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Tigers look to avenge last season's loss to Harvard

If at some point this spring you walk by 1895 Field and see an Elvis impersonator prancing around in front of the Princeton dugout, do not be alarmed. Do not run away, and by all means do not call the Weekly World News.

In fact, your best reaction would be to find a good seat and watch junior pitcher Lynn Miller finish her pregame song-and-dance routine. You would then be in perfect position to watch Miller do what she does best for the softball team: mow down opposing batters.

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While her hip gyrations may not yet rival the King's, Miller's stuff on the mound definitely causes her opponents heartbreak. Last year she accumulated 91 strikeouts in 130.2 innings, compiling a 15-7 record. Her 1.77 ERA was second in the Ivy League only to Cornell's Julie Westbrock, and her opponents'.209 batting average ranked third behind Westbrock and Maureen Davies '97.

While her imitation of "Hound Dog" might need some work, Miller's mastery on the mound needs few adjustments.

Miller's softball career began at the age of eight in Naples, Fla. She tried out for and later joined a nine-to-12-year-old team as a position player, claiming she made the team only because she was "spunky." A year or two later, one of her coaches noticed her pitching after practice and decided to convert her into a pitcher.

Since then, Miller has done little else but succeed. While splitting time between assorted infield positions and pitcher, Miller and the rest of her Naples High School softball team won three consecutive state titles in Florida's 3A and 4A divisions.

Once arrived at Princeton, Miller relinquished her hitting duties in games to focus more intensely on pitching. And though head coach Cindy Cohen has allowed her to bat more frequently in practice this spring to increase the team's lineup options, Miller will most likely concentrate solely on pitching again this season.

That doesn't mean Miller doesn't have the urge to smack some doubles and slide headfirst into second base.

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"It's nice to get dirty and sweaty and gross sometimes," she said. "But it's also easier for me to think about pitching when I'm not batting."

Despite being honored with a spot on the 1997 All-Ivy first team, Miller insists she is still the same "scrappy little freshman" as when she arrived at Princeton two years ago.

"You're only as good as your last game," Miller said, "and I haven't played a game yet (this year). I still have a lot to prove."

One area where Miller will have to prove herself this season is leadership. Davies' graduation places the majority of the pitching responsibility on Miller's sturdy shoulders. According to Cohen, Miller should be more than ready.

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"Right now, she's the heir apparent to number one," Cohen said. "Physically, she's ready. I don't see it as a burden. I see it as an opportunity for her."

Though her stats speak for themselves, Miller has struggled with her confidence in past seasons. At times she was overly wary of her pitch selection, allowing her opponents just enough of an edge to cause some damage.

But it took just one pitch to set her back in the right direction.

In a game against Harvard last April, Miller faced a 3-2 count against the Crimson's Deb Abeles, who had smacked a home run in her last at bat. After a few fouled-off pitches, then-junior catcher Andrea Alary called an inside dropball. Miller's pitch baffled Abeles, who went down swinging. The Tigers went on to win the game, 3-1.

"That was probably my best pitch of the season," said Miller. "It had great movement and really caught her off-guard.

"The entire year, I was haunted by hanging dropball pitches. That was definitely a turning point in my confidence."

Miller rode this newfound wave of confidence to two consecutive Ivy League Pitcher of the Week honors in mid-April.

And though Princeton was unable to win its fourth consecutive Ivy title, the Tigers, with Miller's help, hope to prove that their reign atop the league, unlike the King, is not dead.

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