Baseball: Title series appearance within grasp
The Tigers have fallen in the Ivy League rankings in many hitting categories recently, but they still lead the Ivy League in home runs with 24. The main reason for that power surge has been senior catcher Sam Mulroy, who is second in the conference with seven home runs this season, though he has not hit any in April.
Princeton’s pitching statistics have also dropped recently, as the Tigers rank second to last in ERA and third to last in opponent’s batting average over the course of the season. Junior Zak Hermans has been a bright spot, however, posting a 3.50 ERA, which ranks in the league’s top 10. He also ranks fourth in the conference with 46 strikeouts.
The reason for the fall in statistical categories was the Tigers’ rough weekend in Columbia. The Tigers came in at 9-3 in conference, while the Lions had posted a 6-6 Ivy record. However, Princeton lost three of four to Columbia, a tough blow to its postseason hopes.
“It was a pretty rough weekend in Columbia. We were just a few plays away from taking two or three games, but the good thing is we’re still not out of it,” junior pitcher Kevin Link said. “We had some mental lapses on defense, which we had avoided most of the year.”
The Tigers, as Link said, are very much still in the race, but they need to keep winning to stay in that position. Princeton will face Cornell four times, and the Tigers need to sweep all four of those games to reach the championship series, which will be no easy task against the best team in the conference so far this year.
“Every game for us is do-or-die; we have to sweep all four to go back to the Ivy League Championship,” Link said. “Cornell’s pitching staff has been throwing well this year, and with our guys going too, I think there are going to be some very close, exciting games that will come down to whether or not we can get that timely hit.”
Cornell’s strong pitching staff ranks first in the Ivy League with a 3.46 ERA. One name to watch out for is freshman Brian McAfee, who leads the league with six wins and is seventh in the conference with a 3.40 ERA. Another is Connor Kaufmann, who no-hit Dartmouth earlier this season and has allowed two earned runs in 27 innings in conference play.
The Big Red can also hit the ball. Cornell is currently second in the conference in batting average, first in hits and second in home runs. Outfielder Brian Billigen ranks second in the conference in batting and RBIs, while outfielder Chris Cruz leads the league in home runs.
This weekend will be a very difficult and important test for the Tigers, who, as Link says, have been inconsistent all year.
“We have had bright spots throughout the Ivy League, but we still haven’t put together a weekend where we’re clicking on all cylinders,” he said. “Some games or weekends, the pitching is good, and others it’s the hitting and defense.”
The Tigers will have to pull off a weekend where everything is clicking in the next several days in order to sweep the Big Red and return to the playoffs. Princeton will visit Cornell for a doubleheader today before returning to Clarke Field for the final two games on Sunday.
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