Softball: Strong pitching yields split with Columbia
In Manhattan, senior infielder Kelsey VandeBergh led the Tigers (14-27 overall, 8-8 Ivy League) at the plate by extending her hitting streak to seven straight games, while freshman infielder Sarah McGowan had a team-high three RBIs. Yet, it was Princeton’s pitching which carried the team to its wins, as the Tigers’ bats provided little run support.
Friday’s doubleheader featured two classic pitchers’ duels, with each game decided late in the seventh inning. Junior pitcher Alex Peyton only gave up three hits in the first game, but because Princeton only scored one run, a successful squeeze play was all the Lions needed to break a 1-1 tie and capture the win.
The second game played out similarly in that the Tigers got out to an early first-inning lead. Sophomore outfielder Maddie Cousens picked up a big two-out single, bringing home singles by VandeBergh and senior outfielder Nicole Ontiveros. Columbia chipped away at the lead with one-run fourth and sixth innings, but this time Princeton had a response. After two errors put runners on first and third in the seventh, McGowan plated a two-out single to score the decisive run.
The Lions didn’t go down without a fight, however, as they started off the last frame the same way they had in the previous game — with consecutive singles. Instead of caving under the pressure, junior pitcher Liza Kuhn proved that her recent Ivy League Pitcher of the week nomination was no fluke by getting out of the jam, ending the game with two of her eight strikeouts.
“After the first two batters led off with back-to-back singles, I knew that I needed to refocus and sharpen my pitches so that the runners would never reach third base,” Kuhn said. “At that point I had faced each batter three times, and so I knew what pitches had or had not been effective in previous at-bats.”
“My defense was extremely supportive and positive and made a great play at third to get the first out of the inning,” Kuhn added. “After that initial out, I was much more relaxed and confident that we would keep Columbia from scoring any more runs.”
The Tigers kept up the momentum and stellar pitching going into Saturday’s doubleheader with a 2-0 win. Peyton allowed only five hits in the shutout win, which proved to be crucial as the Tigers couldn’t find a way to produce runs off of consecutive hits. Instead, Princeton’s two runs came from two RBI walks in the sixth inning.
In the last game, the Tigers had the same hitting problem, but this time they paid the price as Columbia went on an offensive tear, scoring eight runs in the game while the Tigers only scored two.
Consistent hitting has been a season-long struggle for the Tigers, but one from which they must turn around quickly as they prepare for their four-game series against Cornell.
“Cornell is a great hitting team, so the pitching staff and defense will need to be sharp and smart when we play them this weekend,” Kuhn siad. “We will also be working to string together a bunch of hits so that we can produce as many runs as possible. If we can get hits and score runs early on in the games, it will give us some extra confidence to relax and play well on the defensive side.”
The Tigers will have a chance today to put the disappointing 2-8 loss behind them before taking on Cornell when they travel to Long Island to play a single game against Hofstra on Tuesday.
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