2017 Conference Previews: Ivy League

SEE ALSO: College Preview Index

Members: Gehrig Division—Columbia, Cornell, Pennsylvania, Princeton. Rolfe Division—Brown, Dartmouth, Harvard, Yale.

Team to Beat: Columbia. Columbia’s run of three straight Ivy League titles ended last year, but head coach Brett Boretti has nonetheless turned the Lions into the Ivy’s top program, winning four titles overall since he arrived in 2006. Before Boretti showed up, the Lions hadn’t won one since 1986. Columbia was the Ivy’s third-highest scoring team a year ago, but with several veterans from that group moving on, the Lions will lean on the production of junior third baseman Randell Kanemaru (.340/.383/.573, 5 HR), as well as players like senior outfielder Shane Adams (.276/.382/.448, 3 HR) who move into everyday roles. A couple of versatile freshman could also play key roles, like A.J. DiFillipo, who shows a contact-oriented approach and can play either second or third base, and Julian Bury, who has more pop in his bat and can play second or in the outfield. The pitching side was the Lions’ downfall last year and remains their biggest question mark. Standout closer Harrisen Egly (3-1, 2.60, 5 SV) is back, but Columbia goes in with only one experienced starter. If promising freshman lefthanders Ben Wereski and Jack Harlan come along quickly, that would go a long way to getting the Lions back to the top.

1. Harrisen Egly, rhp, Columbia
2. Jake Cousins, rhp, Penn
3. Tim Graul, of/c, Penn
4. Michael Danielak, rhp, Dartmouth
5. Jake Nelson, rhp, Penn
6. Randell Kanemaru, 3b, Columbia
7. Adam Bleday, lhp, Penn
8. Chad Powers, rhp, Princeton
9. Christian Taugner, rhp, Brown
10. Ian Miller, rhp, Harvard

Player of the Year: Tim Graul, of, Penn. The reigning Ivy League player of the year, Graul was three batting average points away from winning the triple crown in the Ivy last year, as he led it in homers (eight) and RBIs (35). He’ll also see some time behind the plate this spring, which could boost his pro prospects.

Pitcher of the Year: Christian Taugner, rhp, Brown. In his first season back from Tommy John surgery, control artist Taugner went 5-3, 2.79 and finished in the top 25 nationally in both walks-per-nine (1.09) and strikeout-to-walk ratio (5.57) last season. If Brown is to make a run at just its second Ivy title in the last 50 years, he’ll be a big reason.

Freshman of the Year: Tommy Pellis, 2b, Penn. Pellis offers speed and athleticism along with some gap power, and the Quakers see him to contributing at the top of the order right away.

Notable Storylines: Princeton snapped Columbia’s Ivy title streak a season ago and should be primed for another run with top hitter Jesper Horsted (.326/.372/.391) and reigning Ivy pitcher of the year Chad Powers (6-4, 2.45) both returning. Bullpen anchor Chris Giglio (2-1, 3.10, 1 SV) is also back from what was the Ivy’s top pitching staff in 2016 . . . Penn hasn’t won the Ivy since 1995, but it could easily make a run at Columbia and Princeton atop the Gehrig Division. The Quakers’ lineup started as many as four freshmen at times last year. If that group, led by power-hitting catcher Matt O’Neill (.341/.424/.535, 4 HR), can take enough steps forward as sophomores to give Graul a deeper supporting cast, the Quakers will be dangerous. They’re excited about the depth of their pitching staff, fronted by senior lefthanders Mike Reitcheck (2-4, 3.96) and Adam Bleday (2-2, 3.98) . . . Columbia’s three-year run of titles notwithstanding, the Gehrig Division has easily been the more balanced of the two. That’s because Dartmouth has owned the Rolfe for the last decade, finishing in first place every year since 2008. The Big Green will be a little less experienced in the lineup than usual, with last year’s top hitter Thomas Roulis among four everyday players leaving. While some of their new faces adjust to their roles, more of the offensive onus will fall on athletic junior second baseman Dustin Shirley (.301/.314/.422) and powerful senior first baseman Michael Ketchmark (.255/.319/.414, 5 HR). There’s plenty of experience on the mound, with two seniors in the rotation in righthanders Beau Sulser (4-1, 2.82) and Michael Danielak (2-3, 2.95), who came back for his senior season after being a 28th-round pick in last year’s draft. Dartmouth is also looking for a breakout year from third starter Cole O’Connor (0-2, 3.12), who showed well in limited innings as a freshman.

Tournament: Best-of-three series between division champions. May 6-7, hosted by team with best conference record.

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