Princeton Softball's Rally Against Yale Keeps Tigers in Thick of Wild Ivy Race
By Bill Alden
After falling to visiting Yale 1-0 in game one of a doubleheader last Sunday, the Princeton University softball team was teetering on the brink of falling out of contention for the Ivy League title.
The loss left the two-time defending champions at 5-4 in Ivy play, trailing Yale and Harvard by three games in the loss column with five games to play.
By the bottom of the fifth inning of the nightcap with Yale, the Tiger' title hopes were on life support as they were down 3-2 to the Bulldogs.
But refusing to give up without a fight, the Tigers put together a two-run rally, paced by a run scoring single by Wendy Bingham and an RBI double by Stephanie Steel.
Princeton tacked on an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth to make its final margin of victory 5-3 and improve to 20-15 overall and 6-4 in Ivy play.
The win left the Tigers in the thick of a five-team horse race for the title with Yale at 6-2, Cornell at 6-4, and both Brown and Harvard at 5-3.
Princeton head coach Maureen Barron acknowledged that her team entered game two against Yale with a sense of desperation. "The loss in the first game could've been devastating for our chances to win the league," said Barron, whose club squandered an 11-strikeout, four-hit pitching performance from sophomore ace Erin Snyder in the opener Sunday. "That's what we talked about between games. We told them the season's not over and we have to play for pride right now."
Barron was proud of the resolve her club showed in rallying to defeat Yale. "It says a lot about us that we had some heart to come back," asserted Barron, who got five good innings and a homer from winning pitcher Melissa Finley. "They were pretty calm on the bench. We talked about trusting and believing in ourselves. We seemed to do that."
A key factor in the win was the Tigers' offensive production in the clutch, something that has been lacking as they struggled in league play.
"We haven't been hitting great lately so it was nice to see the bats come alive in key situations," added Barron, whose team is hitting .238 collectively this spring. "It's like we've been beating ourselves. Our mental game hasn't always been there. We've been a little tense at the plate. We have all the physical abilities but the game is 90 percent mental."
One Tiger who has been at the top of her game mentally is senior outfielder Wendy Bingham. "Wendy is having the kind of year you want every senior to have," said Barron of her senior stalwart who had the game-winning RBI in the nightcap of Princeton's sweep of Brown last Saturday and is currently hitting .278.
"She has really come into her own. She had pitched the past three years. She said this year, she really wanted to focus on her hitting and defense in the outfield. It's been by far her best year. In the clutch situations, you want her at the plate when you need that run to be scored."
Barron is hoping her club can come through in the clutch as it heads into what is shaping up as a classic topsy-turvy Ivy stretch drive. "We've got a lot of work to do," maintained Barron, whose club hosts Seton Hall for a doubleheader on April 22 before a crucial home weekend featuring doubleheaders against Cornell on April 24 and Columbia on April 25.
"Next weekend is going to be big for us. Right now, we need Yale to lose some games. You never know what's going to happen. It's about us right now, always has been."
If the Tigers can build on the resolve they showed in the nightcap Sunday, they could work themselves into position for a third straight Ivy crown.