Columbia baseball took unlikely path to latest NCAA Tournament berth

On paper, this isn’t the best team coach Brett Boretti has had at Columbia.

But, as the old cliché goes, baseball isn’t played on paper, which is why the Lions are headed to the NCAA Tournament despite a 20-28 record. Boretti’s squad came on late to finish 13-8 in the Ivy League and sweep regular-season leaders Yale in the conference championship series, earning an automatic bid to college baseball’s Big Dance.

“It says a lot about our guys that they overcame some early-season adversity to get this opportunity,” Boretti told amNewYork. “Now, we’re going to try and make the most of it.”

Boretti’s teams are no strangers to postseason baseball. This is the fifth time in program history that Columbia has qualified for the NCAAs — all during Boretti’s 11 years at the helm. This year’s squad will be the underdog in a Gainesville region that includes host Florida as well as Jacksonville and Florida Atlantic. Fourth-seeded Columbia will face the Gators, the No. 1 team in the country, in the regional opener at 1 p.m. Friday.

“We’re going to have to play really good baseball,” Boretti said, “but we’ve been doing that for the last three or four weeks.”

Indeed, the Lions’ sub-.500 record is a bit misleading. They got off to a 3-15 start against top programs including Houston, Rice and South Florida in March. Boretti believes those early losses helped his players find their identity. His seniors were part of the 2015 team that advanced to the regional final against Miami. They also played Florida in a three-game set last season.

“We know what to expect,” he said. “But we also know baseball is different. It’s about the best team on the day, and we’re going to try to be the better team on Friday.”