Ivy League Preview

Princeton back in the driver's set in the Ivy League


Feb. 16, 2008

By Eric Sorenson

Special to CSTV.com

ERIC SORENSON
Eric Sorenson is a regular contributor to CSTV.com, covering football, basketball & baseball.
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Considering there were only two teams with winning records in 2007 and that Brown, the defending Ivy champion, made no real noise in the post-season, it wasn't a great year for the Ancient Eight. But "experience" is a key word in the Ivies this year as most of the teams return a good portion of their rosters. That should make for a wide open race that will once again come down to the last out.

 

Favorites: Princeton

Contenders: Brown, Penn, Harvard

Darkhorse: Columbia

 

 

Red Rolfe Division:

 

Brown (27-21, 14-6)

 

The Good News:

The Bears led the league in hitting by a longshot: hitting .318 as a team. OF Ryan Murphy (.410) and SS Matt Nuzzo (.371). RHP Rob Hallberg was a New England Summer League All-Star (12svs) and should emerge this season.

 

The Bad News:

Jeff Dietz was the best two-way player in the Ancient Eight, and he's gone. Most of the returning pitchers have an ERA over 6.00.

 

The Intangible:

The taste of the big time.

 

Last year marked the first trip to the NCAA tournament for Bruno. They'd won some division titles under coach Marek Drabinski, but last year they made the big step to the Big Dance. So what's next?

 

Schedule Note:

With last year's trip down to Round Rock for the regionals against Texas and Wake Forest, you have to think that trips to open this season at UAB and Florida won't be so daunting.

 

 

Dartmouth (8-29-1, 5-15)

 

The Good News:

OFs Nick Santomauro (.395) and Damon Wright (.303) are a good nucleus to re-build around. SS Raymond Allen had a good summer in the Florida Collegiate League and LHP Robert Young was one of the top pitchers in the Texas Collegiate League.

 

The Bad News:

The league-worst hitting and pitching team needs drastic improvement in all areas. Senior Russell Young (2-5, 4.03) and Kyle Zeis (1-0, 4.10, 2svs) were the only pitchers with an ERA below 6.00.

 

The Intangible:

The Yin and the Yang.

 

Since 2002 Dartmouth has been consistent in their inconsistency. In the even numbered years they've had winning seasons, in odd numbered years they've had losing seasons. Guess what this year is?

 

Schedule Note:

The Big Green is scheduled to play 11 games in a nine-day trip to Bradenton, Florida in early March.

 

 

Harvard (18-18,12-8)

 

The Good News:

The winning habit is still there as Harvard has won four of the last six Rolfe Division titles. SS Matt Vance (.341) and OF Tom Stack-Babich (.313) are part of five of the top eight hitters returning. RHP Shawn Haviland (3-3, 4.26) was the most-used hurler.

 

The Bad News:

It was a tough finish as the Crimson lost twice to Dartmouth in the last weekend of the season to lose the Rolfe Division title. The tough early schedule could be a deflating factor.

 

The Intangible:

The Cap.

 

Ivy League coaches tend to have longevity. And Joe Walsh is now in his 13th year in Cambridge and 27th overall. Last April he won his 500th game in a win over Brown.

 

Schedule Note:

Man! At Wichita State. At San Diego. At Long Beach State. What the hell? That's a rigorous slate for a Top 10 team, much less an Ivy League squad.

 

 

Yale (16-27, 8-12)

 

The Good News:

Wunderkind C Ryan Lavarnway (.467-14-55) led the nation in batting and is a block of granite behind the dish. OF Josh Cox (.324, 24SBs) is a difference-maker. Top two pitchers, Brandon Josselyn (3-4, 4.83, 4CGs) and Stefan Schropp (3-4, 5.76, 2CGs), are ironmen on the mound.

 

The Bad News:

The staff allowed their opponents to hit a sky-high .330 and the defense helped out with a poor .942 fielding percentage. Must find more offense besides Lavarnway and Cox.

 

The Intangible:

Doyle is back.

 

OF Jake Doyle missed all of 2007 with a shoulder injury and will be a huge boon the Bulldogs this season. In 2006, Doyle hit .288 and was first-team All-Ivy.

 

Schedule Note:

Other than the two games at South Carolina, the remainder of the pre-conference schedule is winnable. But the first 18 games will be played in 22 days, so it will be a grind.

 

 



 
 

Lou Gehrig Division:

 

Columbia (16-28-1, 10-10)

 

The Good News:

It's always great to have good senior arms around, and John Baumann (5-2, 4.11) and Bill Purdy (5-4, 4.89) supply that. OFs Ron Williams (.374) and Jake Summerhays (.333) are the top returning sticks.

 

The Bad News:

There's good depth returning on the staff, but they can't let teams hit .325 again. Opponents jumped on the Lions early, outscoring them 117-61 in innings 1-thru-3.

 

The Intangible:

Facility upgrade.

 

Andy Coakley Field has undergone massive renovations in the off-season, including stadium seating, new batting cages and the installation of field turf. That makes it the top facility in the Ivy League (well, except the charm, history and size of Yale Field).

 

Schedule Note:

The early slate takes them from sea to shining sea, in tougher-than-they-need games with Pepperdine, Georgia Southern and Liberty. Hopefully it won't kill confidence because this could be the best Columbia team in years. They haven't had a winning record since 1987.

 

Cornell (15-23, 8-12)

 

The Good News:

Seniors RHP Walker Toma (4-4, 6.04) and 2B Jimmy Heinz (.285) will be good leaders. But the best players may be C Nathan Ford (.338) and Domenic Di Ricco (.329).

 

The Bad News:

A 5-1 Ivy start quickly went south to a 4-11 finish. The staff anchor, Jim Hyland took his 3.81ERA to graduation and ace reliever Blake Hamilton is gone as well.

 

The Intangible:

Experience, experience, experience.

 

The Big Red should easily improve from last year's 15 wins, with eight field starters and three of the four starters toeing the rubber. Now you see why coach Tom Ford is smiling so.

 

Schedule Note:

Despite joining Siena as sacrificial lambs to nationally-ranked Virginia to open the season, Cornell can take solace in the fact that it will play eight of the last 10 games of the season at home.

 

 

Pennsylvania (20-19, 12-8)

 

The Good News:

The Quakers won their first Gehrig Division title since '95 with a lot of inexperienced players. Freshman All-American Todd Roth (6-2, 1.98) will lead a decent mound staff. OF Kyle Armeny (.326-8-33) is the key cog to a wicked offense.

 

The Bad News:

There's not a lot of bad here, though nothing is more painful than losing out in the Ivy playoffs and sitting at home during the NCAA tournament. The Quakers will miss the clutch bat of Joey Boaen (led Penn with 49 hits). They'll also be without Jim Birmingham, who decided to transfer to Coastal Carolina.

 

The Intangible:

Senioritis.

 

Despite the emergence of young phenoms, there are still some solid seniors that will carry this team to another good season. Alex Nwaka (.324), Jarron Smith (.319) and RP Andy Console (2-0, 3svs) will factor big.

 

Schedule Note:

The Quakers are the only Ivy League team to have a home opener - a doubleheader vs. West Chester on February 29th. Now we'll see if Mother Nature abides.

 

 

Princeton (15-24, 11-9)

 

The Good News:

The Tigers won't be down for long as seven of the top eight players return. Strength up the middle with SS Spencer Lucian (.331) and C Jack Murphy (.277). P Christian Staehely needs to return to sophomore form (5-2, 2.57 in '06).

 

The Bad News:

The burr in the saddle over not sweeping Cornell in that last Ivy game cost the Tigers a shot at the post-season. The best pitcher, Eric Walz (3-1, .411), and team leader, Sal Iacono (.413), are the kind of players you can't just replace.

 

The Intangible:

Still the kingpins.

 

Despite last year's falter, Princeton has won eight of the last 10 Gehrig Division titles.

 

Schedule Note:

All told, Princeton is scheduled to play 14 doubleheaders this season. On top of that they also get Gehrig rival Penn at home this season.

 

 

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