The Lions (14-21, 6-6 Ivy) will take the field as the home team for the first time in 16 days this weekend, when they host Princeton (16-14, 9-3 Ivy) in a Gehrig Division matchup with big implications for the standings.
Despite the preseason consensus that Princeton—the defending Ivy champion—was the Gehrig Division favorite, just ahead of Columbia, both teams come into the weekend trailing Cornell. The Tigers trail the Big Red by just one game, but the Lions are four games back. Columbia will need to win most, if not all, of its remaining games and hope Cornell plays under-.500 baseball for its final two weekends if the Light Blue hopes to have a chance at the division crown. Princeton will face Cornell next weekend to close the regular season.
The Tigers are coming off an 8-4 loss at the hands of St. John’s, a team that Columbia beat earlier this month. But Princeton has won three of four games each of its first three Ivy weekends.
While the Tigers’ pitching has done its part, it has been their offense that has carried them this season. They are tied with Cornell for the league lead with 22 home runs, seven of which have come off the bat of catcher/outfielder Sam Mulroy. Mulroy also sports an outstanding .460 on-base percentage, and his .376 batting average is just behind infielder/outfielder Alec Keller’s .381 for the team lead.
“I think two guys that are the keys to their team are Matt Bowman and Sam Mulroy,” head coach Brett Boretti said. “Matt Bowman’s an outstanding shortstop and an outstanding pitcher. Sam Mulroy’s been a constant in the lineup for them. He’s a very good catcher and he’s a middle-of-the-lineup guy that has been producing for them all year.”
With Keller, Bowman, and Mulroy filling out the leadoff, No. 2 hitter, and cleanup spots in the lineup, respectively, the Tigers feature three guys in the top half of their batting order who are in the top 10 in the league for batting average.
The challenge of facing these hitters will belong to senior Pat Lowery followed by junior Tim Giel on Friday and sophomore David Speer followed by junior Stefan Olson on Saturday—the same rotation Boretti has gone with the previous two weekends.
Last season, Columbia went into the Princeton series in a similar situation, trailing the Tigers by three games. With their postseason destiny hanging in the balance, the Lions lost three out of four games in New Jersey, including a pair of excruciating one-run losses that eliminated them from postseason contention.
“Princeton’s going to be ready to go—they’re very good,” Boretti said. “I think we’re going to see some really good arms, and we’re going to be tested.”
Columbia is coming off a pair of losses at Manhattan College on Wednesday, but it will hope it can right the ship at home, where the Light Blue has won five of its previous six contests.
Senior designated hitter Alexander Aurrichio and junior left fielder Dario Pizzano both enter the series two home runs shy of tying the all-time Columbia mark of 25 career round-trippers.
The doubleheaders were scheduled to be played on Saturday and Sunday, but due to forecasted rain, Sunday’s doubleheader was moved to Friday. First pitch at Robertson Field is slated for 1 p.m. on Friday afternoon. All four games can be heard on the Real Audio stream at wkcr.org.