Baseball Championship Series Preview
PRINCETON, N.J. -- The battle for the 2011 Ivy League Baseball title gets underway at Princeton's Clarke Field Saturday at noon, as Gehrig Division champion Princeton (21-21, 15-5 Ivy) and Rolfe Division champion Dartmouth (29-10, 14-6 Ivy) go head-to-head in a best of three series. The victor will clinch not only the Ivy title, but also earn the League's automatic berth to the NCAA Division I Baseball Championship.
Championship Series Schedule
Saturday, May 7
Game 1: Dartmouth at Princeton, Noon | Live Stats | Live Video
Game 2: Princeton vs. Dartmouth, 30 min. following Game 1 | Live Stats | Live Video
Sunday, May 8
Game 3 (if necessary): Dartmouth at Princeton, 1 pm | Live Stats | Live Video
Game 1: DART - LHP Kyle Hunter (5-2) vs. PRIN - RHP Mike Ford (4-3)
Game 2: DART - RHP Kyle Hendricks (4-3) or RHP Cole Susner (4-1) vs. PRIN - RHP Zak Hermans (5-1)
Game 3: DART - TBD vs. PRIN - TBD
Neither squad is venturing into foreign territory as this marks Princeton's League-leading 12th all-time appearance in the Championships Series (since its inception in 1993) while Dartmouth makes its seventh all-time appearance. The Big Green are representing the Rolfe Division for a fourth consecutive season, having defeated Columbia, 2-1, each of the past two seasons. The Tigers, meanwhile, worked their way back to the top of the Gehrig Division standings this season, and are back in the Championship Series for the first time since 2006, when they defeated Harvard in two straight games.
The Big Green and Tigers are also no stranger to facing each other with 170 all-time meetings under their belts. Princeton holds a slight 89-81 advantage in the all-time series, but Dartmouth has won 12 of the last 14 meetings over the past seven seasons, including a doubleheader sweep (4-3, 5-2) on April 10 of this season. The teams have also faced off in a trio of Championship Series (2000, 2001 and 2004), with the Tigers coming away victorious on all three occasions.
This year's Championship Series pits two of the League's top pitching staffs against each other, so runs may come at a premium. Dartmouth led the Ancient Eight with a team ERA of 3.70 for the balance of the season, while also posting the No. 2 ERA (3.66) during the 20-game Ivy season. Key to that success has been the trio of RHP Kyle Hendricks (4-3, 2.17 ERA), RHP Cole Susner (4-1, 2.59 ERA) and LHP Kyle Hunter (5-2, 2.83 ERA). The three combined for 153 strikeouts in 156.2 innings, including 66 for Hendricks, which ranked third-best among all Ivy pitchers.
The Tigers' pitching staff averaged a 5.00 ERA over its 42-game season, but turned it on during Ivy play, boasting a League-best 3.03 ERA during those 20 games. Zak Hermans has turned in the best numbers for a Princeton starter, going 5-1 in nine starts and carrying a 3.07 ERA. Rookie two-way player Mike Ford stepped right into the starting rotation, going 4-3 with a 4.39 ERA in nine starts this season. Closer A.J. Goetz has also keyed Princeton's pitching success, holding opposing batters to a .178 average while going 2-1 with three saves.
In the batter's box, Dartmouth has achieved a .312 average for the season, ranking 29th nationally in games played through May 1. That success was not always carried over into Ivy League play however, as the Big Green hit just .257 during that span of the season. Despite that, they boast five players batting over .300, led by League-leader Ennis Coble's .372 average. The sophomore also knocked in 40 runs and slugged .540 with 14 doubles, three triples and one home run. Joe Sclafani follows closely behind, hitting at a .363 clip. The junior shortstop leads the Big Green in hits (58), runs (44) and triples (8), while also collecting 11 doubles and four home runs. Sclafani's eight triples is a school record, ranks second in the nation and are just one shy of the Ivy League record, set by Brown's Matt Kutler in 2002.
For Princeton, the rookie Bowman brings a 10-game hit streak into the series and leads his squad with a .312 average. He is one of four players hitting over .300 as the Tigers bat .268 as a team. That number went up slightly in Ivy games, when they hit .280. Bowman's 53 hits is also a team-high while Sam Mulroy provides the bulk of the power, slugging .516 with nine doubles, three triples and six home runs. The junior catcher also has a team-high 38 RBIs.
WHEN LAST WE MET...
Dartmouth handed Princeton its first Ivy losses of the 2011 season when the teams met on April 10. In game one of the cross-division doubleheader, the Big Green took advantage of four Tiger errors, scoring solo unearned runs in the first and third, sandwiching a Tiger run in the top of the second, to take an early 2-1 lead. Princeton tied the game in the fifth when Andrew Whitner drew a one-out walk off of Dartmouth hurler Kyle Hendricks, and scored on an Alec Keller single to center.
The Tigers took the lead with two outs in the top of the eighth, stringing together three consecutive singles to score Mike Ford. Dartmouth benefitted from two more Tiger fielding errors to knot the game at 3-3 in the home half of the inning. After loading the bases on walks in the bottom of the 10th, Jeff Onstott's walk-off single to right put the game in the books.
Hendricks tossed eight strong innings for the Big Green, striking out seven while scattering eight hits. Princeton's Ford took the loss, striking out six while allowing seven hits and three runs (one earned) in 8.2 innings.
In the nightcap, Dartmouth strung together five hits for three runs in the bottom of the first and added two more in the seventh to secure a 5-2 victory. Jason Brooks drove in a pair of runs and Mitch Horacek picked up the win on the mound, allowing just one run in six innings of work. Ryan Smith pitched the final two outs of the game for his second save of the season.