Despite a heartbreaking loss in the Ivy Championship Series to Cornell University, the Dartmouth baseball team had an overall successful season, highlighted by its fifth consecutive Rolfe Division title. Last week, the Ivy League officially selected eight Big Green players as members of the league’s all-conference teams.
Dartmouth led the Ivy League with four first-team selections, including senior captain Joe Sclafani ’12, outfielder Jake Carlson ’12, designated hitter Ennis Coble ’13 and power-hitting first baseman Dustin Selzer ’14. Rookie reliever Thomas Olson ’15 made the second team, while starting pitchers Adam Frank ’15 and Mitch Horacek ’14 and outfielder Jeff Keller ’14 received honorable mentions.
Sclafani became the 22nd player in Ivy history to be named to the first team three times.
“He’s our captain, shortstop and pretty much done everything you can do at the Ivy League level,” Selzer said of the senior.
Batting in the leadoff position this year, Sclafani hit .288 .333 in Ivy League play and led the team with 13 doubles and 32 runs scored. Sclafani holds the Ivy League record for career triples (19) and ranks first in Dartmouth history in at-bats and games played and second in hits.
“Joe has that perfect balance of power and hitting for average,” Carlson, who batted an Ivy League-leading .397, said.
As Sclafani’s hitting progressed throughout his career, pitchers began to throw fewer fastballs and more off-speed pitches in an attempt to avoid giving up the big hit. Sclafani said he did not like to swing at off-speed pitches early in the count during his first few seasons.
“Later in my career, when I didn’t get a lot of fastballs, it really helped me get to hitter’s counts,” he said.
Sclafani also led the team in walks this year with 27, and he was the Ivy League’s top defensive shortstop with a fielding percentage of .995, a spectacular number at one of the game’s most demanding positions.
“He was the most consistent player, and he meant a lot to the team,” Selzer said. “He’s certainly going to be missed next year.”
The Big Green will also lose fellow senior Carlson, another outstanding defensive player who had the finest offensive season of his career in 2012.
“He’s hands down the best outfielder I’ve played with,” Coble said of the Big Green’s center fielder.
Carlson, who found success at the plate last summer in the Coastal Plain League, made a concerted effort to carry his offensive performance over to Ivy League play.
“If you have a good, quality [first] at-bat, you see a lot of pitches and see what the pitcher has,” Carlson said. “It makes the second and third at-bats a lot easier.”
Batting in the ninth spot an uncommon place for a batting champion because of the strength of the Dartmouth lineup, Carlson focused on getting on base, something he did better than almost everyone else in the Ivy League. He ranked second among Ancient Eight players with a .464 on-base percentage.
“My job is to turn the lineup over, so if I make an out, it is to make a productive one,” Carlson said.
Still, Carlson’s true passion is for defense.
“I would rather take away a hit from a guy than get a hit,” Carlson said.
Coble, a unanimous selection to the first team, also frequented the base paths, as the speedy designated hitter finished the year with a .311 batting average and a .419 on-base percentage while scoring 24 runs.
“Ennis is one of those guys who works hard, doesn’t complain and is a very steady part of the lineup,” Selzer said.
Following the team’s California road trip, Coble unexpectedly found himself asked to bat third in the lineup, a spot in which he excelled to drive in 16 runs.
“I’m proud of how he handled hitting in the three-hole, which wasn’t really expected at the beginning of the year,” Carlson said. “Plus, he’s the happiest guy you’ll ever meet.”
Coble was also named to the All-Ivy second team last season.
Selzer, who batted behind Coble in the cleanup spot, led the Ivy League with 41 RBIs and posted a .324 batting average while serving as the team’s starting first baseman.
After playing with a bad groin last season, Selzer said that maintaining his health was critical in allowing him to drive in runs.
Dartmouth led the league in batting average and on-base percentage in 2012, and Selzer said that the Big Green’s offensive depth prevented pitchers from pitching around any Big Green hitters, giving him more opportunities as the cleanup hitter.
“Where I was in the lineup had a huge impact on my season, no question about it,” Selzer said.
After struggling in the first quarter of the season, Selzer’s brother provided the first baseman with some much-needed advice when he came to visit.
“He said I wasn’t going out and playing with confidence like I normally do,” Selzer said.
The weekend marked a turning point for Selzer, and he went on to finish with five home runs, including a towering, game-tying home run against Brown University on April 14, a ball that Carlson described as “one of the farthest balls I’ve seen hit.”