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Baseball opens defense of Gehrig Division title with home twinbills

The baseball team is not one for pacing itself. Instead of easing into their Ivy League schedule, the Tigers kick it off with a bang with back-to-back doubleheaders this weekend against the league's two best teams.

Saturday, the team faces Harvard, which has won the Ivy League the past two seasons and beat Princeton in last meeting of the two teams – the Ivy Championship last spring. Sunday it's Dartmouth, which was second to Harvard in the Red Rolfe division of the Ivy League and had the second best record in the Ivy League as a whole.

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So what have the Tigers been doing to prepare for such a difficult weekend ahead of them? Nothing out of the ordinary. Under the philosophy of head coach Scott Bradley, the team has been concentrating on the basics, believing that solid play on offense and defense is the key to success tomorrow and Sunday.

"We're just going to go out and play," Bradley said. "We just have to make plays."

No losses

In Harvard, the Tigers face a strong all-around baseball team. The Crimson graduated few players, so it should be a team very similar to the one the Tigers faced in the championship series last spring.

On the base paths, Harvard may also have a few tricks up its sleeve. Harvard likes to run the bases, especially in first-and-third situations, so the Tigers will have to play heads-up defensively.

"If they run those Mickey-Mouse plays, they could give us some headaches," junior first baseman Matt Evans said regarding Harvard's baserunning schemes. "That's how they score cheap runs so we have to play especially well defensively."

Princeton beat Harvard twice last year and it hopes to repeat that feat this year. Harvard is also lacking its biggest offensive performer, Brian Rolf, who is injured.

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The game against Dartmouth presents the same situation for the Tigers – a matchup against a solid overall baseball team. The Tigers dropped two games to the Big Green last year and, as they will against Harvard, the Tigers will not employ a specific strategy for Dartmouth but will play to their own strengths – pitching and a core group of hitters.

Start your engines

On offense four players have the green light to run the bases. Senior center fielder Mike Hazen, senior shortstop Justin Griffin, senior second baseman Asher Griffin and junior left fielder Jason Koonin will all attempt to steal bases when they see the opportunity. Take those four and add Evans, and you have the core of the Tiger offensive which the team will look to this weekend and for the rest of the season to score runs.

On the mound, the Tigers will display their pitching strength with senior Bryan Stroh and junior Tim Killgoar starting in the two games against Harvard and senior Joe Machado and sophomore Jason Quintana starting against Dartmouth. Princeton will also look to sophomore John Tedeman and senior Ben Smith as relievers.

Twenty-eight innings is quite a lot of baseball for two days, but the Tigers have the pitching to pull them through. Princeton has to deal with the doubleheader situation for the rest of the season.

Endurance

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"It makes for a pretty long weekend," Evans said. "But last weekend we came out with more on Sunday than Saturday."

The Tigers swept their doubleheaders against Monmouth and Wagner last weekend, so Princeton hopes to replicate that feat this weekend and start its Ivy season off with a bang.

"We put a lot of emphasis on the Ivy League," Bradley said. "It's what makes or breaks our season."

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