Softball: Rutgers blanks Princeton, Tigers to visit Penn this weekend
After a 0-4 shutout loss to Rutgers on Thursday in its second-to-last game of the season against a non-league opponent, the softball team (20-12 overall, 5-3 Ivy League) looks forward to what is quite possibly the biggest weekend of its season. The Tigers have a four-game series against division rival Penn on tap for Saturday and Sunday.
Penn is currently the number-one team in the South Division standings with a 7-1 league record. Princeton follows in second place, making Penn the team Princeton needs to beat to make it to the championship.
Princeton leads Penn as far as batting averages go, with the Tigers averaging .309 and the Quakers .269. In pitching, Penn is also ranked just above Princeton. The Quakers’ ace Alexis Borden has an ERA of 1.56, while Princeton senior Alex Peyton pitches a 1.78. Peyton will most likely pitch the first games each day, while the other two games will be split among senior Liza Kuhn, freshman Shanna Christian and sophomore Meredith Brown.
Penn’s only league loss so far this season was the first game of a doubleheader series against Dartmouth (14-17, 4-4). When Princeton faced the Big Green, the Tigers also split their games, losing the first game 1-4 but winning the second 9-7.
In preparation, the Princeton team is focusing on defensive work, specifically on minimizing errors.
“We have to strengthen our defense,” junior second baseman Tory Roberts said. “We have a bit of a hard time with consistency, and we give up too many errors, which is a challenge facing pitching as good as Penn’s. We need good, consistent defense to stay in the game as much as possible.”
Practice time has been dedicated specifically to preparing for this big weekend and figuring out the team's weaknesses.
“[We're] definitely taking a different approach in practice this week,” Roberts said. “We’ve been doing a lot more defense and defensive work, and doing it with consequences, so we’re running and doing push-ups. We’re working on cutting off errors and then not letting things topple when we do have errors. So we’re developing a lot more discipline. Also, something we’ve been doing differently is that we’ve been working specifically on the types of pitches that Penn pitches, namely riseballs and change-ups, so we can have a lot more discipline at the plate.”
While the teams have similar batting averages, Princeton sophomore infielders Alyssa Schmidt and Rachel Rendina have the second- and seventh-best individual batting averages in the league, respectively, while Penn’s best batting comes in at 10th with Stephanie Caso.
“I think we have a stronger lineup one through nine,” Roberts said. “We have lots of strong hitters, and on any given day, anyone can have that RBI or at-bat. Having such depth in the lineup puts us at an advantage.”
Last season, the Tigers lost three of their four games to the Quakers and were kept out of Ivy Championship play. The match-up has a personal competitiveness to it as well, as current Princeton head coach Lisa Sweeney came to coach the Tigers this season after two years as an assistant coach for the Quakers.
“Probably the benefit of being in our position is that Penn is the one that has something to lose, and we’re the ones going after that,” Roberts said. “We’re fighting for every game, and we have a bit of a chip on our shoulder. They have to play defensively, and they have everything to lose, as this will determine if they’re going to have it easy the rest of the season or have to fight the whole time.”
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