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Dartmouth demolition derby: Vinci breaks home run record as Tigers sweep series

A man steps up to the plate on a baseball field.
Senior star Kyle Vinci broke Princeton Baseball’s career home run record as the Tigers cruised to their first sweep of the season in Hanover
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With both the weather and the Ivy League regular baseball season heating up, the Princeton baseball team (16–21 overall, 11–7 Ivy League) took on the Dartmouth Big Green (11–23, 6–12 Ivy) in New Hampshire. Entering the series with an average conference record, the Tigers were in desperate need of some consistency as they sought to strengthen their hold on an Ivy League Tournament berth.

Princeton has searched for a sustained stretch of success since Ivy League play began, taking two of three games in series against Cornell, Brown and Penn while dropping two of three games each to Yale and Harvard in between. The Tigers have neither swept a series nor been swept in conference play. Their longest conference winning streak has been two games just as their longest losing streak has also been two games. With a three-game set against a struggling Dartmouth squad, Princeton sought to change that in a dramatic fashion.


Bats break out as Vinci breaks record 

In the first game of the Saturday doubleheader, Head Coach Scott Bradley handed the ball to sophomore starter Will Sword. After beginning the season in the bullpen, Sword was moved to the rotation and has impressed over his last two starts — a pair of six-inning, nine-strikeout efforts against Harvard and Penn in which he gave up two runs each. 

The Tigers’ lineup, which has seen success as of late, wasted no time staking Sword to a lead. In the top of the second inning, junior rightfielder Jordan Kelly sliced a double into the left field corner to plate the opening run of the game. First-year third baseman Jake Kernodle plated another with an RBI groundout, giving Sword a 2–0 lead to work with. He coughed up the lead one inning later, with a homer by Dartmouth’s Tyler Robinson tying it up at two apiece. In a weekend-long display of dominance, this was the last time the Tigers finished an inning without a lead for the rest of the series. 

After the rocky start, the bats got hot as Sword settled in for the day — the Tigers closed out the seventh inning with a commanding 8–3 lead.

Stepping into the box in the eighth, senior Kyle Vinci was still chasing history. Struggling through a weeks-long scoreless streak, Vinci had not hit a home run since over a month ago, when he tied Matthew Evans ’99 for Princeton’s all-time home run lead at 26. With the count in his favor at 1–0, Vinci saw a hanging breaking ball from Dartmouth’s Joseph Chambers that could politely be described as a meatball. Vinci, one of the Tigers’ most prolific hitters, took on the challenge. Swinging out of his shoes, Vinci demolished a towering home run to left field. After a month of waiting, Vinci finally etched his name into Princeton history with his program-pacing 27th homer.


“Kyle has been playing banged up for most of the year,” Coach Bradley told The Daily Princetonian as he discussed his star slugger. “It’s amazing what he’s done in basically two seasons!” Vinci lost his first year to COVID-19 in 2021, when the Ivy League was cancelled, and took only 23 at-bats in the 2022 season. His historic two years are made all the more impressive by how compressed his dominance has been, taking two years to soar beyond heights that take most others four to reach.

When all was said and done, the Tigers left the first game with a 14–5 victory over the Big Green. Sword went eight strong innings, using soft contact and strong defense to complete a much-needed quality start for a depleted Princeton pitching staff.

After the game, pitching coach Joe Haumacher was effusive in his praise of Sword.

“It took him a lot of hard work to earn his starting job this year,” he told the ‘Prince.’ “Because of that, his transition to being a game one starter has been very smooth. When you earn a job based upon hard work and learning, you are prepared to lead the team into a weekend with nothing but confidence.”

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The team’s offense was just as stellar as Sword’s pitching, as Scannell went a remarkable five for six at the plate, one shy of the program’s single-game hits record. Kernodle and Kelly each had three-hit days, and each member of Princeton’s potent lineup recorded at least one hit as the Tigers took their momentum towards game two.

Scannell dominates as Eaton and Faulkner shut down Dartmouth 

The second contest would be no different from the first, as the Tigers never trailed on the road to an 11–3 victory. The story of the game was Scannell, who led off the game with a double and finished with four hits, bringing him to a remarkable nine on the day. The centerfielder tied the program record for hits in back-to-back games, doing so in emphatic fashion with four extra-base hits.

While Scannell shined in the box, others held it down on the mound. First-year starter Elliot Eaton went six strong innings on the bump, surrendering just one earned run on five hits while striking out six. Standout reliever Jacob Faulkner took the Tigers the rest of the way, pitching the other three innings and striking out five in a strong outing. 

“My favorite moment of this weekend was seeing Elliot Eaton’s growth into a new level of his game,” Haumacher told the ‘Prince.’ “To see the pride in his work translate to pitching like an upperclass [student] in a very important league game, I can’t help but see it as the highlight of a great weekend.”

Vinci’s unique round-tripper powers Tigers to sweep

The next day, the Tigers picked up right where they left off with yet another commanding performance. Perhaps the biggest story for Princeton was the return of first-year starter Sean Episcope, who had been shelved with an elbow injury since an April 7 start against Brown. With a banged-up pitching staff confronting the same myriad of elbow troubles that has dominated the headlines in Major League Baseball, Episcope’s return gives Bradley and Haumacher some much-needed rotation depth as they enter the stretch run. Though his four innings of work meant he left before he could be credited with the win, Episcope did everything asked of him and more as he set down twelve of the fourteen batters he faced across four shutout innings on a miniscule 44 pitches. 

With a 2–0 lead and runners on second and third in the first inning, Vinci stepped to the plate, with the newly-crowned home run king looking to solidify his hold on the throne. Vinci’s well-struck hit drifted out towards right-center as Dartmouth’s outfielders converged near the wall, with both failing to grab ahold of it. The senior beat the throw by a few steps, adding to his home run title with an inside-the-park round-tripper.

Though Dartmouth brought the game back within reach in the eighth as they cut the lead to 7–5, the Tigers never truly wavered as they secured the sweep. Across the weekend, Princeton scored 32 runs on 48 hits as they demolished the Dartmouth pitching crew. With a combined run differential of +19 on the series, Princeton secured their first sweep of the season in dominant fashion. 

“As an offense, I just felt we finally got comfortable,” Scannell told the ‘Prince.’ “We know we have the talent to be a great offense, but it hasn’t quite clicked. Saturday, it did, and the results were two big wins.” Central to the team’s success this weekend, the star centerfielder figures to play a significant role down the stretch for the Tigers.

For a squad that has been looking to break out all season long, this weekend’s dominant display was a potent reminder of how good the team can be when firing on all cylinders. The Tigers traveled six hours to play a solid opponent and put together 27 innings of stellar performance. They now boast an 11–7 conference record, putting them in second place in the Ivy League and in prime position to clinch a tournament spot next weekend against Columbia (24–14, 15–3) with a single win. 

“Like each league weekend, our goal is to win the series,” Bradley told the ‘Prince’ ahead of the crucial showdown in New York City. “Columbia has had a great year, and their ballpark has very interesting dimensions that can be difficult as a visiting team.”

Winners of 22 of their last 25 games, the Lions are the class of the Ivy League and will be a fearsome opponent for Princeton. That being said, the odds are that the Tigers will need to beat Columbia in the tournament if they wish to claim the postseason title. Thankfully, the Tigers aren’t scared.

“With the way Will Sword and Elliot Eaton have been throwing the ball, adding Sean back in the mix gives the team a feeling that we don’t have to beat anyone,” Haumacher told the ‘Prince.’ “If we show up with our strengths, the other team will have to beat us.”

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

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