While the Princeton baseball team may not be hoisting a banner this year, the Tigers can look towards the future with much anticipation and optimism.
Princeton ended their season this weekend with a four game split against the Cornell Big Red. After finishing their home slate with two great wins over the Big Red, they traveled to Ithaca to close out the season where they were stumped by Cornell’s stingy pitching and were defeated in the double header by scores of 5-1 and 13-1. The second game featured only one hit for the Tigers.
However, despite finishing the season with consecutive losses and being unable to extend their tenure as Ivy League champions, the Tigers can look forward knowing their future is bright, as many younger players made important impacts on the team this season, receiving significant playing time and developing both the skills and experience to win at the college level.
The Class of 2018 features infielder Asher Lee-Tyson and a trio of pitchers: Kevin Thomsen, Ben Gross, and Nick Brady. Lee-Tyson — already a regular day starter for the Tigers — had a successful junior season, registering 33 hits and 19 RBIs while batting a respectable .264 in 2017. He will look to anchor the infield next season and continue to be a force at the plate. On the pitching side, Gross contributed heavily: he pitched 49.1 innings and struck out 48 while allowing only 14 extra base hits all season. Take out a game against Penn earlier in the season, and Gross finished with an impressive ERA of around 3 — something the Tigers hope he will be able to replicate or even improve next season while continuing to be a workhorse on the mound. While Thomsen and Brady did not pitch as much, they showed improvement and will look to become important cogs in the relief rotation next year.
The 2019 class features two catchers, Max West and Alex Dickinson; all purpose player Max Machiorlette; infielder Joseph Flynn; outfielder Jesper Horsted; and pitchers Ryan Smith, Trey Ramsey, and Tanner Kliewer. Horstead was impressive near the top of the batting order all season; he hit .281 for the year and just recently went 3 for 4 with 4 RBIs in Friday’s win over Cornell. Weber and Dickinson split time behind the plate pretty evenly and will probably do so next year as well. While Machiorlette recorded only 9 at bats this year, his ability to play almost every position will make him a valuable tool as Princeton looks to configure lineups, especially on days with double headers. Flynn played in about half of the Tigers’ games this year and showed brilliance in the field; he assisted on over 30 outs throughout the year while committing only 5 errors, and will be a key playmaker in the field for Princeton next year. Smith was one of the few middle inning pitchers in the Tiger’s rotation where he posted 35 strikeouts and an ERA of 3.82 over 35 innings. He will be called upon next year to either start or continue to be a valuable workhorse in getting from the starter to the closer. Finally, relief pitchers Ramsey and Kliewer will look to add valuable innings to a rotation that already looks to be pretty deep.
The 2020 class was massive for the Tigers; the 9-player freshman class is second only to the graduating 2017 class in terms of team makeup. And all of them received valuable minutes this season, some of them were even key contributors to the team on a daily basis. Infielder David Harding was one of the best hitters on the team, posting a .318 batting average and driving in 19 runs for the season. Ramzi Haddad also logged extended minutes for the Tigers, posting a .248 batting average and hitting 7 doubles across 29 games played. On the mound, James Proctor logged 46 innings of work and struck out 20 batters in his inaugural season as a Tiger. Eli Kimbell — who just picked up the win Friday with almost three scoreless innings — went 23 innings over the course of the season, striking out 21 and preventing inherited runs from scoring many times. Meanwhile Conor Nolan proved his multidimensional talent, batting .259 in 24 games and also spending 11 innings on the mound. And these players are not alone; pitchers Andrew Gnazzo, Eric Rojas, and Chris Davis, as well as catcher Brendan Galvin will join them as they look to begin solidifying their legacy and filling in any holes left in the team.
But while the Tigers look toward the future, they made sure to give the seniors their proper goodbyes. And the seniors added to it themselves as many played some of their best baseball in the final homestand this Friday. Senior Cody Phillips went 2-2 and scored 3 runs in the first game of the double header. Pitchers Chad Powers and Chris Giglio each went almost six innings as the starting pitcher with Giglio getting the win in the first game on Friday. Nick Hernandez blasted a two run shot in the 5th giving the Tigers a 5-1 lead late in the game. Zack Belski hit a sac fly in the second game to open the scoring for the Tigers. And finally, Paul Tupper had the game of his career, going 3 for 4 and tallying 6 RBIs (just shy of the record set by Belski) and scoring 2 runs of his own. These players, along with Bryce Keller and Blake Thomsen — who did not play in the Friday homestand — said their goodbyes to Powers field and walked away with two great wins to close out their time playing at home. While they may not play again, the Class of 2017 will forever be a part of one of the greatest titles in Princeton’s history, and their legacy will live on as the Classes of 2018, 2019, and 2020 look to match their successes.