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March 2, 2012

2012 Baseball Season Preview

PRINCETON, N.J. -- As the curtain rises on the 2012 Ivy League baseball season, Princeton looks to win its second-consecutive League title for the fifth time in program history. But Dartmouth, which won back-to-back titles in 2009 and 2010, hopes to regain its hold on the top.

The beginning of March also brings the season-openers for all eight teams.  Dartmouth and Harvard face tough tasks with three-game series at ranked opponents, as the Big Green will face No. 13 LSU and Harvard will take on No. 18 Arizona. Yale travels to Blacksburg, Va., to play a three-game set with Virginia Tech.

Brown (Florida International), Columbia (Citadel), Cornell (Maryland-Eastern Shore), Penn (Stetson) and Princeton (Florida Atlantic) also open their seasons on the road.

In 2011, the Tigers won the Gehrig Division with a 15-5 record, one game ahead of the Big Green, which took the Rolfe Division with a mark of 14-6. In the best-of-three championship series, Princeton defeated Dartmouth, 2-1, to earn the League's automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament. There, the Tigers dropped two hard-fought games, losing to Texas, 5-3, and Texas State, 3-1.

Princeton returns Ivy League Rookie of the Year, Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American and second-team All-Ivy first base and pitcher Mike Ford. The sophomore batted .300 at the plate as the team's everyday first baseman, with nine doubles, a triple, three home runs and 31 RBI. On the mound, Ford was 5-4 with a 3.95 ERA, including a 4-1 mark in League action with a 1.88 ERA.

Other key returners include Dartmouth first-team All-Ivy selections Cole Sulser and Joe Sclafani. Sulser went 4-1 with two complete games and 49 strikeouts in 2011, while Sclafani boasts a career batting average of .338, including a career-best .349 as a junior (60-of-172).

Harvard senior shortstop Jeff Reynolds also earned first team accolades after leading Harvard's regular players with 49 hits and a .301 batting average. Juniors Greg Zebrack and Dario Pizzano, a pair of first-team All-Ivy outfielders from a year ago, return for Penn and Columbia, respectively. The Quakers also welcome back first team designated hitter Spencer Branigan.

The Ivy League squads will be on the road for most of March, playing in various tournaments. Penn will be the first League team to play at home when it hosts Temple on March 14. The Ancient Eight will open up conference action on March 31.

The initial set of Ivy League Player, Pitcher and Rookie of the Week award winners will be announced on Tuesday, March 6.