Baseball: Tigers split four-game stint, end with 20-19 loss to Harvard
The Tigers (7-20 overall, 5-3 Ivy League) hit their stride at the plate this weekend, and they finally succeeded in stringing together hits. They scored an impressive seven runs in the first game against Dartmouth (16-4, 3-3), six of which came off Cole Sulser, the Big Green’s number-one pitcher and a first team All-Ivy selection in 2011.
Eight of the Tigers’ starting nine had a hit in the first game, and four of them had at least two. Freshman second baseman Danny Hoy went three for five, while junior center fielder Alec Keller hit his third home run of the season on the first pitch of the third inning. Senior starter Zak Hermans, reliable as ever, threw a complete game and let up just one run.
“We knew Zak would go out there and give us exactly what he gave us,” senior infielder Johnny Mishu said. “And we also knew that Sulser likes to throw the fastball and we’re a good fastball-hitting team.”
After an early part of the season marked by close games and a few blowout losses, the Tigers bolstered their confidence by soundly defeating a team that many expect to make it to at least the Ivy League championship series.
Still, the weekend was not all good news for Princeton. The Big Green looked more like the team favored to win the Red Rolfe Division in the second half of the doubleheader, which it won 6-1.
The second game marked the first Ivy League start for freshman pitcher Cam Mingo, who went five innings and allowed five runs, three of which were unearned. The game was tied 1-1 going into the bottom of the fourth, when Dartmouth got three runs across, thanks to consecutive singles to start the inning and three Princeton errors. They added another run, and the Tigers another error, the next inning.
When Mingo left after five innings, sophomore reliever Danny Thomson came in for three solid innings, allowing one run but striking out four. His ability to keep the Big Green at bay was irrelevant, however, as Dartmouth’s Kyle Hunter went eight innings and allowed one run while striking out 11, and Princeton got only one hit after the second inning.
The Tigers got their confidence back in the first game against Harvard, defeating the Crimson (6-21, 3-5) in Cambridge, Mass. 13-1. As junior pitcher Mike Ford went the distance and allowed just one run while striking out seven, the offense exploded. Ford and Hoy went yard, as did sophomore catcher Tyler Servais, the number-eight hitter, who went two for four with five RBI and a grand slam. Mishu, who had struggled at the plate in recent games, went four for four, drove in a run and scored twice.
“I guess hitting’s contagious — some guys have really stepped up,” Mishu said. He added that the conditions gave the Tigers a bit of a boost.
“The wind was howling out, and a couple guys got home runs, which was really good for our confidence,” he said.
The wind and the contagious nature of hitting are as good an explanation as any for the 20-19 slugfest that was the final game of the weekend. Harvard got to senior starter Kevin Link, who threw a shutout in his last appearance, for nine runs in four innings, and freshman reliever Luke Streiber hardly fared better, allowing eight runs — seven earned — in an inning and a third. Senior pitcher Michael Fagan, who has often struggled, went two-and-two-thirds innings without allowing a run. He was the only pitcher on either side to get more than one out without surrendering any runs.
A seven-run second inning in which freshman shortstop Billy Arendt hit a three-run bomb and Ford and senior third baseman Alex Flink had two RBIs apiece looked like it would be enough to ensure a victory. The Crimson, however, answered with four runs in the fourth, six more in the fifth and four in the seventh.
The Tigers tried to keep up and broke through with five runs in the seventh, four of which came off of their second grand slam of the day, this time off the bat of Ford. They were down 17-15 going into the ninth inning, but the scoring was not even close to over.
Ford, who was four for six with six RBIs in the game, doubled to start off the inning and scored on the next at bat when senior right fielder Steve Harrington doubled. The Tigers added three more runs on some clutch hits and fielder’s choices to take the lead going into the bottom of the ninth.
Junior pitcher Nick Donatiello came in to try to close the game, but the Crimson was not to be outdone. Two Harvard runners managed to get on base and score on wild pitches, and when junior reliever A.J. Goetz came in to try to stop the bleeding he, too, threw a wild pitch, allowing the winning run to cross the plate.
“That was one of the craziest games I’ve ever been involved with,” Mishu said. “It was kind of a slugfest, which we haven’t had all year. Even though we lost, it was good to see our guys come through in some clutch situations.”
Princeton will take a break from Ivy League play when it plays Monmouth on Wednesday in West Long Branch, N.J.
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