Coming off a six-game homestand in which they won five games, the red-hot Lions (10-14, 3-1 Ivy) are packing it up and heading out on the road for their second weekend of Ivy play.
Columbia will start off in Cambridge, Mass. to play two games versus Harvard (4-19, 1-3 Ivy) on Saturday afternoon. After that, the Light Blue will travel to Hanover, N.H. for a Sunday doubleheader against Dartmouth (5-13, 1-3, Ivy).
The Light Blue has had good success versus the Crimson in the last few years, going a clean 8-0 since 2008. Last time the Lions graced Harvard with their presence in 2010, they came away with a sweep, 7-3 and 24-1.
“That doesn’t mean anything,” Lions junior left fielder Dario Pizzano said of the team’s recent success against the Crimson. “We like facing Harvard, and we like playing them there. But it’s a new year, and we’ve got to go bring it to them.”
Pizzano is poised to do just that. He brings an 11-game hitting streak into the weekend.
Lions head coach Brett Boretti has been pleased with Pizzano’s approach all season long.
“He’s doing a real good job of being selective at the plate and not forcing it,” Boretti said. “He takes his walks when he’s getting pitched carefully, and he’s taking advantage when they come in the zone to him.”
Senior infielder Jon Eisen has also been on a tear lately, and currently has a 13-game hitting streak. Eisen is the spark that lights the flame of the Lion offense, batting frequently in the leadoff position.
“Jon’s done a great job for us,” Boretti said. “I think he’s found his swing over the past week, week and a half. He’s been more consistent, starting to drive the ball a little bit more. He’s definitely a guy that when he gets on base, it makes things happen for us.”
But when it comes to this weekend’s opponents, Boretti specifically pointed to Harvard’s senior starting pitcher Brent Suter as one to watch for. “Suter, one of the guys I think we’re going to see, is one of the best in the league,” Boretti said.
So far this season, Suter has put together a 1-3 record in seven appearances (and five starts), but has struck out 25, walked just 11 and has a 2.97 ERA in 30.1 innings.
But Boretti knows all of Harvard’s team will be ready to go.
“It’s their home Ivy opener, so they’ll be hungry for it,” Boretti said.
Dartmouth, on the other hand, has given the Lions some trouble in recent years. When the two teams faced off in the Ivy League Baseball Championship Series in 2010, Dartmouth came out on top. Including those three games, the Lions have lost four straight to the Big Green.
“Dartmouth is another team that the record doesn’t speak for what they’ve been able to do,” Boretti said. “They’re always very fundamental. They’ve got two players who have played very well against us, Sclafani and O’Dowd, so I know they’ll be ready for us as well.”
Shortstop Joe Sclafani and catcher Chris O’Dowd may be Lion slayers, but so far the latter is having a down year. O’Dowd has hit just .203 in 16 games this season, with only two doubles, three RBIs, and 17 total bases.
Nevertheless, the Lions will need to put their best foot forward for both series, and will rely on their rotation to do that. Senior Pat Lowery and junior Tim Giel will pitch against the Crimson, and junior Stefan Olson and sophomore David Speer will pitch against the Big Green.
Boretti has been pleased with what he’s seen out of the starters.
“They’ve all given us quality starts,” he said. “Those four guys are doing a great job of limiting the free bases and attacking the strike zone.”
Winners of their last seven of eight games, the Lions will try to stay hot this weekend and separate themselves from the rest of the pack in the Lou Gehrig Division. The Light Blue’s quest for the division title continues Saturday at 12:30 p.m. in Cambridge.