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Baseball clinches spot in Ivy League Tournament in series versus Columbia

Princeton pitcher winding up to throw towards home
Star pitcher Jacob Faulkner shined as the Tigers won Game One to cement their spot in the Ivy League Tournament.
Photo courtesy of @PUTigerBaseball/X.

As the Princeton Tigers baseball team (17–24 overall, 12–9 Ivy League) departed campus on Friday for a road series against the Columbia Lions (26–15, 17–4), the stakes could not have been higher: a single win would clinch the Tigers’ spot in the Ivy League Tournament. For a team that hadn’t been swept all season and had just taken three straight against seventh-place Dartmouth, this may not have sounded like a difficult task. However, with wins in 20 of their last 23 games, Columbia was a different class of opponent than Princeton had faced all season. Just scraping by with one win against Columbia would not be easy, but the Tigers were up to the challenge.

Tigers clinch tournament berth as Faulkner shines in Game One 


In game one of the series, head coach Scott Bradley sent sophomore starting pitcher Will Sword to the mound. With six or more innings pitched and three or fewer runs allowed in each of his last three starts, Sword has blossomed into a reliable starter for a team plagued by injuries. 

Through the first two innings, Sword looked like his usual dominant self as the offense staked him to an early 1–0 lead. Back-to-back doubles from sophomore catcher Jake Bold and sophomore second baseman Jake Koonin opened the second inning and sent the Tigers up a run. Then, disaster struck in the third inning as Will Sword departed the game after facing one batter. Bradley went to his leading arm in the bullpen, standout sophomore Jacob Faulkner.

As a reliever, Faulkner is still accustomed to handling innings in bulk when called upon to do so by the coaching staff. His ability to serve as a stopgap has been critical to Princeton’s success this season, and Friday was no exception. Faulkner closed out the third inning, then set Columbia down in order in the fourth and fifth frames.

“Our pitching is so thin right now so we went to Jacob Faulkner right away in game one,” Bradley told The Daily Princetonian. 

The game’s first major offensive eruption came in the top of the sixth inning as Princeton hung three runs on Lions starting pitcher Danny Yoo. Senior center fielder Matt Scannell, fresh off a nine-hit doubleheader last weekend, started the scoring with a home run over the right-center field fence. Junior outfielder Caden Shapiro followed that up with a double, followed by a triple by Bold to bring the score to 3–0. Just as in the first inning, Jake Koonin plated Bold with another hit.


Meanwhile, Faulkner pitched the rest of the game, going 6 2/3 innings despite not preparing for a start before the game. Though the Lions threatened late and brought the score to 4–2 in the ninth inning, Princeton prevailed to win the game, and officially punched their ticket to the Ivy League Tournament. 

“We knew that the rest of the weekend … the two games on Saturday would be difficult,” Bradley told the ‘Prince.’ “Columbia has a terrific offensive team,” he expanded. Bradley’s prognosis would prove to be correct, as the Lions’ bats heated up in the next two games.

Lions excel as Tigers drop close contest in Game Two

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In the second game of the weekend, the Tigers pushed a run across in the first off of a throwing error by Columbia. In the bottom of the first inning, Columbia junior outfielder Skye Selinsky’s two-run homer gave the Lions the lead right back. After an RBI single from the Lions Jack Cooper and a lineout sac from Anton Lazits, they extended their lead to 4–1.

In the seventh inning, Princeton began to make a major comeback. Two runners in, Jake Bold hit a two-run double, plating senior infielder Nick DiPietrantonio and Scannell. Then Koonin, who is on an impressive 16-game hitting streak, singled to center field to score Bold and tie the game. In the bottom of the inning, Columbia hit back hard in response to squash the Princeton comeback. Lions infielder Sam Miller homered to left center, scoring three runs in the process and making it 8–5. In the eighth inning, Scannell homered to right field and batted two more Tigers in, bringing the score to its final, 8–7 Columbia. 

Tigers drop forgettable Game Three

Not much went right for the Tigers in game three of the series, as Columbia showed off the talent that took them to the top of the Ivy League, blowing the Tigers out 9–1. With a home run, two doubles, a walk, and a hit by pitch in the second inning, Columbia ambushed first-year starting pitcher Elliot Eaton to the tune of a four-run frame. Columbia didn’t look back after that, scoring two more in the third inning to end Eaton’s day early. First-year reliever Jackson Baldrate took the mound and tamed the Lions for three innings, pitching a scoreless fourth, fifth and sixth inning to stop the bleeding.

The Tigers recorded just one run on four hits, with doubles by Koonin and Kyle Vinci, along with a triple by Scannell and a single by Bold. Koonin extended his hitting streak to 17 straight games, continuing a hot stretch encompassing the entirety of Ivy League conference play. As the game got late, Bradley turned to his outfielders to pitch some mop-up innings. Shapiro pitched the seventh inning, yielding three more runs. Scannell tossed a scoreless eighth inning, and wasn’t needed for the ninth as the Tigers fell to 12–9 in Ivy League play.

Potential playoff matchups

Even with the series loss, the Tigers did all they had to do in order to secure a spot in the Ivy League tournament. With a pitching rotation seemingly held together with Scotch tape and prayers, Princeton has managed to complete a successful regular season and secure what will likely be the second seed in the tournament. The offense has been hot as of late, with Scannell and Koonin driving much of the team’s recent success. The Tigers will hope that their pitching staff can stay afloat and do enough to take them through the upcoming tournament.

As Ivy League play wrapped up for all but Yale and Harvard, Princeton still must wait to find out their first round opponent. Columbia is locked into the one seed, but everything else is fluid. As it stands, the Tigers will face off against the Cornell Big Red, who avoided a major scare in Providence, dropping the first two games to last-place Brown before salvaging the final game. Cornell owns the head-to-head tiebreaker against Penn, who are currently the fourth-seeded team in the tournament.

If Yale can sweep Harvard next weekend, the Bulldogs will take the second seed from the Tigers due to the head-to-head tiebreaker. This would have little effect on Princeton, who would face Yale in New York regardless of whether they held the two or three seed. No other result in that series would matter to the Tigers, who would face Cornell in all other scenarios. In short, Princeton is locked into a series against Cornell in Manhattan unless Yale can sweep Harvard, in which case the Bulldogs will replace the Big Red.

“We will let the players focus on exams over the next 10 days,” Bradley said of the long break between now and the Ivy League Tournament on Friday, May 17. Bradley knows how grueling the Princeton exam schedule can be, acknowledging that “there is quite a bit at stake and lots of pressure associated with exams” and indicating that practices would largely be optional over the next week as his stars emphasize the “student” in “student-athlete.”

Once their exams wrap up, the team will be met with one of the toughest tests the Ivy League can offer: the double-elimination, three-day madness of the postseason tournament. Facing familiar foes, the Tigers will hope to ace this test too as they chase the Ivy League title.

Joseph Uglialoro is a staff Sports writer for the ‘Prince.’

Ify Obianwu is a Sports contributor for the ‘Prince.’ 

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