Cal Poly to host Ivy League’s Columbia for four-game series

Posted at 12:31 AM, Mar 06, 2019

Cal Poly (2-9 overall, 0-0 Big West), which is still in search of its first weekend wins of the year following sweeps by Oklahoma, Cal and Washington, continues its 30-game home schedule this weekend with a four-game non-conference series against the Ivy League’s Columbia Lions (0-4 overall, 0-0 Ivy) inside Baggett Stadium.

Coach Larry Lee’s Mustangs and the Lions of 14th-year head coach Brett Boretti square off Friday at 6 p.m., followed by a 1 p.m. doubleheader Saturday and noon on Sunday. Three of the four games of the series (the exception is the nightcap of Saturday’s doubleheader due to men’s basketball) will be broadcast on ESPN Radio 1280 with Chris Sylvester providing the play-by-play. Links for live stats and audio and video streams are available on the baseball schedule page at

Coming off a 20-30 campaign, including a 13-8 mark for second place in the Ivy League’s regular season standings, Columbia returns 23 letter winners, including eight position starters and eight pitchers. Top returnees are catcher Liam McGill (.320, 31 RBI in 2018), infielder Joe Engel (.306, 29 RBI) and first baseman Chandler Bengston (.257, 10 home runs, 31 RBI). The pitching staff is led by right-handers Jordan Chriss (2-7, 6.45 ERA in 2018) and southpaws Ben Wereski (3-4, 6.49 ERA) and Josh Simpson (4-3, 4.02 ERA in 2017), a redshirt due to injury a year ago.

Columbia twice defeated Yale in the 2018 Ivy League playoffs to earn a berth in the NCAA’s Gainesville Regional, where the Lions lost to Florida and Florida Atlantic. Columbia has won 14 Ivy League titles and has made six NCAA postseason appearances, including four trips in the last six years. The Lions, who started playing baseball in 1888, have played 3,167 games, compiling a 1,397-1,741-29 overall record, and have made NCAA regional appearances in 1976, 2008, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2018.

Located in New York City, Columbia opened its 2019 season last weekend by dropping four games at Oklahoma by scores of 12-3, 9-1, 9-0 and 6-2. The Lions hit just .194 as a team, did not steal a base, compiled a 9.84 staff ERA and committed two errors for a .985 fielding percentage.

Since his arrival at Columbia in July 2005, Boretti has revitalized the Columbia baseball program in every aspect, building the Lions into a perennial Ivy League contender. Under his leadership, Boretti has led the Lions to six Gehrig Division titles, five Ivy League championships, a number of wins over major programs and four NCAA Tournament victories. He has also been honored as Ivy League Coach of the Year twice (2015, 2018) and ABCA Northeast Region Coach of the Year in 2015. A total of 32 Lions have earned first-team All-Ivy League honors under Boretti.

Cal Poly and Columbia met for five games in 2001 in San Luis Obispo, the Mustangs winning all five by scores of 3-2, 5-4, 8-2, 5-1 and 4-3. All five games were played in San Luis Obispo Stadium.

Columbia’s alumni includes Hall of Famers Lou Gehrig and Eddie Collins. Lions currently in the Major Leagues are Dario Pizzano (New York Mets) and David Speer (Cleveland Indians).

Cal Poly’s only wins so far in 2019 are a pair of midweek triumphs against Central California rival and future Big West Conference member CSU Bakersfield — 7-1 in Bakersfield on Feb. 19 and a 2-0 shutout in Baggett Stadium on Feb. 26.

Lee welcomed back 18 letter winners this spring, including five position players who made 25 or more starts in 2018, and eight pitchers, including three who have made 10 or more career starts.

The list of veterans is led by junior center fielder Bradlee Beesley, who hit .277 with 12 doubles and 33 RBI a year ago, was a second-team All-Big West selection in 2017 after hitting .305 and also had a solid Cape Cod League season with Yarmouth-Dennis last summer, hitting .368.

Beesley went 7-for-12 (.583) in the Oklahoma series with three RBI and 6-for-13 with a double and one RBI versus Cal. The junior from San Leandro, Calif., was hitting .517 seven games into the season before cooling off and currently sports a .356 average with four doubles and 10 RBI. Middle infielder Connor Gurnik is hitting .345 while sophomore right fielder Elijah Greene has a .311 average with five RBI and just two strikeouts in 50 plate appearances.

In addition to Beesley, also returning are sophomore first baseman Tate Samuelson (.280, five home runs, 38 RBI in 2018), senior shortstop Dylan Doherty and sophomore third baseman Nick DiCarlo, both .226 hitters a year ago. Junior utility player Scott Ogrin, who hit .266 with 26 RBI last spring, will miss at least the first three weeks of the 2019 season with an injury.

The pitching corps is led by sophomore right-hander Darren Nelson (5-4, 4.79 ERA in 2018), senior righty Jarred Zill (0-1, 3.00 ERA in five starts a year ago), who missed most of both the 2017 and 2018 seasons due to injury, and junior right-hander Bobby Ay (1-6, 5.40 ERA in 2017, made just one appearance in 2018 before he was sidelined with an injury).

Provided by Cal Poly