There should be a new champion in the Eastern Intercollegiate Baseball League this season, which is good news for Harvard. Navy and Cornell, all ready to claim the throne, and bad news for Yale, which finished in the top spot a year ago.
The Elis, who rose to first place in 1981 with a sparkling 12-2 league record, take the field this season minus two players who, as juniors last year, keyed the team's title surge.
Pitcher Ron Darling, man of 9-4 record and 2.14 ERA, was selected by the Texas Rangers in the free-agent entry draft last year after the college season ended and signed a professional contract. Traded into the New York Mets' organization this past spring, Darling is currently with the Triple-A Tidewater Tides and is expected to make the jump to the bigs before long.
The other Eli star whose name will never grace the New Haven line-up card this season is better known for his exploits as a tailback in the Yale Bowl, Rich Diana, who hit eight home runs, chalked up 43 RBI's, both team highs, and batted .341 last season, lost his baseball eligibility because he played in two post season, college all-star football games--the Blue-Grey Bowl and the Japan Bowl--and Ivy League rules allow only one. An appeal to the Ivy presidents proved futile, and Diana decided his potential pro football career took precedence over baseball.
A third Eli star, first baseman and team captain Danny Costello, who batted .358 last season and led the team with 17 stolen bases, was hit by a car in the off-season. Although he's played in 18 of the team's first 19 games and hit .293, he just one stolen base so far this year.
Two sophomores have picked up some of the hitting slack for the Elis. Outfielder Steve Marchel currently carries a .379 average, and catcher Tony Paterno is close behind at .367. Trying to pick up where Darling left off on the mound are senior hurler John Impagliazzo (2-3, 5.87 ERA so far) and soph Ken Martin (3-1. 1.90).
Yale's biggest problem is a lack of depth, which is so important this season because of the double doubleheader weekends the teams play this year. They lost a twin-bill to Navy, 9-7 and 2-1, in their only Eastern outing of the season.
Because of the Eli's troubles, Harvard's stiffest competition for the EIBL crown should come from Navy and Cornell. The Midshipmen return with almost their entire 1981 team intact, a squad which finished only a game behind the Elis in the league.
So far this year Navy is clearly on the same track, boasting a 5-1 EIBL record and a slew of productive hitters. Leading the attack is sophomore DH Andy Ponseigo (.397), junior center fielder Andy Loferski (.299.3 HRs, 20 RBIs), and senior left fielder Tom Kiser (.414). Strong hitting has led to doubleheader sweeps over Yale and Penn already, and if the pitching holds together Navy will continue to be tough.
Coach Joe Duff is counting on captain Bob Adrion (4-2) to anchor the staff, with help from sophomore Jon Rees (4-0) and reliever Craig Gibson. As a unit the pitching corps is improved from last year but their inexperience may catch up with them if the pennant race gets tight in the later going.
If Navy falters Cornell should be there to fill the void. The Big Red lost only two players (Greg Allen and Bill Bacon) from last year's third-place team to graduation, and began the 1982 season with an impressive 4-3 California trip before returning to the snowy Northeast.
Cornell's hopes rest largely with its pitching staff, which might help stalwart Greg Myers enough to propel the Big Red to number one. Now a senior co-captain, Myers has 18 wins in the past three years to his credit and is currently 1-0 in 1982. Voted the best pitcher in the Cape Cod League this summer, the right hander has also been All-League three years in a row.
Fortunately for Cornell, their pitching does not begin and end with Myers. Lefty Jay Kobalarz is back, as is junior Tully Diamond (2-0, 1.00 ERA in '82). Two promising new acquisitions are freshman righties Mark Coleila and Steve Huber.
The Big Red's offense is counting on co-captain Marlin McPhail to again produce with the bat. Last year the senior earned All-League honors at second base but moves over to third in 1982 to make room for freshman Juan Prieto, a 400 hitter so far this spring. Another solid freshman hitter, DH Mike Kalfopoulos (.412), has also joined the line-up.
Down one level from Navy and Cornell lie Army and Brown. The Cadets, who finished fourth in the league last year, have swept improved Columbia, 4-1 and 9-7, already this season Marked by good hitting (led by out-fielder Gary Donaldson, with a 400 average, and first baseman Tim Morris, also hitting 400 and with two homers), the boys from West Point may come up short when they have to rely on the pitching corps.