Dartmouth returns to the Ivy Championship Series (ICS) for a sixth straight year by virtue of finishing atop the Rolfe Division standings with a 15-5 record. But Columbia — the Gehrig Division champ — posted the Ivy League’s best record at 16-4 to earn the right to host the best-of-three series that starts on Saturday at Robertson Field at Satow Stadium.
In the last five trips to the ICS, the Big Green have won two and lost three with each of the series lasting three games. This is the third time Dartmouth and Columbia have squared off for the conference crown, and each team has won the series on the other team’s home field — the Lions took two of three in 2008, and the Green returned the favor in 2010 at this field.
This is the ninth trip overall to the ICS for Dartmouth, all coming in the last 14 seasons, going 2-6 in the first eight.
The two teams are very evenly matched statistically, ranking 1-2 in league play in ERA, batting average and fielding percentage. Both teams have four players that hit at least .300 against the Ancient Eight and three pitchers among the top 11 in ERA. Dartmouth has a slightly better slugging percentage, Columbia a slightly better on-base percentage. The one noticeable difference between the two comes on the basepaths where the Lions stole 42 bases while being caught just four times; the Big Green are more conservative but with a similar success rate at 16-of-18.
Last Time Against the Lions
Dartmouth has already played on Columbia’s home field this year, winning both games by scores of 3-2 and 7-4. All of the runs in the first game came via the long ball as Dustin Selzer belted a solo shot in the fifth and Jeff Keller smacked a two-run blast in the sixth. The Lions responded with an Alex Black two-run homer in the bottom of the sixth, but Thomas Olson closed the door in the seventh for his sixth (and most recent) save. Mitch Horacek allowed the two runs on four hits and a walk while striking out five to outduel Tim Giel, who went the distance in yielding three runs on seven hits and a walk with three strikeouts.
In the second game, the Big Green jumped all over starter Adam Cline with two runs in the first and five in the third. That was plenty for Michael Johnson to work with as he pitched into the eighth before tiring. His final line included four hits and three walks that led to three runs, two earned, over 7.1 innings while fanning four. The first eight hitters in the Dartmouth lineup each had at least one hit, and Keller drove in three runs with a grounder to short and a double.
Dartmouth also won both games played there in the 2011 season and the final two games of the 2010 ICS for a six-game winning streak at Robertson Field.
The Overall Record vs. Columbia
• The Big Green own a 102-69 advantage in the series that began in 1891, and have been even more successful over the past 25 meetings with a record of 18-7.
• Columbia has been playing on FieldTurf at Robertson Field at Satow Stadium since 2008, and Dartmouth is 8-1 on it. The Big Green are 16-9 in New York since the divisional format was instituted in 1993, and 44-39 since 1923.
• The last time the Lions won consecutive games against Dartmouth was in 2003-04, finishing off a stretch of seven straight wins dating back to 2001. It is the longest win streak in the series for the Lions. The best streak for the Big Green is eight, accomplished three times — at the start of the series at the turn of the 20th century, shortly after the Great War and again in the early ’90s.
• Dartmouth head coach Bob Whalen has a 36-18 mark in games against the Lions, while Columbia head coach Brett Boretti is 7-15 versus the Big Green. The two coaches are 1-1 against each other in the ICS.
Scouting the Lions
• Since a 2-11 start to the season after playing at Lamar, Arizona, UCF and Miami, Columbia has won 22 of 30 contests, including its league-best 16-4 mark against the conference.
• First baseman Alex Black is the offensive leader with a .331 average and a league-high seven home runs. Coming on at the plate of late has been DH Joey Falcone with a .307 average, five homers and 24 RBIs, but the lefty has been used in a platoon role and will likely be used as a weapon off the bench when Dartmouth starts its left-handers. The Lions are a very aggressive team with 74 stolen bases in just 86 attempts. Jordan Serena leads the charge with 26 swipes while being caught just once, and Nick Crucet will run having nabbed 19 bases in 23 attempts. In league play, Columbia led the loop with 103 runs.
• The Lions have a staff ERA of 3.49, but in Ivy play that figure dropped to 1.94 to lead the league. David Speer, Tim Giel and Joey Donino make up a strong starting trio, and Columbia has a handful of dependable relievers including Mike Weisman (2.25 ERA in 20 IP), Kevin Roy (2.35 in 23 IP) and Thomas Crispi (2.66 in 20.1 IP), not to mention Black who doubles as the closer (3.14, 4 saves).
• In the field, Columbia is the most reliable defensive team after the Big Green in the Ivy League with a .969 fielding percentage (.981 in league play). The Lions have been very effective at shutting down the running game, throwing out 43 percent of base stealers with catcher Mike Fischer gunning down 16 of 34.
Probable Starting Pitchers
• Both teams have announced their starting pitchers for the first game, but we’ll have to guess who is pitching games two and three. Dartmouth will send senior LHP Kyle Hunter (4-1, 1.66) to the mound for the opener. He has started a game in each of the last three ICS, winning two of them including the decisive game at Columbia as a freshman in 2010. The Lions will counter with a southpaw of their own in LHP David Speer (6-2, 1.83) who last year took a no-hitter in to the seventh and final inning against the Big Green before giving up three runs in a 4-3 Columbia victory.
• For the other games, Dartmouth will have senior LHP Michael Johnson (7-0, 1.33) senior RHP Cole Sulser (5-2, 2.34) and LHP Mitch Horacek (6-2, 2.20) as options. Johnson has the second-best single-season record ever at Dartmouth (Sulser was 8-0 three years ago) and is 20th nationally in ERA. Sulser merely is the second-winningest pitcher in Big Green history with a career 20-5 record and had a win and a save in the only ICS he has participated in — 2010 at Columbia. Horacek is simply second in the league with those six victories and 11th in overall ERA.
• Columbia will almost assuredly go with a pair of right-handers in Joey Donino (6-0, 2.80) and Tim Giel (3-3, 2.65) in some order. Donino has gone 4-0 with a 1.74 ERA against the Ancient Eight, striking out 36 batters in just 31 innings. Giel, who took the loss against Dartmouth in the 3-2 game back on March 31, has a slightly better ERA in league play at 1.71 but a 2-2 record.
What’s Up Next
Whichever team emerges victorious from this series earns the Ivy League’s automatic berth at the NCAA Regionals, which begin on May 31 at 16 various sites across the country.
Class of 2013
The members of the Class of 2013 is now the winningest class in Dartmouth history having won 113 games to date, besting the Class of 2011 that won 109. But if you want to get technical about it, Cole Sulser missed last season, so he has been on the active roster for 116 wins, which would make him the winningest ball player in Big Green history.
Six Straight Division Titles
With the 3-1 victory in the opener of the series against Harvard, Dartmouth clinched its sixth straight Rolfe Division crown and ninth overall, all coming in the last 14 seasons. Only Princeton has more divisional titles since the format was adopted in 1993 with 11, and the Tigers are the only team with more consecutive crowns with nine (1996-2004).
On the Road Again
While Dartmouth is participating in its sixth straight Ivy Championship Series, it is playing on the road for the fourth year in a row. The Big Green won here at Columbia in 2010, but came up short at Princeton in 2011 and Cornell last year. In the first 20 seasons, the home team has won 12 times and the visiting team seven times (the 1998 series was played at a neutral site due to weather issues).
New Record for Wins in a Season
The 2011 Big Green became the first team in school history in any sport to win 30 games in a season, finishing the year at 30-12. This year Dartmouth broke that mark when it picked up its 31st victory after completing a four-game sweep of Harvard. One more win this past Tuesday boosted the record to 32 against just seven losses.
Dartmouth has shown the abilitiy to win away from Hanover this year, posting the seventh best road record in the country at 10-3, not to mention a 10-1 mark in games at neutral sites. Five of the six teams with better road marks are currently in the national rankings, and only North Carolina has fewer losses on the road at 11-1.
Win Streak at Seven
The Big Green have won their last seven games, giving them their third winning streak of at least that long this season. No other team in Dartmouth history has ever had more than two such streaks. The Green began the year by winning their first eight games, then won eight in a row in April right before starting the current streak.
The Big Green come into the ICS with the seventh best ERA in the country at 2.46, and only the vaunted staff at Arkansas has allowed fewer runs per game. The three teams behind Dartmouth? Try North Carolina, LSU and Oregon State. Nine times the Green have blanked the opposition, second only to the 1975 Dartmouth team that won 10 games by shutout. All four weekend starters have ERAs under 2.40 with senior Michael Johnson 20th nationally at 1.33 and senior Kyle Hunter 46th at 1.66.
• As a team, Dartmouth is among the top 10 in six statistical categories — fielding percentage (.982, 4th), doubles per game (2.36, 6th), ERA (2.46, 7th), strikeout-to-walk ratio (3.1, 7th), winning percentage (.821, 7th) and walks issued per nine innings (2.46, 9th).
• Junior Jeff Keller’s name is littered throughout the national rankings, beginning with leading the country in doubles per game (0.55). He is also tied for fourth in total doubles (21) and seventh in slugging (.699).
• Senior Ennis Coble is the 15th toughest to strike out in Division I, fanning once every 17.8 at-bats.
• On the mound, senior Michael Johnson is among the top 25 in ERA at 1.33 (20th) while senior Cole Sulser is tied for 15th nationally with four complete games.
Sweep of Harvard
For just the third time in the 21 years of the divisional format, Dartmouth swept a four-game series from the Crimson, beating them by a combined score of 24-7. The Big Green also took four from Harvard in 1995 and again in 2011.
Purritano Rookie of the Week Again
Freshman Joe Purritano was named the Ivy League Rookie of the Week for the second time this season for helping Dartmouth win all five games in the last week of April. The designated hitter went 8-for-15 (.533) with a double, two triples, six runs and eight RBIs. Half of those RBIs came in a 12-0 whitewash of Quinnipiac as he fell a home run shy of the cycle. He also hit safely in each of the four games against Harvard, including a triple to start a two-run rally in a 3-1 victory. In all, Dartmouth had 10 players earn one of the three weekly awards during the season, the most of any team in the league.