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Baseball, softball earn first wins

Tigers find offense and defense in Florida series against Michigan

It’s always nice to get that first win under your belt. And though this part of the season is comparable to spring training, a period of practice before the Ivy League schedule begins, both the baseball and softball teams now have their first wins.

Playing at the New York Mets’ spring training facility in Port St. Lucie, Fla., the baseball team (2-5) met the Michigan Wolverines for the first time in a century. The Wolverines (6-10-1) came in with two more weeks of play under their belt, but the Tigers held their own, splitting the four-game weekend set.

Friday’s matchup went to Princeton thanks chiefly to senior left-handed pitcher Michael Fagan, who pitched five no-hit innings. The Wolverines got to him for three runs in the sixth, but he left the game having struck out 10 batters while walking only two and allowing just three hits. The Tigers had already put up four runs in the second with a rally started by freshman first baseman Nick Hernandez. Another rookie, right fielder Danny Baer, knocked in two runs with a double, and senior centerfielder Alec Keller singled in a run in the next at bat. When a sac fly from sophomore shortstop Billy Arendt plated Baer, the Tigers had a 4-0 lead. They added three more runs while senior Jonathan York, a utility player who made his second appearance on the hill Friday, went four scoreless innings to secure the 7-3 victory.

Saturday was a day of mixed results. Sophomore pitcher Cam Mingo, expected to be the anchor of the Tigers’ rotation, made his season debut, letting up two runs in two innings in the first game. Sophomore Luke Streiber relived him but could not hold off the Wolverines, allowing three two-run innings in four innings of work. A third sophomore, Chris Bodurian, rounded out the day with two scoreless frames, but the offense mustered only two runs to Michigan’s eight.

As if designed to restore faith in Princeton’s pitchers, the nightcap saw two freshmen, Keelan Smithers and Bryce Keller, combine for just three earned runs in nine innings (Keller pitched four innings and got the win). Meanwhile, the Tigers exploded for 14 hits. Keller went three for five in the leadoff spot, Baer was two for five with two RBI and a triple, and Hernandez knocked in a run as DH while freshman Zack Belski saw time at first and went two for three. Two errors made the game close, but the Tigers pulled it out 6-5.

Yet another freshman pitcher, Chad Powers, started the series finale. Chased in the sixth by two runs which tied the game, he went five complete innings and allowed just four hits, another sign that the bullpen will survive the losses of Zak Hermans ’13 and senior Mike Ford. Michigan added two more runs in the seventh, however, and managed to keep the Tigers quiet, winning 4-2 and splitting the series.

The Tigers will next see action in Greensboro, N.C. for a three-day, three-game set against UNC-Greensboro next Saturday to Monday.

Women split double-header at Finney-Campbell Field

The softball team’s tournament in Maryland was cancelled due to field conditions, but the Tigers (1-6) were able to schedule a Saturday double-header with Hartford, making for an impromptu, early home opener at a patch of pieced-together turf on Finney-Campbell Field.

Hartford (2-4) got four runs off of Princeton freshman starter Claire Klausner in the first two innings in the first game. The score remained 4-0 until the fourth, when sophomore first baseman Emily Viggers’ leadoff single started a four-run rally. Junior infielder Alyssa Schmidt and freshman infielder Haley Hineman both singled in runs, and, in an impressive display of speed, Hineman stole home to knot the game at four. Klausner was picked off at second and junior centerfielder Rachel Rendina was caught stealing to end the rally.

After Hartford responded with a run, Princeton manufactured another in the next frame, as senior catcher Maddie Cousens singled with an RBI to tie the game up again. Two scoreless frames turned the game to extra innings, where each inning began with a runner placed on second per extra-inning rules. Hartford scored its runner with a sac bunt and a sac fly, plating the go-ahead run without recording a hit in the eighth inning. Thus, though Klausner retired the side in order in the final inning of her extra-innings complete game, she was saddled with the loss after the Tigers failed to answer in the bottom half.

Princeton got its revenge in the second half of the twinbill, again putting up four runs in an inning. With two outs and no runs on the board for either side in the third, the Tigers got singles from Rendina, Schmidt and junior catcher Cara Worden, who went two for three in the game. In what was surely the highlight of her young career, freshman outfielder Marissa Reynolds came to the plate with two outs and belted a grand slam, which proved to be the game-winner.

Hartford got one run back in the top of the fourth, but it was the only chink to appear in Princeton’s armor. Sophomore pitcher Shanna Christian, working her way back from an offseason injury, allowed no more runs over her three innings of work. Her fellow righty Meredith Brown kept the Hawks scoreless through the first three frames, and freshman Erica Nori notched her first career save to give the Tigers their first win of 2014.

The Tigers will play 13 games in California over the next two weeks before they first take their actual home field, Class of 1895 Field, against Monmouth on March 26.

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