With the loss of several key players from last season, the softball team headed to South Carolina with several questions to answer.
How would the team respond to the loss of arguably the greatest hitter in Princeton history, Mandy Pfeiffer '97. With Pfeiffer and fellow '97 graduates Maureen Davies and Michelle Morale gone, how long would it take a young team to develop?
After compiling a disappointing 5-7 record over the trip, those questions still remain unanswered. Princeton (7-7) won consecutive games only once during the 12-game trip. The Tigers' erratic play in back-to-back games lead to such inconsistent performances as an 11-run outburst against Bucknell followed by a 6-0 defeat at the hands of Coastal Carolina the next day.
"We consider it a terrible trip," junior outfielder Wendy Herm said. "Overall we didn't play the way we could."
Despite the Tigers' overall disappointing performance, Princeton did start the break on a high note March 15 against Illinois-Chicago when senior outfielder Bevin Keenen singled with one out in the bottom of the eighth inning to drive in junior outfielder Pam Reeves and give the Tigers a 3-2 victory.
The win was Princeton's third straight to start the season, following identical 3-2 wins over Maryland-Baltimore County and Maryland March 7. All three of the Tigers' wins to open the season came in their final at-bat.
Junior righthander Lynn Miller pitched all eight innings for the Tigers, giving up just six hits to earn her second victory of the season.
Illinois-Chicago quickly exacted revenge on the Tigers in the second game of the doubleheader, scoring two unearned runs on just three hits in the first inning. As was typical of the whole trip, Princeton was plagued by two costly errors in the inning.
"We lacked consistency over the whole trip," Herm said. "In one game we'd play well in the field and not hit, the next game we'd hit well and make mistakes in the field."
In the the second game against the Flames however, Princeton neither hit nor fielded well, managing only two hits while committing five errors. Senior righthander Alyssa Smith was saddled with the loss despite giving up only two earned runs.
The following two days Princeton and Illinois-Chicago were joined by Eastern-Illinois, Bucknell and Coastal Carolina in Conway, S.C. for the Coastal Carolina Classic. The Tigers split their four games in the tournament defeating Eastern Illinois and Bucknell but falling to beat Coastal Carolina and Illinois-Chicago.
Miller earned both of the Tiger victories, giving up just two runs in 12 innings of work, to extend her season opening winning streak to four. Princeton's 11-run performance against Bucknell was its largest offensive output of the season and was keyed by Keenen's 3-for-3, two RBI performance.
After losing two games to South Carolina March 19, the Tigers travelled to their final stop of the trip – Rock Hill, S.C. – for the Winthrop Invitational. As it did at the Coastal Carolina Classic, Princeton split its four games, defeating Dayton and UNC-Wilmington to open the tournament before losing to Wichita State and Virginia to conclude the trip.
Keenen and freshman catcher Devon Keefe were two of Princeton's few bright spots on offense over the trip. Keefe and Keenen are now the only two Tigers batting above .300, with .304 and .302 averages respectively. Keenen is the team leader in RBI with 10.
Miller also had a solid trip, despite losing her final three starts, and now has an excellent 0.91 ERA to begin the regular season. Sophomore Sarah Peterman has also pitched well, with 1.06 ERA for the season, and appears to be the leading candidate for the second spot on the Tigers' staff.