Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXV, No. 14
Wednesday, April 6, 2011
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HOME BUSINESS: Princeton University baseball star Mike Ford waits for the pitch last Sunday against Yale. Freshman Ford, a former Hun School star and Montgomery resident, used his bat and arm to help Princeton sweep doubleheaders against visiting Brown and Yale to open Ivy League play. Ford had five hits on the weekend and picked up a complete game win on the mound against Yale. He was later named the Ivy League Rookie of the Week for his performance.

Former Hun Star Ford Makes Immediate Impact As PU Baseball Sweeps Opening Ivy Weekend

Bill Alden

Last spring, Mike Ford was a man among boys for the Hun School baseball team in his final high school campaign.

Dominating at the plate and on the mound, Montgomery native Ford helped Hun go 15-5 and win the Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) title. His batting average soared over .500 while his ERA hovered around 1.00.

He hit four homers in one game and threw a one-hit shutout with 15 strikeouts in the MAPL title game as Hun blanked Mercersburg Academy 7-0.

Heading across town to continue his baseball career at Princeton University, Ford has quickly emerged as a key man for the Tigers.

From the squad’s season-opening series at national power Louisiana State University last month, Ford established himself as a dangerous hitter in the middle of the Tiger batting order and a reliable starting pitcher.

Last weekend at Clarke Field, the 6’0, 215-pound Ford made quite a splash in his Ivy League debut. On Saturday, he helped Princeton to a doubleheader sweep of visiting Brown, starting at first base and going 4-of-7 on the day with four runs and two RBIs as the Tigers prevailed 7-4 and 12-2.

On Sunday, Ford took the mound in the opener of a twinbill against Yale and produced a brilliant performance. The righty hurler struck out five and gave up just six hits, going all seven innings in a 7-1 win. Ford and the Tigers went on to sweep the Bulldogs, rallying for a 6-3 win in the nightcap, improving to 9-13 overall and 4-0 in Ivy play.

Ford was pumped up to make his Ivy debut. “This is what we work for; that’s how we get to the next level,” said Ford, who ended up being named the Ivy League Rookie of the Week for his performance against Brown and Yale. “We put in a lot of hard work before this weekend; we had a lot of close games on the spring trip.”

It hasn’t taken long for Ford to grow close to his teammates. “It’s been real smooth; we have a team full of great guys,” said Ford.

“I couldn’t even imagine how great the team would be before I came here; all the guys on this team are awesome. The coaches are awesome; they are all really good people. Classes are hard but everything baseball went smoothly. Having a team to help me deal with certain situations helped me fit in right away.”

As he adjusts to hitting at the college level, Ford is learning to deal with the stiffer competition.

“It is different, you fail more and that’s something you have to get used to,” said Ford, who is hitting .299 with a homer and 15 RBIs.

“If you go 1-for-3, it is considered a good day, especially if you are in a big spot. I think that is the biggest thing hitting wise; you have to keep an even keel. You strike out a lot more; it is better pitching and better hitting. That’s college, it’s the next step.”

A little fine-tuning helped Ford step up in his superb mound outing against Yale.

“I have been working on my fastball; I made a minor adjustment in the bullpen this week and I think it really showed,” said Ford, who is 1-3 this spring with 15 strikeouts and nine walks in 26 innings.

“I wasn’t staying on my back side enough and I wasn’t using my back leg enough. That really helped me gain those extra few miles an hour in the late innings.”

Princeton head coach Scott Bradley has extra high expectations for the precocious Ford.

“We expect so much from Mike,” said Bradley. “I know him well; I have watched Mike play more baseball than probably any person I have ever recruited. Sometimes you kind of forget that he is a freshman.”

While Ford has experienced his share of freshman trials and tribulations, he has proven to be a solid two-way performer.

“In his first two or three outings, he approached things with the idea that he needed to throw more breaking balls,” said Bradley.

“In his last couple of outings it has been more attack. We told him your fastball is good at this level too and it makes his other pitches that much more effective. We haven’t had a hitter like Mike in a long time in that he is so disciplined. He provides power but he is also a contact guy. He won’t swing at bad pitches. He is a great person to have in the middle of the lineup. I think he helps out everyone around him.”

The versatile Tiger lineup is giving Bradley some good flexibility. “I really like our roster right now; we have a really good balance between righties and lefties,” asserted Bradley, who has been batting right-handed hitter Matt Bowman second with lefty John Mishu in the three hole and the left-handed hitting Ford and righty Sam Mulroy flip-flopping between cleanup and No. 5.

“In the last couple of years I felt like we have had some instances where we have been a little one way more than the other.”

Coming off a tough 2010 season which saw the Tigers go 6-14 in Ivy play on the way to a 12-30 overall mark, Bradley really liked the way the team started its 2011 league slate.

“Our season comes down basically to a five-weekend tournament; we have had some years where we have gone 1-3 in the beginning and have won,” said Bradley, whose team recorded its first weekend doubleheader sweep in Ivy play since 2006.

“Every game you can get now is one you don’t have to try and get at the end. I think for the most part, we had one bad inning this weekend and we overcame it. We hung in there. Our pitching was very good; we really attacked. What I like more than anything else is that I thought we really competed this weekend. The kids were excited but they weren’t tight. We played hard; we focused and mentally we were into it.”

In Ford’s view, the Tigers are ready to keep that focus throughout the spring. “I feel like we are a team that is not going to fold at any time,” maintained Ford.

“We don’t want to lose; that is our mindset no matter what game we are playing or who we are playing or what the score is at the time. We are always going to try to put runs on the board and try to play solid fundamental baseball.”

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