Wildcat Baseball Hosts Columbia This Weekend
The Columbia Lions come to Wilson Field this weekend for a four-game series, and it also marks the return of Davidson Hall of Famer Brett Boretti.
A former catcher, 1994 Davidson graduate and one-time Wildcats assistant coach, Boretti is in his 15th year coaching the Lions, having led them to five Ivy League championships, including four of the last seven.
It’s his third trip to Davidson with the Lions — including his first-ever series as coach in 2006 — and the teams haven’t met since 2008.
“I loved my experience at Davidson,” says Boretti. “I think it’ll be fun to come down and compete and be on campus.”
Boretti expects he’ll have some sentimental feelings being back in town and seeing old friends like Dick Cooke and Will DuBose on the diamond, but the more prominent emotion for him currently is gratitude to be playing games again.
As an Ivy League program, the Lions were among the first teams to halt play in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and they did not have a 2021 season. When they opened at Stetson last week, it’d been almost two years between games.
“It gives you a very different perspective on things,” says Boretti. “I give our guys all the credit in the world for sticking it out.”
Boretti is one of four Davidson baseball alumni currently leading Division I college programs, joining Pete Hughes (Kansas State), Mik Aoki (Morehead State) and Chris Pollard (Duke). Aoki brought Morehead State to Davidson last year in a late addition to the schedule, while the Wildcats often square off with Pollard’s Blue Devils. They’ll do that twice this year in Durham.
The Wildcats and Lions have tried to schedule a series for a few years, and it finally lined up in 2022.
“We owe a lot to Davidson, which gave us the opportunity first for being a student-athlete and then to be able to follow the career we love,” says Boretti.
Inducted into the Davidson Hall of Fame in 2010, Boretti inked his name throughout the program’s record book as a two-time First-Team Southern Conference pick. His junior season was his best, when he hit .386, slugged .705, hit 17 doubles and 13 home runs and drove in 48. He still ranks among the program leaders in many categories, including with 52 doubles, 33 home runs, 144 RBIs and 369 total bases.
Boretti’s freshman year was Cooke’s first of 28 as the Wildcats’ head coach, so Cooke had not recruited him and knew little about the dual-sport catcher/fullback as the 1991 season commenced (Boretti played one football season at Davidson). But Cooke quickly discovered he had a different kind of ballplayer on his hands. Along with hitting at a .332 career average and being solid behind the plate, Boretti showed an ability to handle a pitching staff and lead his peers. He had all the intangibles.
“It’s one of the many reasons he’s been successful as a coach,” says Cooke. “He’s got a great instinct for that, for when I need to yell and when I need to comfort. He’s just a great baseball guy who has evolved with the game. I think he’s the kind of guy people like playing for.”
Rick Bender has been bumping into Boretti on baseball diamonds for 30 years, beginning when the two shared the Wildcat infield as players. Bender then served as Cooke’s assistant and spent 11 years in Davidson’s Sports Information office, eight as the director. Now, he’s the head of Dartmouth Athletic Communications and has seen the Big Green often clash with Columbia — and his longtime friend — for Ivy League championships.
He sees the same traits in Boretti now that he did the first day of practice in 1991.
“He had a good level of maturity right out of the gate,” says Bender. “Hard-nosed, blue collar, could hit. He was just a natural leader, and guys just gravitated to him. You could see that early on.”
Davidson coach Rucker Taylor got to know Boretti when he joined Cooke’s staff and considers him a friend. He’s excited to have Boretti and the Lions at Wilson Field this weekend and for his players to see a successful Davidson baseball alumnus across the diamond.
“I think it’s good for them to know there are a lot of alumni who care about their success on and off the field,” says Taylor. “Brett’s certainly one of those guys.”
SCOUTING THE LIONS
Columbia went 1-2 in the season-opening series at Stetson.
Anton Lazits had the top weekend at the plate, hitting .500 (6-for-12), while Hayden Schott hit .462 (6-for-13).
Friday starter Sean Higgins leads the pitching staff. He’s 1-0 with an 1.80 ERA and six strikeouts in five innings.
The Wildcats (7-1) won their seventh straight game Wednesday night, defeating N.C. A&T 3-0 at Wilson Field.
Carico leads the Wildcats with a .536 average, a 1.435 OPS, 15 hits, seven doubles, 11 RBIs and 22 total bases. He also leads with a .786 slugging percentage and an on-base of .649.
The Wildcat pitching staff has a 2.63 ERA through 72 innings, while holding opponents to a .205 average. Friday starter Nolan DeVos sets the tone with an 0.75 ERA and 19 strikeouts in 12 innings.