PRINCETON, N.J. -- The 22nd season of Ivy League baseball is upon us.
The Ancient Eight, which transitioned from EIBL to Ivy play in 1993, takes to the diamond this weekend with seven of the eight teams in action.
Friday features the first of back-to-back double-headers between Harvard and Oral Roberts, while Princeton and Dartmouth open three-game sets at UC Santa Barbara and FIU, respectively. Yale, which saw two of its alumni earn World Series rings with the Boston Red Sox last Fall, will travel south to play a three-game series at No. 3 LSU.
Penn first-year head coach John Yurkow, who was promoted after seven seasons as the Quakers' top assistant, will manage his first career games at Dallas Baptist on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Meanwhile, defending Ivy League Champion Columbia will kick off its 2014 campaign with a three-game series at South Florida.
2012 Ivy champion Cornell will play a two-game set at Navy starting on Saturday, while Brown will open its season on Friday, March 7, at No. 6 South Carolina.
In fact, the past three Ivy League Championship Series winners have all come from the Lou Gehrig Division, as Princeton won it in 2011. Columbia is looking to become the first repeat champion since Dartmouth in 2009 and 2010, and the first back-to-back champ from the Gehrig Division since Princeton accomplished the feat in 2003 and 2004.
In order to get back to the NCAA Championships, the Lions will rely on their seven returning All-Ivy performers from a year ago, including three who were named to the first team in senior pitcher David Speer, senior shortstop Aaron Silbar and junior outfielder Jordan Serena.
Dartmouth brings back last year's Rookie of the Year (sophomore DH Joe Purritano), along with four others who earned first team status in 2013: junior reliever Thomas Olson, junior catcher Matt MacDowell, junior second baseman Matt Parisi and senior outfielder Jeff Keller, who was named Preseason Ivy League Player of the Year by both Baseball America and College Sports Madness.
Brown, looking to win its first League Championship since 2007, will be led by junior outfielder Will Marcal, who earned second team accolades last season after being named honorable mention as a freshman.
Cornell hopes to repeat its performance from 2012, when junior Kellen Urbon was named Rookie of the Year while leading the Big Red to the NCAA Tournament. Cornell also brings back a pair of second-team All-Ivy performers from a year ago in sophomore reliever Michael Byrne and junior outfielder JD Whetsel.
Harvard returns a trio of 2013 second-team All-Ivy recipients in juniors second baseman Tanner Anderson, shortstop Mike Martin and outfielder Brandon Kregel, while Penn and Princeton each bring back a 2013 first team player in senior utility Rick Brebner and senior outfielder Alec Keller, respectively. Keller was second in the League in batting average last season, hitting at a .378 (54-of-143) clip.
Yale will be led by senior pitcher David Hickey, who finished with four wins, two shutouts, a 2.15 ERA and 35 strikeouts – all team-highs – en route to second team honors last season.