Mike Ford '14 (Photo: Courtesy Athletic Communications)
After beginning the season with a 2-16 record in nonconference games, Princeton baseball stands at 3-1 following the first weekend of Ivy League competition, in which the Tigers split a doubleheader with Yale and swept another against Brown.
In the early spring, Ivy teams head south to play strong teams and, traditionally, get beaten up, so the sluggish start was not completely unexpected. But the Tigers have a long way to go if they want to improve on last year, when they finished second in the Gehrig Division.
For a team that lost star hitters Matt Bowman â14 and Sam Mulroy â12 to the Major League Baseball draft and graduation (then the draft), respectively, the Tigers are not looking bad offensively. Leadoff hitter Alec Keller â14 is off to a great start, hitting .355, and Mike Ford â14 has already knocked in 15 runs.
Defensively, starter Zak Hermans â13, last yearâs Ivy League Pitcher of the Year, is in good form, as is Ford, who emerged from a March that was hellish for many pitchers with a 1.36 ERA. Kevin Link â13 looks strong after notching his first win in a complete game against Yale.
âHopefully, you donât even need to go to the bullpen when they pitch,â head coach Scott Bradley said.
Bradley was commenting on the longevity of his starters, but he touched on a larger issue â the instability of the bullpen. Princetonâs relievers have an average ERA of 9.00. With Bowman in the starting rotation last year, Bradley could expect to go an entire weekend â four games â with maybe four pitching changes. This yearâs bullpen may not be able to handle much more than that.
Starter Mike Fagan â14 has had a rough spring and lasted just three outs in his start against Yale March 30. He was relieved by Cameron Mingo â16, a moment which may have been a sign of things to come. Mingoâs ERA sits at 2.78 and he allowed no earned runs in five innings against Yale, striking out four. The Bulldogs got three unearned runs off of him, but of the five pitchers Princeton used Mingo was the only one to record six or more outs.
Bradley has said that he wants to use Mingo as a long reliever, but he also said, âThe game is going to dictate what weâre going to do with our bullpen.â The Tigers are going to need every starter to go deep into the game, and itâs looking like that could mean some changes to the starting rotation.
A dramatically improved Princeton
team (17-9 overall, 3-1 Ivy), complete with a revamped coaching staff and bullpen, went 3-1 against Yale and Brown this weekend and may be the team to beat in the Ivy League. Several freshmen have contributed to the turnaround of a team that finished third in the South Division last year, and pitcher Alex Peyton â13 has been as reliable on the hill as she is at the plate â she leads the league with 24 RBI and is sixth in the league with a 2.18 ERA.
After losing its first three road games,
upset No. 11 Cornell in Ithaca on Saturday. The Tigers held the Big Red scoreless for a 22-minute stretch (beginning late in the first half and stretching into the second) while scoring five straight goals to pull away; goalie Caroline Franke â14 held off a subsequent Cornell onslaught to give Princeton a 12-10 victory. The Tigers are tied with Dartmouth and Penn atop the Ivy League.
team clinched a spot in the playoffs Thursday with an easy win over St. Francis but lost 3-1 to No. 13 Penn State. The Nittany Lions have managed to hold off the Tigers twice this season but did lose to Harvard, a team which Princeton has beaten. The St. Francis game marked the return of Cody Kessel â15, last yearâs EIVA Newcomer of the Year, from injury. Kessel began contributing right away with six kills, four digs and two blocks against St. Francis and added nine kills, six digs and three blocks in the loss to Penn State
powered past Brown 15-8. Jeff Froccaro â13 scored four goals and earned the 100th point of his career late in the game when he assisted his brother, Jake Froccaro â16. Brown rallied twice, putting up two goals in 10 seconds and three goals in 31 seconds at different points in the final period, but the Tigers were never seriously in danger and improved to 6-2 overall, 2-1 in Ivy play.