Sports

Baseball hosts Gehrig Division front-runners Penn, Columbia

Lion offense, Quaker pitching present challenges for Bruno ahead of weekend tilts

By
Senior Staff Writer
Friday, April 3, 2015

Nick Fornaca ’15 throws the ball to first. The last time Brown started 2-2 in conference play was in 2012, which also happens to be the last time that the Bears registered wins against Gehrig Division foes Penn and Columbia in the same season.

After the baseball team split its first two Ivy doubleheaders with Princeton and Cornell — the two teams picked to finish last in the Gehrig Division by d1baseball.com — Brown (6-14, 2-2 Ivy) hosts the teams picked to finish in the top half of the Gehrig Division, Columbia and Penn.

Mother Nature may disrupt current plans, but for the time being, the Bears look to open their home slate with the Lions (11-10, 3-1) Saturday. Columbia comes in with a much higher pedigree than the Bears, as it has played a much tougher nonconference schedule and looks to be one of the frontrunners for the Ivy League title. The Lions have already shown their strength in two victories over then-No. 6 Houston in an opening series split.

“Columbia has experienced guys that know how to win in this league,” said Taylor Wright ’15. “They’ve played in regionals and know how to perform in big games.”

Joey Falcone and Jordan Serena lead the Lions’ potent lineup this year, each batting well over .300 for the season. Falcone has also brought a lot of power to Columbia’s offense, slugging .663 with four home runs and 18 RBIs in 80 at bats. Gus Craig is the only other Lion with double-digit RBIs, but seven players have six or more.

Comparably, Noah Schulman ’16, Robert Henry ’17, Dan Kerr ’15 and Josh Huntley ’17 all have double-digit RBIs this season.

Columbia’s starting rotation has not been the biggest contributor to the Lions’ success: Of the three pitchers who have started three or more games this season, none has an ERA lower than 3.50. But Columbia’s relievers have been impressive, as three of them — two with eight appearances — boast ERAs of 3.00 or lower. All that said, only one Brown pitcher has an ERA lower than 4.00 — Dante Bosnic ’18, who has two wins in seven relief appearances.

“Dante has been awesome for us,” Wright said. “It’s nice to know there’s a guy in the bullpen that you know is going to come in and get the job done. Especially as a freshman it’s impressive that he’s been able to come in in big spots and get people out.”

Sunday’s weather looks a little more promising for the Bears’ tilts  with Penn (8-9, 3-1), which, like Columbia, had a strong first weekend of conference play. Two wins against Harvard preceded by a split with Dartmouth mean the Quakers come to Providence with a solid premiere in Ivy play behind them.

The top four batters for Penn all hit over .285 and three of them have batting averages of over .300. Two hitters — Mitch Montaldo and Matt Greskoff — lead the Quakers in RBIs but hit below .250 for the season. Having only played 17 games, the batters’ individual numbers are deflated compared to Bruno’s, though Bruno still has an edge over the Quakers, scoring almost a full run more per game.

Penn’s strength has been in its starting pitching: All four Quakers who have started three or more games have an ERA lower than 3.00. If the starting pitchers have a rare bad start and depend on middle relief, Penn may be out of luck since of its six relievers who have appeared in four or more games, only one has an ERA lower than 3.00.

“Penn has some talented arms and those guys compete,” Wright said. “They come right after hitters and can throw all of their pitches for strikes.”

The Bears take on Columbia Saturday at 12:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. before facing the Quakers Easter Sunday at the same times.

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