Princeton baseball (13–23, 8–10 Ivy) won its last home series of the season last weekend, taking two out of three games against Brown (11–25, 8–10 Ivy) for their second consecutive series victory.
The Tigers benefited from strong outings by senior left-handed pitcher (LHP) Ryan Smith and junior right-handed pitcher (RHP) James Proctor to sweep the Saturday doubleheader, but a late-inning comeback by the Bears in the third game spoiled the efforts of Princeton’s junior RHP Andrew Gnazzo, keeping the Tigers from a perfect record in the final conference series on Clarke Field for the Class of 2019.
“I knew it was my last time getting to pitch on this beautiful field,” said Smith after Saturday’s games. “I told Mike [Russo] earlier this week that I was going to finish one this year after eight innings against Cornell last week, so I came out with the mindset that I was going to finish and that we needed to win.”
The mindset paid off, as Smith held the Brown batters to just one run on five hits in a complete-game gem in the series opener, striking out eight on the way to his fourth win of the season.
The one run — a solo shot in the fourth off the bat of Brown’s pitcher, Garett Delano — gave the Bears a 1–0 lead to open the scoring, but it was a lead quickly erased by a three-run fifth for the Ters, led by junior first baseman Ramzi Haddad’s two-run single.
Haddad, who starred in Princeton’s series win over Cornell a week earlier, went 1-for-3 in the Brown game with two RBIs and two runs scored, helping his side to a 4–1 victory.
Proctor took the mound in Game 2 for the Tigers and found similar success. Backed by a pair of runs in the first and another two in the fourth, he allowed three runs (two earned) over six innings, striking out 11, but received a no-decision after a solo home run for the Bears tied it in the eighth. The Princeton response was quick, as junior right-fielder Conor Nolan knocked in his second run of the game with a sacrifice fly to put the Tigers up 5–4 in the bottom half of the frame.
Head coach Scott Bradley called on junior outfielder and pitcher Conor Nolan, who leads the team with four saves, to close the game from the mound, bringing him in with two on and two outs in the ninth. After a long at-bat ended in a walk, the junior induced a ground ball to short for a fielder’s choice to end the scare and sweep the twin bill.
Though the Tigers sat in fifth place in the Ivy League standings at the end of Saturday’s competitions, this was Princeton’s seventh win of the last eight games, and the run of good form had inspired some confidence in the team.
“We’re still mathematically alive,” said Smith, on the team’s chances of making the Ivy Championship series. “We know we need to win every game, and that’s what we came out here to do.”
Bradley would turn to Andrew Gnazzo to close the series and keep the Tigers in the running on Sunday, and the junior delivered with a seven-inning, three-run performance that brought Princeton into the eighth with a 5–3 lead. Sophomore RHP Jack Anderson entered and got two quick outs before putting two men on, and Bradley was quick to pull him for Nolan.
The junior could not escape the jam, however, allowing a triple, double, and walk for three runs, giving Brown a 6–5 lead. The Tigers could not respond, and Nolan returned to the mound for the ninth. He was unable to hold the Bears at bay, loading the bases with two outs before allowing a two-run single that would signal the end of his afternoon. First-year pitcher Reece Rabin tried to stem the damage but gave up a three-run home run before recording the final out. Princeton went down quietly in the bottom half of the frame, missing out on the sweep with an 11–5 loss.
The blown lead saw the Tigers drop out of contention for a spot in the Ivy League Championships, as they fell four games from of second place with only three games of conference play remaining.
For Princeton, those games will come in two weeks in New Haven against third-place Yale (16–23, 10–8 Ivy), as they will look to spoil a late-season push from the Bulldogs. Before that, the Tigers travel to St. John’s (24–17, 5–7 conference) for a doubleheader on Saturday and host the Red Storm for a single game on Sunday when the Class of 2019 will look for a win in their final game at Clarke Field.