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Baseball takes one of three games at Duke behind Koonin’s Friday blasts

The Tigers will take on Navy next weekend.
Courtesy of @PUTigerBaseball/Twitter.

This past weekend, the baseball team (2–5 overall, 0–0 Ivy League) contested their second away series of the season, this time traveling to Durham, N.C. to take on Duke (8–3, 0–0 Atlantic Coast). The Duke Blue Devils had been on a four-game winning streak with a team average of .317 and an on-base-plus-slugging (OPS) of .975. The Blue Devils were also averaging more than 15 runs per game during that stretch, which included a shutout 9–0 win over ninth-ranked East Carolina.

The Tigers, on the other hand, had lost three straight against Georgia (8–3, 0–0 Southeastern) before a 12–11 comeback victory last weekend to get their first victory of the young season. Princeton’s team average was just .233 going into the series, and their OPS was .832, much lower than Duke’s.


Despite this challenge, Princeton managed to take one of three in the series and improve to 2–5 on the year. Even with the lackluster win-loss record through seven games, it’s notable that the team has stolen two wins from major-conference teams — each with winning records through its first two series. These victories are a somewhat positive sign for Princeton, given their abysmal 4–15 record out-of-conference last year.

The Tigers managed to secure a victory in the first game, thanks to solid pitching and an exceptional performance by first-year infielder Jake Koonin. Princeton jumped out to an early 2–0 lead with a two-run home run in the first by junior first baseman Kyle Vinci. After Duke tied the game up at two in the third, Koonin answered for the Orange and Black, blasting a towering solo shot over the Blue Monster in left for his first career home run in the fifth. 

Koonin didn't stop the derby there, however, adding a two-run homer in the seventh inning, extending Princeton's lead to 5–2. With five stellar innings of one-run ball from first-year pitcher Justin Kim and sophomore pitcher Jacob Faulkner, the Tigers held on to win 7–3.

“The first home run I knew I barreled, but [I] wasn’t sure if it would leave the park,” Koonin wrote to The Daily Princetonian. “[On] the second one I felt like I was a little out in front but it still went out.”

“It was one of the best moments of my life,” he added. “Having never hit two in a game, it was amazing, and I’m just glad we won.”

Facing a solid Duke pitching staff — which boasts a team earned-run average of just 1.85, eighth-best in the nation — Koonin aimed to be aggressive and attack the fastball. 


“Batting in the 8-hole, I knew that I would get a good amount of fastballs and I just wanted to barrel them up,” he explained. 

The second game of the series was a blowout, as Duke dominated the field and scored nearly two dozen runs. The game started close, with senior center fielder Brendan Cumming knocking in a run on a second inning single to tie the game up at one. However, after Duke tacked on another run in the bottom half of the second, they blew the game open, starting with a grand slam in the fifth. They would continue to pile on, scoring five, five, four, and five runs in the fifth through eighth innings. In the end, the Blue Devils’ five homers, four doubles, and staggering ten walks led to a 21–2 blowout.

The tiebreaker game on Sunday began well for junior starting pitcher Matt Scannell. In the top of the first, after a single down the right field line by Cumming, Scannell hit a two-run home run over the right field wall to strike early. Taking the mound in the bottom of the first with a 2–0 lead of his own making, Scannell opened up with a strikeout, but then allowed a single followed by five consecutive walks — at one point throwing 14 balls in 15 pitches — scoring three Duke runs. 

Third-inning RBI singles from senior catcher Carlos Abello and sophomore left-fielder Caden Shapiro allowed Princeton to regain the lead, 5–3. Sophomore pitcher Andrew D’Alessio’s relief of Scannell held the Blue Devils in check for the second and third innings and two outs of the fourth inning. A ground ball to Koonin, hero of the first win, should’ve ended the inning — but an errant throw allowed a run to score and the inning to continue. A double, single, two walks, and another single then brought Duke seven runs as they jumped out to a 10–5 lead. The Blue Devils stayed in control for the remainder of the game, as they scored again in the fifth and eighth innings to win 12–5.

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Building off of two non-conference wins, the Tigers will look to right the ship as they travel to Annapolis, Md. to take on the Navy Midshipmen (4–7, 0–0 Patriot) next weekend.

Gabriel Robare reports on baseball and is the Head Archivist as well as the former Head Puzzles Editor. They can be reached at or on Twitter @gabrielrobare.

Kevin Yang is a contributor to the Sports section at the ‘Prince.’

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