The baseball team came out with its adrenaline pumping Saturday. After all, it was Princeton's Ivy League season opener against none other than Harvard, defending league champions. And the Tigers wanted to prove something to themselves and to the Crimson, which beat them in the Ivy League Championship Series last spring.
But the Tigers' adrenaline was pumping a little too hard early on, as they jumped on bad pitches and committed errors. After three and a half innings of the first game of the doubleheader, Princeton (10-5 overall, 3-1 Ivy League) found itself trailing the Crimson, 4-0.
"It was a defensively disappointing first three or four innings," head coach Scott Bradley said. "We came out like it was a football game. You can't play baseball that way."
It wasn't until the second game that the Tigers learned that lesson. After losing the first game, 6-3, Princeton came back in the next game looking like a different team. Everything fell into place and the Tigers dominated the Crimson, 10-2.
"We were trying to do too much and didn't let the game dictate how we should play," Bradley said of the first game. "We played much more relaxed in the second game. Focused but relaxed."
That attitude carried over into yesterday's doubleheader against Dartmouth. Princeton took it inning by inning and truly let the game dictate how it played. Chants like "let's win the inning" could be heard constantly from the Tiger dugout, and with the exception of one, the Tigers prevailed in every inning against Dartmouth. This propelled the Tigers to a sweep of the Big Green by scores of 2-1 and 10-4.
The Tiger offense came into form in the second inning of the second game against Harvard, sparked by the performance of freshman designated hitter Andrew Hanson. With the score tied at zero and fellow freshman Max Krance on second, Hanson doubled, giving sophomore third baseman Jay Mitchell the chance to drive them both home.
Then in the bottom of the third, Hanson homered to right field, scoring Krance and junior first baseman Matt Evans and giving the Tigers a 5-0 lead. The home run derby continued in the next inning with a solo shot by senior shortstop Justin Griffin.
The Tigers, however, were not done. After allowing one run in the top of the sixth to end the Princeton shutout bid, the team came back to score four more runs for a nine-run cushion.
The rally was started by another freshman, catcher Casey Hildreth, who singled to center field. He was followed by Justin Griffin's center field single. Then senior second baseman Asher Griffin drove the nail in the coffin with a double to center field, scoring two more runs.
More to come
The scoring continued with a triple to right field by junior left fielder Jason Koonin, which scored Asher Griffin. This fruitful inning for the Tigers was topped off by senior center fielder Mike Hazen's RBI double. Harvard scored one run in the top of the seventh to close the scoring.
"Offensively we came out and swung our bats well," Bradley said of his team's performance in the second game.
On the mound, junior Tim Killgoar pitched six solid innings before being relieved by senior Ben Matsil. Killgoar struck out two and allowed six hits before departing.
Against Dartmouth, the first game was a pitching duel. Senior hurler Joe Machado allowed just four hits and struck out one in six innings.
The game was quiet offensively, and the highlight was Asher Griffin's game-winning home run. With no one on base and the score tied at one in the bottom of the seventh inning – only seven innings are played in college baseball doubleheaders – Griffin hit his first collegiate home run over the left field fence to give Princeton the 2-1 win.
In contrast to the low-scoring first game, the second game against Dartmouth was packed with action, as the Tigers scored at least one run in every inning.
Once again, freshman talent shone as Hildreth went 2 for 4 with two doubles. His first hit for extra bases came in the second inning, and he was eventually driven home on a single by Justin Griffin. With his second double, he drove in two runs and eventually rounded the bases on a single from junior third baseman Chris Loving.
Another big hit came off the bat of Koonin, who knocked a triple into deep center field in the fourth inning.
Pitching for the Tigers in yesterday's second game was sophomore Jason Quintana, who pitched a strong five innings, allowing only three hits. He showed signs of fatigue in the sixth when he gave up three runs and was relieved by junior Jeff Golden.