The College Baseball Blog continues our previews of conferences around the nation today with a preview of the Gehrig Division of the Ivy League. The Columbia Lions won the divisional title last season which qualified them for the Ivy League Championship series. The Lions ended up winning the conference’s automatic bid by winning the best of three series against the Dartmouth Big Green.
Columbia (22-30 overall, 15-5 Ivy League)
The Columbia Lions won the Ivy League title in 2008 for the first time since the 1977 season when they tied Cornell for the conference title and their first outright title since 1976. They won the title by winning two out of three games over the Dartmouth Big Green in Hanover NH. By receiving the automatic bid, the Lions were sent to the Coastal Carolina Regional where they lost to the host Chanticleers and East Carolina sending them back to New York with an 0-2 mark. The Lions struggled in 2008 in out of conference games with a 7-25 record but dominated the Ivy League with a 15-5 record.
The Lions return six of their nine position players last season led by Sophomore Nick Cox who had an outstanding freshman campaign. He had a .355 average with one homer and 21 RBI in fifty games. He was outstanding on the base paths where he stole 28 bases in 32 attempts. He was honored by the Ivy League Conference with a selection as the Rookie of the Year while Louisville Slugger/College Baseball Newspaper named him a freshman All-American. The key loss on the offensive side of things for the Lions is second baseman Henry Perkins who led the team in hitting last season. He was both a leader on the field and off of it.
The Columbia pitching staff was horrible last season but was good enough to lead the team to the conference championship though. They ended up finishing the year with a staff ERA of 6.35 which was second worst in the conference. The Lions return two out of the top three starting pitchers from last season in Geoff Whitaker and Joe Scarlata. Bill Purdy who started 11 games last year with a 4-5 record and an ERA of 6.30. He ate up a ton of innings by pitching in a team high 70 innings. Henry Perkins also graduated from the program after appearing in seven games (five starts) with a record of 0-1 with one save and an ERA of 1.91. Clay Bartlett who made 20 appearances out of the bullpen comes back after going 0-4 including four saves with an ERA of 3.68.
Cornell (12-27 overall, 6-14 Ivy League)
The Cornell Big Red had an overall record last season of 12-27 while finishing in last place in the Gehrig Division with a 6-14 record. The Big Red after the season was over made a change in the coaching staff with former Franklin & Marshall head coach and Cornell alum of 1998 Bill Walkenbach taking over the program. Former Cornell head coach Tom Ford has stayed on Walkenbach’s staff as an Associate Head Coach for the 2009 season.
The Cornell Big Red finished last season second to last in hitting with a team average of .258. They return five out of their eight everyday position players with the top four hitters coming back. The top hitter returning is two sport athlete Nathan Ford. He finished the baseball season with a .410 average with three home runs and 28 RBI. Ford has been a member of the football team where he played 10 games this past fall at quarterback where he threw for 2815 yards with 12 touchdowns.
The Cornell pitching staff finished last season with a league high ERA of 6.76. They return the top two starters from last season in Junior LHP Matt Hill and Sophomore RHP Corey Pappel. Matt Hill had a 5-3 record last season with an ERA of 4.25 while seeing action in 11 games including eight starts. He held opponents to a .249 average. Corey Pappel saw action in 10 games (nine starts) where he had a 2-5 record and an ERA of 6.25. Tony Bertucci and David Rochefort both come back after each starting five games last season. Bertucci had a slightly better ERA with a 6.04 mark but had an 0-3 record. Rochefort on the other hand had a much better record at 2-3 but had an ERA of 7.16.
Penn (15-23-1 overall, 6-13-1 Ivy League)
The Penn Quakers had a disappointing 15-23-1 overall record last year and struggled in the Ivy League with a 6-13-1 record. They finished the season 8.5 games behind the division winning leading Columbia Lions. The Quakers are coached by John Cole who is entering his fourth season in charge of the program.
They return seven of their top nine hitters from last season with the key losses of Kyle Armeny and Michael Gatti who both graduated after last season. Head Coach John Cole told us in a recent interview that freshman Derek Vigoa is expected to fill one of the open spots in the lineup. (Full interview available by clicking here.)
The Penn pitching staff is led by 2007 Ivy League Rookie of the Year Todd Roth (Jr, RHP) who had another solid season in 2008 with a 4-5 record and an ERA of 2.32. He should continue to be the top pitcher in the Quakers rotation in 2009 and possibly be picked in the 2009 MLB Draft. The rotation after Roth is really up in the air. Sophomore Jeremy Maas who made nine appearances last season including six starts is coming off of Tommy John surgery and his role is currently up in the air whether he will pitch this spring as a starter or in relief. Reid Terry who is entering his junior season and freshman pitcher Vince Voiro are in the mix for the other spots in the rotation. William Gordon will serve as the team’s closer heading into the beginning of the season after making four appearances last season with a 0-1 record and and ERA of 16.88.
Princeton (20-22 overall, 11-9 Ivy League)
The Princeton Tigers had an overall record of 20-22 while being 11-9 in the Ivy League. The Tigers ended up with a second place finish in the Gehrig Division coming in behind the Columbia Lions by four games. They finished the season strong with four straight victories.
The Tigers return six out of their eight everyday starters from the 2008 team losing Micah Kaplan and team leading hitter Spencer Lucian to graduation. The top returning hitter for the Tigers is junior catcher Jack Murphy who hit .391 with eight homers and 40 RBI last season. The eight homers were good enough for fourth place in the conference. RHP/outfielder David Hale should be one of the better hitters for the Tigers in 2009 as he had a .339 average with five homers and 29 RBI. Senior outfielder Derek Beckman only hit .266 but was a terror on the base paths with 14 stolen bases in 16 attempts.
The Tigers had the best pitching in the Ivy League last season with a team ERA of 4.93. Sophomore RHP Brad Gemberling led the Tigers in his rookie campaign with a 2-1 record and an ERA of 3.60 in nine appearances (five starts). The other returning starting pitcher is RHP/outfielder David Hale who had a 2-4 record with a 5.04 ERA last season. Keith Law of ESPN has named Hale as the 52nd best prospect in the country for the upcoming draft. (Full List available here) The biggest losses for the Tigers will be Steven Miller (3-2, 4.36 ERA) and Christian Staehely (6-2, 4.91 ERA). Both of these pitchers had excellent careers with the Tigers including leading the Tigers to the NCAA Tournament in 2006.
Gehrig Division Predictions
I think we will see the division have the same order of finish in 2009 as we saw last year. Columbia continues to look like the best team in the division with Princeton right on their heels. The biggest issue for the Penn Quakers is whether they will get enough quality hitting and pitching in the 2009 season to challenge for the division title. The Cornell Big Red look like they will be trying to turn around the program in the upcoming season but the talent is not there yet for them to compete for a divisional title.