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Followers of almost every college sport claim that once conference play rolls around, the non-conference performance does not matter at all. After this weekend’s results, the Tigers seem to be the latest example of this trend.

After starting the season 4-14 and facing many tough non-conference opponents — including Duke, Maryland, and Navy, on the road — many people wondered if the Tigers would return to their epic 2016 form. Now, after taking three of four in the weekend slate of games, Princeton finds themselves at 5-3 in the conference and atop the Lou Gehrig division of the Ivy League conference at about the midway point in the conference season.

Facing their final two opponents from the other division, the Tigers knew this would be their last chance to set a benchmark for where they are as the title chase begins to heat up. This weekend featured a doubleheader against a tough Dartmouth team, followed by two games against a Harvard team that has been slumping as of late. The Tigers looked to steal as many games as they could in enemy territory and walked away with three hard fought wins and one nail-biting loss.

Saturday’s first game saw the Tigers taking the win over the Big Green by a score of 4-2. Senior pitcher Chris Giglio was phenomenal for the Tigers, pitching six solid innings and allowing only four hits (only one being for extra bases). While he only struck out four batters, he kept the Dartmouth players from putting any power to the ball, forcing small contact and getting key outs on his way to a victory (2-2). On the other side, Princeton handed Dartmouth pitcher Michael Danielak his first loss of the season with a critical 3rd inning rally. After seeing the first eight Tiger batters go down in order, sophomore outfielder Jesper Horsted ended the no-hitter with a double down the left field line. He would score on the next play after junior infielder Asher Lee Tyson notched an RBI single to give Princeton its first run of the day. After a walk set up Tyson on second, senior outfielder Nick Hernandez hit a base hit of his own to tie the game at 2. Freshman Connor Nolan then knocked a single back up the middle, scoring Zack Belski and giving the Tigers the 3-2 lead. Sophomore pitcher Ryan Smith would work a perfect 1-2-3 seventh inning to seal the Tigers’ win over Dartmouth; it was his third save of the year.

Saturday’s nine-inning contest was one of the most exciting games played all year by the Tigers. They were defeated by Dartmouth 7-6, but nearly came back from a four-run deficit late in the game. Senior pitcher Chad Powers (1-2) took the loss for the Tigers, but really only struggled in one inning in which he gave up four consecutive hits and a walk before orchestrating a double play to end the damage at three runs. Powers pitched six innings, but was rocked for six earned runs, six hits and only registered one strikeout. However the Tigers’ offense nearly took him off the hook for a loss with a late inning rally. After various one-run innings in the early part of the game, senior infielder Cody Phillips would plate an RBI in the sixth to cut the Big Green lead to 3. Their next strike would come in the eighth, when senior pinch hitter Paul Tupper hit a two-run bomb to cut the lead to 1. However the rally would end there as the Dartmouth closer went three up and three down in the ninth to record his seventh save. The Tigers, however, were happy with taking one of two from a tough Dartmouth opponent.

Sunday’s doubleheader saw Princeton sweep Harvard, winning the first game 9-4 and the second game 5-3. The first game, like the Dartmouth game, was full of excitement, but this time Princeton’s rally succeeded. Trailing by two in the second, it took them until the fifth inning to take the lead by a score of 5-4. However, Princeton knew this would not be enough in the back-and-forth contest. But coming up to bat with the bases loaded, freshman David Harding delivered with a three-run double to put the Tigers up 7-4 and put the game on ice. Harding had a near-record day for Princeton, putting up eight RBIs across the two games and was definitely the MVP for this series against Harvard. Harding would double again in the ninth inning of game two, which put the Tigers up 5-1 and proved to be valuable insurance runs after Harvard hit a two-run home run in the bottom half of the inning.

With their three wins in four games, the Tigers vaulted to the top of the Lou Gehrig division as they now turn to intra division matchups. Up next for the Tigers is a critical four-game series against the Penn Quakers this weekend. All four games will be on the road and will feature a battle between the top two teams in the division.

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