On Wednesday, softball (11–13 overall, 5–1 Ivy League) traveled to Lawrenceville for a midweek double-header against the Rider Broncs (6–16, 0–0 MAAC). The Tigers emerged victorious in both games.
The Tigers entered the week with momentum after winning five of their last six games, including two of three against the Brown Bears (5–16, 2–4). This momentum continued into game one as the Tigers made use of their opportunities early on.
The Tigers opened game one with senior pitcher Alexis Laudenslager matching up against Broncs Jessie Niegocki. In the top of the second inning, a hit-by-pitch, single, and walk loaded the bases, and with two outs remaining, senior left fielder Serena Starks stepped up with an RBI single to put the Tigers up 1–0.
Rider looked to respond at the bottom of the second, leading off the inning with back-to-back singles. However, Laudenslager held strong and managed to generate a fly-out, groundout, and strikeout to put an end to the Broncs' rally.
The fourth inning saw more of the same, as sophomore center fielder Lauren Sablone singled to center field and doubled the Tigers’ lead, following up with a hit-by-pitch. A throwing error on a ball put in play by Starks brought in an additional run, as the Tigers left the fourth with a 3–0 advantage. In the bottom of the fourth, a pitching change saw junior Molly Chambers enter for Laudenslager.
Rider was able to close the gap in the fifth inning when two singles followed by a double drove in their first run. With only one out, the Broncs had runners at second and third. Chambers was able to limit the damage by forcing a popup and a lineout, stranding two runners in scoring position and protecting the Tigers’ lead.
“A consistent pattern this season has been the strength of our pitching staff,” Starks told The Daily Princetonian. “They have been able to keep us in close games and the diversity of the staff keeps every team on their toes.”
In the sixth inning, Rider began the inning with a leadoff single. After two quick outs, it appeared as though the threat had vanished, but a throwing error plated a Bronc run and left a runner on second base. However, Chambers was able to escape without allowing any more runs, as a popup in the next-at-bat stranded a runner in scoring position for the second straight inning.
Chambers went on to close out the seventh with three straight outs, securing a 3–2 Tiger victory and taking game one of the doubleheader.
“Close games test our team and shows a strong dynamic where we are able to manufacture runs accompanied by solid performances by our pitchers,” said first-year infielder Julia Dumais. “Every pitch is important, both on offense and defense, and the ability to win close games is a testament to our team’s resilience and mental toughness.”
The Tigers began game two with first-year pitcher Brielle Wright on the mound against Broncs sophomore Kathryn Schmierer. Both pitchers got off to strong starts, holding the game scoreless into the fourth inning.
At the top of the fourth, two singles and a hit-by-pitch loaded the bases with no outs for Tigers shortstop Grace Jackson, whose RBI groundout gave the Tigers the lead. The Broncs were then able to force a double play to limit the damage and promptly responded with a solo home run from senior catcher Chaela Crowder to even the score at one run each. This would be the last inning for Wright, as the Tigers brought in sophomore Meghan Harrington.
In the fifth, Tigers sophomore first baseman Sophia Marsalo answered back with a solo home run of her own, putting the Tigers back in the lead. There would be no more runs in the fifth, but, in the following inning, two singles put Tigers on first and third before a stolen base attempt led to a throwing error, scoring pinch runner first-year Abby Hornberger.
From there, Harrington was lights out for Princeton, facing the minimum over three innings, striking out four, and allowing no hits, which helped the Tigers sweep the Wednesday double-header against the Broncs.
“The motto for our offense is to ‘find a way on,’” Starks told the ‘Prince.’ “We haven’t hit our hot streak, but finding ways to be scrappy and manufacture runs is how we have found success.”
Strong pitching was key for the Tigers, as they held the Broncs to just three runs across both games and stranded a total of 11 runners on base in the process.
This weekend, the Tigers will play a three-game series against the Penn Quakers (2–24, 0–6) where they look to continue their success in Ivy League play. The Tigers currently have the most wins (5) in conference play in the Ivy League, and the second-best record behind only the Dartmouth Big Green (3–0).
“The start of Ivy’s gave us a renewed sense of energy and helped us refocus on our goals for this season,” said Dumais. “Our practices have been integral to sharpen our skills and build up our confidence. In the coming weeks, we are determined to continue on our recent momentum these past couple of weeks and to keep improving as a team.”
Tony Owens is a contributor to the Sports section at the ‘Prince.’
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