“Our goal is always [that] we don’t ever want to lose more than one a weekend,” sophomore pitcher Brian Doveala said, “We’re looking for a few sweeps here and there, but three out of four and we’ll feel pretty good going into [the] next week.”
Doveala’s wishes came true. He was just one of many Lions success stories this weekend, tossing a complete-game seven-hitter against Brown to cap off a weekend in which Columbia baseball went 3-1 to open up Ivy League play. The Light Blue split two games with the Bears (9-14, 2-2 Ivy), losing 8-5 in extra innings and winning 7-3, after having swept a doubleheader 7-1 and 13-12 against the Yale Bulldogs (5-14, 1-3) behind some clutch hitting from sophomore shortstop Jorge Livermore.
“I was pleased with ... our approach ... the whole weekend long,” Head Coach Mikio Aoki said. “With the exception of the second game [against Yale], I thought we pitched a lot better than we had to this point. And we swung the bats pretty well, too. You’re talking Ivy games—you’re seeing the best four guys on everybody’s staff, and we handled ourselves very well.”
The second game against Yale proved to be Columbia’s most hard-fought victory on the whole weekend. The Bulldogs got to senior starter co-captain Adam Schwartz early. After an error by sophomore left fielder Peter Korbel extended the inning, Yale junior catcher Darren Beasley hit a bases-clearing double down the line as part of a five-run third for the Bulldogs, then chased Schwartz from the game with a two-run homer in the fifth.
The Lions showed indomitable spirit, however. Finding themselves down 7-3, they immediately climbed back into the game with a four-run sixth inning, marked by a two-base error by Yale first-year right fielder Matt Gulker that allowed two runs to score. A two-run homer by sophomore Jeff Huizinga in the seventh, and two more runs in the eighth, gave the Lions an 11-7 lead heading into the final frame.
The drama was not yet over, though. Junior Jason Magnus failed to close the door on the Bulldogs. Five Yale runs crossed the plate in the inning, four of them with two outs. First-year leftfielder Zac Bradley’s three-run double gave Yale a five-run lead.
But the Lions were not to be outdone. In the bottom of the ninth, Yale sophomore reliever Doug Shimokawa (2-4) gave up a two-out single to sophomore shortstop Jorge Livermore, which was followed by a double by junior second baseman Billy Hess that tied the game.
After junior Terrence Vogenburger (2-2) set down the Bulldogs in the top of the 10th, the scene was set for a crazy inning.
Following a single by junior Joe Catsam, Korbel was beaned in the act of bunting and awarded first base. Yale coach John Stuper vehemently disputed the call and was ejected from the game. The Lions then loaded the bases, and after sophomore third baseman Steve Compton failed to bring around the winning run, Livermore stepped up to the plate with two outs and the game on the line.
Livermore, who would reach base safely in nine of ten at bats throughout the day, and who had already scored the tying run, came through once more for the Lions with an RBI single.
“Last year at Cornell I was in the same situation, so I’d been there before, and I was very confident I could come through,” Livermore said after the game.
Saturday’s Game 1 went much more smoothly, thanks to some stellar pitching by senior Matt Waldman. A pitching duel developed early on in that game, with Waldman (1-1) and Yale senior lefty Craig Breslow (0-2) matching each other pitch for pitch in the early innings. The Lions built a 2-1 lead thanks to a Yale error in the third inning. While Waldman gave up a single run in the fourth, the crafty senior was at the top of his game and would eventually go the full seven innings, giving up only four hits and one run. His counterpart ran into trouble in the bottom of the sixth, however. Columbia picked up five insurance runs, with the big play coming on a bases-clearing triple by Hess, who put the ball over the right fielder’s head, then scored on the play due to a throwing error. The insurance runs proved unnecessary, though; Waldman finished off the Bulldogs for his first win of the season.
Doveala (1-3) also notched his first win of the season as he sparkled against Brown, going the distance in the Sunday nightcap with six strikeouts and just three earned runs. The game was highlighted by defense, though—as much for Columbia’s mastery of it as for Brown’s lack of it. The Lions committed no errors the full nine innings; Brown, on the other hand, committed four, spoiling a valiant effort by starter Jamie Grillo (2-1), who got tagged with seven runs—just four of which were earned—in seven innings while striking out six.
Hess jump-started the Columbia offense early, scoring a run on an error by Brown shortstop Chris Contrino in the first, then driving in senior first baseman Keith Palmieri in the second to put the Lions up 2-0.
Brown broke through in the third with a run, opening the inning with a choppy double into the left field corner, followed by a bloop single. Doveala then walked Contrino, the ninth man, and the Bears looked to rally. But Doveala dug in, notching a bunt foul strike three and getting secondbaseman Robert Deeb to ground into the 5-4-3 double play.
Columbia then tacked on three more runs in the bottom of the third with junior outfielder Mike Anderson’s single. Anderson advanced to third on a base hit by Palmieri. Grillo then threw a wild pitch that moved Palmieri over two bases—after Brown catcher Greg Metzger misfired trying to throw him out at second—and scored Anderson. The rally was completed when Compton drove in Palmieri.
A few more Brown hits put up a two spot in the top of the fourth, but after that the bats went silent. The Bears continued to drive the ball right into the gloves of the Lions outfielders, who covered all corners of the green. Another Brown error and a few more hits would give Columbia two more runs in the seventh to secure the victory.
Doveala’s masterpiece had come on the heels of a hard-fought loss. At one point in the opener, the Lions found themselves up by two runs, taking a 5-3 lead in the fourth off a two-run homer by Compton, who went 4-for-5 on the day. Columbia had scored its first two runs when Catsam launched a bases-clearing triple in the first, then added another on an RBI double by Johnson.
But Brown would chip away at that lead, thanks to three Columbia errors, tying it 5-5 by the top of the fifth and washing away a decent performance by junior starter Brian McKitish.
Vogenberger, who had picked up one of the wins against Yale, was called upon to save the game again in the extra-inning; this time, though, he could not put it away, giving up two hits and a walk that put Brown up by one coming without recording an out. First-year Brendan Quinn relieved Vogenberger and promptly allowed the next two runners to score, widening the margin and snapping the Lions’ four-game winning streak.
Nevertheless, the successful weekend was a milestone for Aoki at Columbia; at 13-12, this is the earliest in a season that Columbia has broken .500 since Aoki took the helm of the program.