Vol. LXI, No. 17
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
(Photo by Bill Allen/NJ SportAction)
The chances of any post-season play were on the verge of slipping away for the Princeton University softball team last Saturday as it hosted surging Penn for the first of two doubleheaders over the weekend between the rivals."
After getting bombed 11-1 by the Quakers in game one, Princeton found itself trailing 2-1 going into the bottom of the fourth inning of the nightcap."
The Tigers tied the game at 2-2 and then sophomore star shortstop Kathryn Welch stepped up to the plate with two runners on base. Showing why she has emerged as Princeton's top clutch hitter, Welch coolly stroked a single to put the Tigers in the lead 3-2."
In the bottom of the sixth with Princeton clinging to a 4-3 lead, Welch came through again as she belted an RBI double to give the Tigers an insurance run on the way to a critical 6-3 win."
On Sunday, Welch was it again. In game one she went 3-for-3 but it wasn't enough as Princeton fell 6-3. In the nightcap, Welch blasted a two-run homer to spark the Tigers to a 4-3 win."
The 2-2 weekend left Princeton at 20-27 overall and 10-6 in Ivy League play. The Tigers trail Penn (14-6 Ivy) in the Ivy South Division and will need to sweep doubleheaders against Cornell on April 27 and 29 to force a one-game playoff with Penn for a spot in the Ivy League Championship Series."
Welch was comfortable being under the gun as the Tigers found their backs to the wall. "With runners on, I'm going to do anything to score them," said Welch, who leads Princeton with 32 RBIs. "I don't need to go up there and hit a home run, I'd rather get a base hit somewhere."
When asked about her hitting prowess with runners on base, Welch is quick to give credit to Princeton's main tablesetters Stephanie Steel and Brea Moreno.
"Hitting is contagious," added Welch. "I think it works in my favor that the girls like to get on before me. They are there for me so I'm just going to do my job. Thankfully the girls have been getting on so that makes my job easy."
Coming off of a banner freshman campaign which saw Welch named as the Ivy League Rookie of the year and a first-team All Ivy selection, Welch acknowledged that she feels more responsibility on her shoulders this spring."
"Of course there is pressure," said Welch. "I set high expectations for myself anyway so I'm not going to feel too much pressure. I feel like I want to perform and I know I can, I just have to stay relaxed out there and play like I know how."
Princeton head coach Maureen Barron is happy with the way Welch is performing. "Kat is in her zone with her hitting, she can just put the ball through," said Barron. "I think she's done well. I think the team in general has pressed a little bit at times and that has been frustrating. She may have felt some pressure there."
Barron knows that she needs production throughout the lineup if the Tigers are going to make it to the post-season. "We talked about it between games; we need to score a lot of runs to win games," said Barron. "So we go down 2-0 in the second game, who cares. We need to come back and score more runs. When someone scores against us, we need to answer back with more."
Princeton's response in the second game Saturday heartened Barron. "I'm proud of them, they came back," said Barron. "We didn't come out swinging the bats very well in the first game and Penn certainly did. We came back with a little more fight in the second game."
That fight started at the top of the lineup with Steel and Moreno. "I have to give credit to Brea and Steel, they do a good job of creating situations and putting the ball in play," said Barron."
Another Tiger who has created situations is Erin Miller, who has gone from a little-used freshman last spring to the team's top batting average as a sophomore."
"She didn't play a lot last year; she's not looking to hit the ball out of the park, she just makes it happen," said Barron of Miller who is currently hitting .379. "She may have caught some tough breaks last year. She has certainly earned every bit of her playing time this year, I can't take her out of the lineup."
While Barron knows that her team has caught some tough breaks in its uneven spring, she is looking forward to the finale. "I'm excited, there is still a lot of season left," said Barron. "We need to be a little more relaxed but come out fiery."
Welch, for her part, believes the resolve that Princeton showed Saturday will hold it in good stead. "After that first game, we could have put our heads down but we really fought back," said Welch."
"We showed our character. I think we've been pressing too much. We need to just go up there and hit the ball. We're going to stick with what we're doing and keep going strong."
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