FROM CBB NEWS SOURCE
NEW YORK, N.Y. — While Dartmouth baseball head coach Bob Whalen earned his 400th career victory yesterday, number 401 turned out to be much sweeter as the Big Green (25-16) defeated Columbia (26-21) in the third and decisive game of the Ivy League Championship Series on Sunday afternoon, 11-5. Every Dartmouth hitter had at least one hit and scored at least one run to help the team win the conference title for the second straight year.
Freshman Kyle Hunter (2-0), who had six no-decisions this year (five of which Dartmouth won), earned the victory by hurling 5.2 innings while yielding four earned runs on seven hits and a walk, striking out six as well. Sophomore Cole Sulser shut the door on the Lions in relief of Hunter, tossing the final 3.1 innings and allowing just a solitary run in the ninth on a total of three hits while fanning five for his fourth save.
Senior Brett Gardner had three hits out of the nine-hole in the lineup with a team-high three RBIs, while sophomore lead-off hitter Joe Sclafani also picked up three hits with a pair of RBIs. Sclafani led the Big Green in the series with eight hits while batting .533 (8-for-15).
Dartmouth took an early 1-0 lead in the first on a sacrifice fly off the bat of senior Jim Wren that scored Sclafani who had led off the game with a sharp single to right.
The southpaw Hunter allowed nothing more than a single in each of the first two innings, but got himself into trouble by uncharacteristically walking the ninth-place hitter, Billy Rumpke, to start the third. Nick Crucet bunted Rumpke over and, after a wild pitch, Jon Eisen shot a ball up the middle past a drawn-in infield to tie the score at one.
A two-out single by Dario Pizzano in the fourth set up an RBI triple off the fence just inside the right-field foul line by Alex Ferrara to give Columbia the lead. Dean Forthun was then hit by a pitch, and with two strikes on Rumpke, Ferrara and Forthun pulled off a double steal to put the Lions up by two, 3-1.
Dartmouth answered right back in the fifth beginning when Brett Gardner lined a ball down the left-field line for a one-out double. He moved to third on a grounder to short and scored on a hard single through the right side by junior Sam Bean. Freshman Chris O’Dowd hit an identical single to send Bean to third before Wren ripped a shot to left for an RBI single to knot the score at three. The Lions summoned Tim Giel from the bullpen, who gave up an infield single to junior Jason Brooks before uncorking a wild pitch to allow O’Dowd to scamper home with the go-ahead run.
Another wild pitch in the sixth led to another Big Green run. Freshman Zack Bellenger swung at strike three, but reached first when the pitch was in the dirt and got away from the catcher. A sacrifice and a groundout put Bellenger on third with two out, then Sclafani doubled into the left-field corner to make it 5-3. When Bean hit a grounder up the middle for a hit, Sclafani tried to score from second only to be gunned down by the second baseman Crucet who had ranged far to his right to field the hit.
Pizzano singled home the fourth Lion run in the bottom of the sixth with two outs, plating Alexander Aurrichio who had reached on a one-out bloop double in front of Bean in left field.
In the seventh, O’Dowd led off the inning with an infield hit and Wren walked to end Giel’s day. Eric Williams came on to pitch and promptly gave up a bloop single to Brooks, loading the bases. The first out was recorded on strikes, but Bellenger grounded a single back through the box to score O’Dowd. A passed ball brought home another run, and Gardner ripped a single to left for two insurance runs with two gone for a 9-4 lead.
Meanwhile, Sulser — who replaced Hunter in the sixth after the fourth Lion run — was shutting down the Columbia offense, striking out the first three batters he faced. Crucet broke the trend with a triple off the fence in center, but was stranded when Sulser got Eisen to ground softly to Sclafani at short.
Dartmouth tacked on two runs in the ninth on RBI singles from Gardner and Sclafani. In the bottom half, Ferrara hit the first pitch for a long double to left, went to third on a wild pitch and trotted home on Forthun’s fly to the center-field fence. That would be all for the Lions, however, as Sulser got the second out on strikes and junior second baseman Jeff Onstott made a diving catch of a Crucet liner to end the game.
The Big Green, having won the Ivy League’s automatic bid to the NCAA Regionals, will have to wait three weeks to discover their fate as to where they are assigned in the brackets. This will be Dartmouth’s seventh trip to a regional and the second time it has done so in consecutive years (also in 1969-70).