Baseball (4–2, Ivy League) faces the Quakers (3–5–1) this Friday and Saturday at Clarke Field as the Tigers look to maintain their footing in the Ivy League.
Despite their sweeping loss to Penn last year, the Tigers are going into this weekend’s series, one game Friday and a double-header on Saturday, with confidence. Currently No. 2 in the Ivy League with a conference record of 4–2, Princeton has its “three starting pitchers ready to go,” and a “fully rested” bullpen, according to Head Coach Scott Bradley. Still, the Penn Quakers could repeat their sweep of Princeton this weekend, and the Tigers know it.
“This will be a very important weekend,” said Bradley. “[A] hard fought, tough series.”
Last weekend the Tigers took two of three games against Brown. Winning the double header on Saturday, 7–4 and 4–3, respectively, Princeton fell short of the sweep on Sunday and lost 12–0.
The week before that the team won two out of three against Cornell at home. Winning two of three is a working strategy for the Tigers, who are treating their games against their Ivy League opponents as “seven little mini playoff series,” according to Bradley. Winning two out of three each weekend could mean a shot at the Ivy Championship.
After this weekend, Princeton will host Harvard on Tuesday and Wednesday, a result of their original games being canceled due to inclement weather. Then the Tigers are off to New York to face Columbia next Saturday and Sunday. Including this weekend’s games, Princeton is playing nine matches in ten days.
“[These] next ten games are going to dictate the season,” said Bradley. “Play[ing] nine league games over a ten-day span is something that I’ve never had to deal with in my 21 years.”
One reason for this challenge is the new conference format for Ivy League baseball. Up until now, the Ivy League was split into two divisions — the (Lou) Gehrig Division and the (Red) Rolfe Division. Each school would play four games against each team in their division and two games against teams outside of their division, for a total of 20 conference games. The winners of each division would then faceoff in the Ivy League Baseball Championship Series, with the victor advancing to the NCAA tournament.
But things have changed. The two conference divisions were eliminated, and now every Ivy League school plays a three-game set against each of the others, for a total of 21 games. There will still be a Championship series, played between the No. 1 and No. 2 ranked teams.
This change has not go down well with Bradley.
“I’m not crazy about it, to be real honest,” the coach said. “If you have a bad weekend in there somewhere, you may not have an opportunity to get back in the race.”
When combined with the unpredictable weather of New Jersey, the new conference format has not treated the Tigers well.
“We had to start the Ivy League season a week earlier than normal,” Bradley lamented.
“The weather has really impacted everything that’s gone on,” he said, making it tough for the team to have a rhythm."