April 12, 2012

BASEBALL | Red to Face Columbia at Home

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After sweeping its first Ivy League weekend series in 18 years, the baseball team returns to Hoy Field for a seven game home-stand. Already more than halfway through the season, the Red has only played five games at home.

“It’s always nice to play at Hoy,” senior catcher and captain Brandon Lee said. “With the good weather, people like to come out and get on the other teams, which always gives us an advantage.”

The Red (21-7-1, 7-1 Ivy League) sits atop the conference, one game over reigning Ivy champions, Princeton. This weekend the team will take on Columbia (13-16, 5-3) in a four-game series.

The Lions are tied for third in the conference with Penn, and are only two wins behind the Red. The series will be an important one in determining the race for the Ivy title as it enters the final stretch.

“Columbia always has a solid ball club,” Lee said. “They’ve returned some solid starting pitching, but we’ve just got to go out there and take the first game.”

Columbia’s rotation has been effective this year, led by seniors Pat Lowery and Harrison Slutsky, who boast 3.25 and 2.92 ERAs respectively. Slutsky has been used mainly as a reliever, but has appeared in nine games, allowing only eight earned runs. Lowery has started six games and leads the team with 27 strikeouts. After getting only three starts in his freshman season, sophomore David Speer has also stepped up. He is 3-0 in six starts with a 3.82 ERA.

Offensively, the Lions are led by junior outfielder Dario Pizzano, who is hitting .333 with 22 RBIs. Fellow outfielder Nick Ferraresi brings power to the lineup, leading the team with three homeruns and 12 doubles.

Although the Red has only one loss in conference play, the team dropped a mid-week, non-conference game to Binghamton on Wednesday, 6-4. It was only the Red’s third loss in the last eleven games.

“[Binghamton] threw a new person every inning against us, which made it difficult for our hitters to make adjustments,” Lee said.

The Bearcats’ combination of eight different hurlers kept the Red hitters off balance, and they were only able to muster up five hits. Even sophomore Chris Cruz’s towering two-run homer in the sixth inning could not make the Red bats come alive. Freshman Nick Busto got the start and pitched three scoreless innings, but the bullpen was unable to hold onto the lead, allowing five runs to the Bearcat hitters over the final three innings.

“I don’t think we’re looking into the loss too much,” Lee said. “Midweek games are sort of like an extended practice for us.”Although it was unable to stage a comeback against the Bearcats, three of the Red’s wins in Ivy play last weekend against Brown and Yale were come-from-behind victories. Against the Bulldogs, the Red scored a combined seven runs in the last inning of the two games. According to Lee, though, it has not been the work of one hitter, but the entire team has been involved in scoring runs.“More than anything, it’s been our general attitude,” Lee said. “We understand one guy’s going to get on and we’ll manufacture runs in whatever ways we can.”The Red will need to continue that against the Lions this weekend, if it hopes to remain at the top of the Ivy League.“There’s an expectation to win,” Lee said. “We’re in extremely high spirits, and we’re continuing to practice hard every day.”

Original Author: Scott Chiusano