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College Baseball Countdown: 90 Days to Go- Ivy League

In case you’re just joining us, get caught up on what we’re doing by reading our introduction post on the college baseball countdown here.

Something exciting is happening in the Ivy League these days. No, it’s not that the faculty at these schools are hauling in a boatload of awards for outstanding research, although that is undoubtedly happening as well. I’m talking about the league’s newfound status as a force to be reckoned with in the college baseball world, not only regionally, but on a national scale.

The charge has been led by the Columbia Lions under head coach Brett Boretti. Over the last three years, the Lions have really caught their stride, winning the Ivy League Championship Series, and its automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament that comes with it, each time. There are always periods when one team or another seems to have the upper hand in the league, so that’s nothing new, but what sets this program apart is the way they’ve played once they’ve gotten into regionals.

In 2013, for example, the Lions hung tight with host Cal State Fullerton in a 4-1 loss, then bounced back to avoid elimination by beating New Mexico 6-5 in extra innings, before being knocked out by Arizona State. In 2014, as part of the Coral Gables regional, they lost a pair of close one-run games, including their opener against eventual College World Series participant Texas Tech.

Not satisfied with simply competing with top teams, Columbia put on their best performance in 2015, once again as part of the Coral Gables regional. In their opener against East Carolina, they pulled off a 6-3 win. After dropping their next game to Miami 8-3, they fought back to eliminate FIU by a 4-3 score, moving them into a regional final against the host Hurricanes. Rather than remaining content with what, by any measure, would be considered a successful run in the regional, the Lions shutout the powerful Hurricanes 3-0 to push them to the “if necessary” game on Monday. It was at that point that Miami’s advantage in overall depth shined through, as the Lions fell 21-3, but the message had been sent. Columbia could compete with anyone.

Some credit should also go to Bob Whalen’s Dartmouth program. The Big Green have advanced to the Ivy League Championship Series in each of the last eight seasons. They’ve fallen to Boretti’s Lions on four occasions, including the last three seasons, but they’ve also advanced to regionals themselves twice. Even if they’ve failed to win the championship more often than not in that time, just winning their division eight years in a row is quite an accomplishment.

Penn under John Yurkow is on the rise, as well. In Yurkow’s two seasons on the job, the Quakers have gone 15-5 and 16-4 in Ivy League play. In fact, in the last two years, their conference records have been exactly the same as Columbia. That should give you a good point of reference for just how good they are.

One other program to keep an eye on is Cornell, under new head coach Dan Pepicelli. As we’ve discussed before, he seems like just the right kind of guy to take them to the next level. He has plenty of previous coaching experience in that part of the country, he spent six years as an assistant at a big-time program in Clemson, and perhaps above all else, the success rate for coaches from the Jack Leggett coaching tree is pretty good.

It might have been easy to overlook the Ivy League as a baseball conference in the past, but those days are clearly over.


Joe Healy was first introduced to college baseball when he grew up watching the likes of Jeff Niemann, Philip Humber, and Wade Townsend pitch for Rice University. To say it was love at first sight would be an understatement. That love only grew as he went off to college at Sam Houston State University, where he practically lived at Don Sanders Stadium watching his Bearkats under the direction of the legendary Mark Johnson. He holds a B.A. in political science from SHSU and is working toward his Masters in Public Administration from SIU-Edwardsville in Edwardsville, Illinois.