After the recent weather conditions in New Jersey, head coach Scott Bradley could have easily blamed his team’s 13-6 loss on the rain. He did not.
“Our field’s perfect. The outfield is a little wet, but the infield is perfect. It’s just one of those days,” Bradley said after Princeton (7-12 overall, 0-2 Ivy League) hosted Seton Hall (20-5) in a game that looked like it would not happen until the rainclouds parted just a few hours before game time.
Small ball was the name of the game all day for the Pirates, just as miscues came to define the Tigers’ day. Seton Hall manufactured both of its first-inning runs, putting runners on second and third with no outs thanks to a walk, a bunt single and an error. Sophomore starter Luke Strieber would allow both of those runs to score on a single in the next at bat, but he retired the next three batters in order and did not allow another run through three innings of work.
Bradley cycled through pitchers, using Streiber and sophomore southpaw Chris Bodurian for three innings each and then calling upon junior lefty Tyler Foote and senior righty AJ Goetz, but the Pirates did the opposite. Their sizeable lefthander, rookie Anthony Pacillo, kept Princeton baffled at the plate, allowing just one hit through seven while striking out eight.
Bodurian’s stint on the hill got off to a good start with consecutive scoreless innings, but he threw a lot of pitches through those innings and started to show fatigue in the sixth. Two hits and two sac flies plated two more Pirates, widening the gap to 4-0 in favor of Seton Hall.
Foote’s first two batters reached base on a single and a ground ball, which though misplayed by sophomore second baseman Danny Hoy, was ruled a hit due to the difficulty of the play. Whether due to an extremely soggy infield, perfectly-placed ground balls or hometown scoring, the Tigers had repeated trouble recording outs throughout the game.
“There were a lot more errors [than the four charged to Princeton],” Bradley said. “I’m going to have to change the official score.”
A sac fly and a weak but mishandled ground ball later, the score was 6-0.
In addition to trouble fielding, a source of concern for the Tigers was communication between Hoy and junior catcher Brett Geren, who threw down to second base twice when nobody was covering the bag. Geren and his pitchers did what they could to keep the Pirates honest, but they ran roughshod over the Tigers on the base paths, swiping seven bases. Three of those steals came from speedy leadoff hitter Derek Jenkins.
With the score 7-0, the Tigers had a burst of energy which nearly saved the day. Sophomore designated hitter Andres Larramendi revitalized them in the bottom of the eighth with a hard-hit gapper on the first pitch Princeton saw from Pirate reliever Joe DiBenedetto. Freshman third baseman Chad Powers hit a line drive through the right side of the infield in the next at bat, and Larramendi scored on a very similar hit from Geren just a few pitches later.
Bradley, who said his team felt confident in its offense despite the loss, thought that DiBenedetto was much better than his final line indicates.
“The first pitcher for them really kept us off balance,” he said. “All of the sudden, a guy comes into the game whose stuff is actually better and all of the sudden we start swinging the bats better.”
Junior rightfielder Peter Owens won his subsequent battle against DiBendetto, sending his 3-2 delivery through the left-field side and forcing the Pirates to dip into their bullpen again with no outs. The new pitcher let up a seeing-eye single to senior centerfielder Alec Keller, making it a 7-2 game after four straight Princeton singles. The lead decreased to 7-3 after sophomore shortstop Billy Arrendt’s ground ball yielded a fielder’s choice, putting runners on the corners with one down. Hoy drove in another run in the next at bat with yet another hard-hit ground ball that got through the infield. The new pitcher’s first offering to freshman infielder Paul Tupper got past the catcher, moving two runners into scoring position, but Tupper would go down looking on a breaking ball. As freshman Zack Belski pinch hit for first baseman Tyler Servais, another pitch got away from catcher Alex Falconi, scoring Arrendt and the rookie hit a perfect line drive into left field to make it a one-run game.
The momentum foundered, however, when Goetz started off the final frame with eight straight balls. He would go on to walk in two runs and allow another run on a sac fly as the Pirates put the game away with six runs on only two hits.
Senior first baseman Will Davis came in to record the final out of the ninth, possibly because Bradley wished to conserve the rest of his bullpen for the weekend. The Tigers will hit the road Saturday and Sunday for a two-game series against Brown and Yale.
“I think there’s so much parity in the league right now that you just can’t have a bad day,” Bradley said of the upcoming trip. “Going on the road, it’s about pitching, and it’s about timely hitting.”