Princeton knew even before Saturday’s first pitch that the weekend games would be the team’s last, but the Tigers put up a good fight and made the Big Red work for its wins. Princeton’s resiliency paid off, as the team was able to extend its season somewhat by forcing extra innings in two games.
Saturday’s opener was essentially two games in one, as the teams battled it out for 14 innings until Cornell came out on top with a 2-1 win. Both teams scored their first run early, with Cornell’s coming in the first inning and Princeton’s in the third. But strong pitching from both sides prevented any more runs being scored over the next 10 innings, despite each team having plenty of base runners.
Cornell finally broke through in the 14th with a two-out RBI single. In the bottom of the frame, the Tigers looked as if they had something going as junior outfielder Lizzy Pierce led off with a first-pitch single up the middle. Freshman Libby Crowe followed with a walk to put runners on first and second with no outs. Sophomore second baseman Tory Roberts then sent a possible game-tying line drive to right field, but the ball hung in the air just long enough for Cornell outfielder Sam Creamer to make a diving catch.
The defensive play disrupted Princeton’s momentum as the next two Tigers grounded out, allowing Cornell to escape with the win.
In the second game, junior pitcher Liza Kuhn put on a show by tying her career high of 13 strikeouts. However, Cornell was still able to come away with a 6-4 win, largely by taking advantage of Princeton’s two errors.
The Big Red then took both of Sunday’s games, a 2-1 win in 10 innings and a 6-0 shutout.
The weekend capped off what was an up-and-down season for the Tigers that ended much the way it started. Princeton began the season losing the majority of its non-conference games, many of which were decided by only one or two runs. The tough non-conference schedule paid off once Ivy League play began, as Princeton was still in the race for the title halfway through Ivy League play. But after splitting two doubleheaders with Columbia, Princeton lost ground with division leaders Penn and Cornell and saw its playoff hopes crumble.
Sunday was not only the end of Princeton’s 2012 campaign, but also the careers of two seniors, third baseman Kelsey VandeBergh and outfielder Nicole Ontiveros. Both players played an integral role in Princeton’s success this season, finishing the season with the team’s two highest batting averages at .326 and .289, respectively. VandeBergh, known for her power, hit five home runs this season, the last coming in Saturday’s second game. She will surely be a bat that the Tigers will miss next year, while Ontiveros, more known for her speed and ability to get on base, will be a hard player to replace at the leadoff position.
With the departures of these two players, Princeton will need many of its younger players to step up in order to fill their places. Freshmen Alyssa Schmidt and Cara Worden have shown numerous times throughout the season their ability to bring in runs and will likely join junior Alex Peyton as the team’s power hitters. Both Peyton and Kuhn will be back in the circle, with freshman Meredith Brown pitching in to help as well.
Even though the Tigers ended the season on a sour note, they are moving in the right direction, as this season’s Ivy League record was slightly better than last year’s 7-13 mark.
Original URL: http://www.dailyprincetonian.com/2012/05/01/30836/