With one colossal swing Friday afternoon, sophomore Joey Falcone not only rocketed the baseball out of Satow Stadium into the Harlem River, but also invigorated the Columbia Baseball team, which locked up home-field advantage in the 2013 Ivy League Championship with a four-game sweep of Penn this weekend.
Columbia, which finishes the season with a record-best 16–4 Ivy League record, will face off against Dartmouth next weekend for the conference crown. The teams will play a double-header on Saturday in upper Manhattan, followed by a potential rubber match on Sunday if the series is deadlocked.
The Lions entered Friday up three games on both Cornell and Princeton in the Lou Gehrig Division, meaning Columbia needed two weekend wins to clinch the title. In the first game, the Lions’ ace David Speer allowed just two runs scattered across seven innings; Penn took a 2–1 lead in the top of the fifth inning on a well-executed squeeze bunt, but Speer struck out back-to-back Quakers to end the rally.
After threatening in the bottom of the sixth, the Lions wasted no time in their final frame: senior Alex Black mashed a double to deep right on the second pitch of the inning, and just four pitches later, Falcone ended things, leaving Penn stunned and the home Lions pouring out onto the field, celebrating their walk-off victory.
For Falcone, whose journey to Columbia included stops as a Marine combat medic and a freshman year at the Division III College of Staten Island, the heroics were not over. After a break between contests to honor the seven graduating Columbia seniors, Falcone hit a 2-RBI double in the bottom of the first inning of the doubleheader’s second contest, again sparking the Lion offense. Columbia won the second tilt 14–1 to cement a championship berth, and Falcone finished the day with 4 hits, 7 RBI, and 2 home runs.
The winning ways would continue. On Saturday, Columbia capped off a remarkable weekend with two more wins in Philadelphia against Penn, which finished the season with a 7–13 Ivy League mark. Columbia’s current four-game winning streak is their third-longest of the season, as the Lions may be peaking at just the right moment.
Game(s) of the week
Baseball: Ivy League Championship: Dartmouth at Columbia, Saturday, May 4, time TBA at Satow Stadium.
The series marks the third meeting between the Lions and the Big Green; Dartmouth has not missed the championship since 2007. When the two squads met at the end of March in New York, Dartmouth won both matchups.
The Big Green have perhaps the best pitching staff in the Ivy League, and the Lions will likely face senior Cole Sulser in game one, followed by senior Kyle Hunter in game two. Speer, Columbia’s ace, will likely throw the opener for the home squad.
With expected highs in the mid-70s this weekend, sports fans of all stripes would be remiss to not head north for the weekend’s clashes.