex Robinett was 7-4 last year with 62 strikeouts in 86 innings. Junior Brian Hapeman posted a microscopic 1.69 earned run average in 11 appearances last season. Sophomore Brock Davidson went 2-3 last year and figures to play a larger role.Senior catcher Connor Love and sophomore Ben Smith will both see time behind the plate with freshman Baggio Saldivar adding depth.

The Black Knights veteran infield started nearly every game last year. Patrick Mescher played first, sophomore Grant Van Orden second, junior Alex Jensen manned short stop and senior Harold Earls occupied the hot corner. Mescher led the team with a .341 batting average in 2013 and knocked in 40 runs. Van Orden hit .238 while Jensen batted .292. Earls hit .254 and scored 35 runs.Senior Jon Crucitti, sophomore Jacob Page and juniors Daniel Cortes and Mark McCants are expected to anchor the outfield. Crucitti led the team with 43 runs scored and will start in right. Page collected All-Patriot League honors in center and was third on the squad with a .307 batting average. Cortes played in 21 games last season in left. McCants, also a designated hitter, was second on the team with a .314 average and six doubles. Sophomore Ryan Levenhagen and freshmen Brock Davidson will provide depth in the outfield.

Player Spotlight

Senior OF Jon Crucitti has played both football and baseball at Army. Missed sophomore baseball season due to injury. Missed senior year of football because of injury and rehabilitation to be ready for the baseball season.

U.S. Air Force Academy Falcons

04/16/2014, 6:30pm EDT
By U.S. Air Force Stats Information Department; Photos By Ray McCoy

“The vision and mission is much different than a normal university. Our mission at the United States Air Force Academy is to produce leaders of character. My job is not only to be a baseball coach, but more importantly to be a role model, mentor, guidance counselor, facilitator, and a father to these young men to ensure their success in the profession of arms. Upon graduation our men will wear our nation’s uniform and provide the security blanket that will allow us to sleep well each night. My job is to make boys into men, and men into warriors. Our Air Force mission is to Fly, Fight, Win” - Mike Kazlausky, Head Coach

air-force-slideshow_largeAir Force baseball features a young squad in 2014.  With the loss of six starters in the field, the Falcons will be looking for several new faces to produce. 15 newcomers enter the fray, joining 15 returners. The slate is not entirely clean however, as Air Force returns two-time all-conference first baseman Seth Kline and senior right-hander Cameron White (3-11, 5.21) to lead the way.

Kline, a smooth swinging lefty is a returning first-team all-Mountain West first baseman and has led the Falcons in hitting each of the last two seasons. White, a rubber-armed right hander, is coming off a junior season that saw him toss 107 innings, the second-best total in school history. White possesses some of the best control in all of collegiate baseball, ranking amongst the NCAA Top 10 in walks-per-nine innings (5th-0.76) and strikeouts-to-walk ratio (6th-7.78).Air Force will look to replace several key losses in the field, including four-year starting catcher Garrett Custons, a 10th round pick of the Toronto Blue Jays in the 2013 MLB draft.  The Falcons will have new faces at shortstop, second base and two outfield spots.

The Falcon’s two other returning starters are infielders sophomore Spencer Draws and junior Tyler Saleck. Draws saw action at second and third and Saleck played several spots including third, short, and outfield.

Air Force returns two starting pitchers.  Joining White in the rotation is soph. RHP Steven Trojan (4-7, 5.99). The Falcons also return closer soph. RHP Bo Wilson (1-0, 5.40).

The Falcon’s 15 newcomers are led by freshman IF/RHP Griffin Jax. Jax is the 2013 Colorado Gatorade High School Baseball Player of the Year and was a 12th round draft pick of the Philadelphia Phillies in 2013 out of Cherry Creek HS in Greenwood Village, Colorado.

Player Spotlight

Bo Wilson is the fifth member of his family to attend USAFA. His father is a grad and played baseball at Air Force. Wilson is a Civil Engineering major that was a member of the conference all-academic team as a freshman. He led all Falcon relievers with two saves and a 5.40 ERA.

Niagara University Purple Eagles

04/16/2014, 6:15pm EDT
By Niagara University Purple Eagles; Photos By Niagara University
“As a team we are looking to do big things this year. We have a young but talented team. Our pitching staff is deep and the defense is much improved. We had a great fall and the guys are playing with a ton of confidence.” - Rob McCoy, Head Coach

 

niagara-slideshow_largeThe Niagara Purple Eagles head into the 2014 season looking to take advantage of a stronger starting rotation.

This season Niagara is led by junior Jordan Schwartz who was named to College Sports Madness’ Preseason All-MAAC Second Team. The righty will lead starting rotation and look to improve on his 2-7 record last season. Drew Fittry is back after an injury ended his 2013 season after just three starts and Liam Stroud joins the rotation as a right-handed freshman.

Schwartz also finished second on the team last season with a .299 batting average and was also able to add five doubles and 16 RBIs on his way to a 2013 All-MAAC Second Team nomination.

It will be the trio of Thomas Rodrigues, Joel Klock, and Taylor Hackett will set the tone at the plate. Rodrigues is coming off a summer where he won Canada’s Western Major Baseball League batting title with the Okotoks Dawgs. He hit .281 with seven doubles and 19 RBIs last year for Niagara. Klock collected a team-high four triples last season. Hackett enters the season as a redshirt-freshman.

Niagara University is coming off of a 16-38 season in 2013. Niagara topped nationally ranked Pittsburgh 7-5 in last season’s Panther Classic. Niagara also put together an impressive streak from late March into mid-April which saw it go 8-3 in an 11-game span.

Player Spotlight

Jordan Schwartz leads the Purple Eagles on the mound and at the dish. His 2013 season was highlighted by a seven-inning, complete game shutout of the Manhattan Jaspers. He gave up six hits and recorded three strikeouts in the contest. At the plate he finished the 2013 season second on the team with a .298 batting average. He also recorded five doubles, a triple, and 16 RBIs.

Columbia University Lions

04/16/2014, 6:00pm EDT
By Columbia Stats Information Department; Photos By Gene Boyars
“The staff and players are excited about the season ahead and the opportunity to compete at a high level. Our goal is to win the Ivy League every year. We have a motivated and talented group that will work as hard as we can to accomplish our goal.” - Brett Boretti, Head Coach

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Coming off the most successful season in Columbia baseball history, the Lions will look to capture its 12th Ivy League Championship and third in the last seven years in 2014. Columbia returns the core group, including three of its top four pitchers, to a team that tied a program record with 28 wins and won its first NCAA Tournament game last season.

Similar to head coach Brett Boretti’s scheduling philosophy in years past, the Lions will head out on the road during the beginning of the spring to play some of the best teams in the nation. Trips to South Florida and Kennesaw State kick-off the season, before Columbia heads to Texas for matchups against UT-San Antonio, Texas A&M, UT-Arlington and Texas. The Ivy League slate begins on March 29 with a doubleheader against Brown.Joey Donino, David Speer and Adam Cline return to the mound for the Lions in 2014. The trio combined for 16 victories and 180 strikeouts last season.Speer will share captain duties this season with fellow seniors Mike Fischer and Aaron Silbar. Fischer is the field general behind the plate for the Lions, while Silbar, who finished second on the team last year in batting average, hits and doubles, commands the middle of the infield as the starting shortstop.

Columbia returns a total of seven All-Ivy League selections from last season, including: Speer (P), Donino (P), Silbar (SS), Fischer (C), Joey Falcone (DH), Kevin Roy (P) and Jordan Serena (OF). Falcone, the Lions’ power bat, returns for his junior campaign after being named a Gregg Olson semifinalist for breakout player of the year and ABCA Northeast Region second team honoree.

Player Spotlight

Joey Falcone’s lengthy journey to Columbia, including six years in the Marine Corps and a year at junior college, culminating in a breakout season for Columbia in 2013. The Gregg Olson Award semifinalist matched MLB amateur draft selection Alex Black with a team-best .331 batting average, while finishing second with a .520 slugging percentage and five long balls. His power bat will be especially crucial this season to the Lions’ success with the departure of Black.
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