Baseball Around the Ivies, First Edition

Published by Loren Amor on April 09, 2010 at 3:10AM
Come Zail Away

Senior Dan Zailskas and the Crimson baseball team are pursuing their first division crown in the last four years.

For diehard baseball fans, the stretch of time between the World Series and spring training is a veritable sports wasteland. Sure, there’s some football, a little basketball, maybe some hockey here and there, but none of it compares to America’s Pastime.

Thankfully it’s April, and baseball is back. With spring trainining over, the Major Leagues have kicked off the regular season and all is right with the world. The Harvard baseball team has also been back in action, and with the first weekend of Ivy play under its belt, the Crimson finds itself in an unfamiliar place (at least in the last few years): first.

At 2-2 against Ancient Eight opponents, Harvard enters this weekend’s doubleheaders against Penn and Columbia tied  at the top of the Rolfe Division standings with Brown and Dartmouth. With a strong weekend, the Crimson could break out in a big way and put itself on the path to the Ivy League Championship Series for the first time since 2006. It won’t be easy though, with Harvard facing tough competition around the ivies.

GEHRIG DIVISION

PENN (12-11, 3-1 IVY)

The Quakers are stacked as far as Ivy League teams go, with a deep lineup and enough serviceable pitchers to fill out a solid weekend rotation. Dan Williams leads the league with a .442 batting average and slugger Tom Grandieri was just named Ivy Player of the Week for his recent five-game tear.

Penn isn’t  as imposing on the mound, but with high strikeout guys at the top of the rotation who eat up innings, the Quaker hurlers do enough to let the team’s batters take care of business.

COLUMBIA (11-12, 3-1 IVY)

Along with Penn, Columbia will make life difficult for Harvard this weekend. Like the Quakers, the Lions let their bats do the talking and have pitchers good enough not to screw things up. Their humongous first baseman—6’6”, 225-pound Alexander Auricchio—leads the Ivy League with eight home runs and slugs at a .787 clip. The rest of the lineup isn’t exactly filled with slouches, so the Crimson pitchers better be on top of their game this weekend.

CORNELL (6-10, 2-2 IVY)

My football Around the Ivies column was never the same after Cornell’s Nathan Ford graduated, and this venture into scouting the Ivy baseball scene also lacks Ford’s presence. The trigger-happy quarterback was also a mashing second baseman, and was famously immortalized in The Office by Dwight.

Ford has been missed in the middle of the Big Red’s lineup—no Cornell batter has more than two home runs or 12 RBI in 16 games of play. The most intriguing player on the squad is starter Corey Pappel, who has 27 strikeouts in 23 innings and boasts a 2.35 ERA.

PRINCETON (7-16, 2-2 IVY)

The Tigers are pretty underwhelming, and are lucky to still have a fighting chance in the Gehrig. The only real threat in their lineup is Jon Broscious, a disciple of the cult of the Three True Outcomes with his six home runs, 23 strikeouts, and nine walks in 23 games.

ROLFE DIVISION

DARTMOUTH (9-10, 2-2 IVY)

The Big Green is very alive in the  race to the top of the Rolfe, which at this juncture seems to be the weaker Ivy division. But Dartmouth’s certainly not the dominant force that it once was. With marquee slugger Nick Santomauro in the New York Mets’ farm system and the rest of last year’s strong senior class gone, Dartmouth lacks punch in its lineup.

The team is kept afloat by its starting pitchers, especially the trio of Kyle Hunter, Kyle Hendricks, and Robert Young—a gritty bunch that gives up a lot of hits but manages to find outs at the right times to keep the Big Green in games.

HARVARD (8-15, 2-2 IVY)

At 2-2, the Crimson isn’t exactly flying high, but Harvard held its own against tough non-conference opponents during March and has the pitching to make a serious run at a Rolfe title.

In sophomore hurler Conner Hulse, the Crimson has a bonafide ace. In five appearances (four starts) Hulse has held opponents to a measly .218 batting average, striking out 26 in 30 innings. Junior Eric Eadington and sophomore Brent Suter have bloated ERAs but have been coming around and provide a nice supporting cast for Hulse. The real wild card for Harvard is junior Max Perlman, who is on the mend from Tommy John surgery but made his first appearance against Cornell last weekend and pitched a scoreless inning. If Perlman can return to the starting rotation, the Crimson could very well have the best pitching staff in the Ivies.

BROWN (5-15, 2-2)

The Bears aren’t capable of mauling much of anyone these days. Brown managed to escape from its first weekend of Ivy play at .500, but the team s going to have a hard time sustaining that record with its current cast of characters.

The Bears do have a true cleanup man in first baseman Pete Greskoff, who has seven home runs and 27 RBI. Ryan Zrenda can swing the lumber as well, but the Brown lineup falls off from there, and the team’s pitching staff is only something to write home about if you’re writing a horror story.

YALE (12-11, 0-4 IVY)

One of only two Ivy League teams with an overall record above .500, the Bulldogs ran into tough opponents and hard luck last weekend as they were swept by Columbia and Penn. Besides a 12-4 blowout at the hands of the Quakers, Yale lost each game by three runs or less.

Yale has a host of big-time hitters and a very deep pitching staff, so don’t expect the Bulldogs to roll over easily this season.