Vol. LXII, No. 18
Wednesday, April 30, 2008
(Photo by Bill Allen/NJ SportAction)
ON FIRE: Princeton University sophomore pitcher Jamie Lettire brings the heat in a recent game. Last Sunday, Lettire starred on the mound and at the plate as Princeton swept Cornell 12-11 and 6-5 to clinch the Ivy League South title. Lettire hit the game winning homer in each game and pitched a complete game in the nightcap.
Jamie Lettire wanted to keep things simple but it wasn’t easy under the circumstances.
As the sophomore star strode to the plate in the bottom of the sixth inning last Sunday for the Princeton University softball team in the game 1 of its doubleheader with visiting Cornell, Princeton’s Ivy South title hopes were flickering.
Trailing Cornell 11-10, Princeton needed to win in order to keep the Big Red from climbing into a one-game lead in the division with one game left.
Lettire had felt uncomfortable at the plate during the see-saw contest that saw Princeton trail 7-1 and 10-6.
“I really did just want to get a base hit at that point in time,” recalled Lettire.
“I was struggling that whole game so it was just shorten up the swing, see the ball, and put the bat on the ball. I wanted to keep it in fair territory on the ground.”
Lettire connected and kept it fair but not on the ground as she swatted a two-run homer that held up in a dramatic 12-11 triumph.
With Princeton a win away from the title, Lettire was destined to play a pivotal role in the ensuing drama as she was the Tiger starting pitcher in game 2.
The Cupertino, Calif. native wiggled out of several jams as the game predictably turned into another topsy-turvy affair.
Cornell jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the top of the second but Princeton responded with four in the bottom of the frame to forge ahead 4-2. The Big Red scored twice in the top of the fourth to tie the game and then added a single run the next inning to take the lead.
Going into the bottom of the seventh, it looked like Princeton was facing a one-game playoff with Cornell on Monday. Once again, lightning struck for Princeton. Junior star Kat Welch led off with a homer and after an out, Lettire stepped to the plate with the game on the line.
“I was like oh man, I had a feeling that I could hit another but I fought it as hard as I could,” said Lettire.
“I said don’t think about that, don’t think about that. I just had to keep it simple.”
Lettire kept it simple, blasting a homer over the fence in left-center, giving Princeton the win and the division title.
The Tigers, who improved to 23-22 overall and 18-2 in Ivy play, will host Ivy North champion Harvard next weekend in a best-of-three series to determine the league’s representative in the NCAA tournament.
After getting mobbed at the plate by her teammates and then hugging friends down the first base line at Class of 1895 Field, Lettire put her day into perspective.
“It was amazing, it was truly unreal,” said a beaming Lettire. “Usually in those games, I’ve been on the other side of it; to be on top of a win like that here is just phenomenal. It was the best game I’ve had in years it’s the best day I’ve had in years.”
Even though Princeton seemed headed to a bad day in the early stages Sunday, Lettire and her teammates were unfazed.
“Honestly we were not down at all; we knew we could do it,” said Lettire. “We’ve been in that position before against Cornell; we’ve always had high scoring games. We all did feel like it was just a matter of time; everyone in the lineup really stepped up.”
As she headed to the circle to pitch game 2, Lettire was inspired by how Tiger ace Kris Schaus stepped up in game 1 as she battled through a subpar outing.
"Kris was amazing, she hung in there really well,” said Lettire, who struck out three and walked none in scattering eight hits.
“She stepped it up the past weekend, she has showed a lot of great leadership ability; she’s just thrown her game like she knows how.” Lettire kept her head as the Big Red kept battling back.
“That’s the nature of Ivy League games, anyone can win,” said Lettire, reflecting on pitching out of several jams. “Thank goodness we did today.”
Princeton head coach Trina Salcido was thrilled that her team won.
“I told the girls, I’m amazed, that might be the best game I’ve ever been a part of,” said the first-year head coach.
“It was a great comeback as far as perseverance; to be down 7-1 and come back a little bit and then be down 10-6 and then to come back a little bit and to be down 11-10 and to really finish it off. Some teams run out of gas, they just don’t have any more; to put together that six-run inning is really phenomenal. We really had timely hitting all day long.”
While Princeton’s power hitting made the difference on a day which saw the team push its season-record total to 51, Salcido lauded Schaus’ courageous pitching effort.
“Kris admittedly didn’t have everything as sharp as she wanted it today,” said Salcido of Schaus who struck out five and walked six in going the distance in game 1. “It’s very hard to throw seven innings when you know you don’t really have your stuff. She really hung in there; she kept taking her talks with me. She tried to be as good as she could be.”
Salcido was equally impressed by how Lettire hung in there in the circle. “Jamie has been very solid, very composed; she shows a lot of poise out there,” asserted Salcido.
“She knew in game 2 that she was the one who was going to keep us in the game. She did a really good job. She hung a few pitches and got herself in jams and then got herself out.”
Lettire also kept her cool at the plate. “The kid is phenomenal, she makes great adjustments,” said Salcido, who got three homers and seven RBIs on the day from Welch with Kelsey Quist going 5-for-8 in the twinbill and freshman Megan Weidrick piling up 5 RBIs.
“The last time she goes up she says she’s going up there to do the small thing, put my hands in front of the ball and drive through it. When you have great hitters like that, Kat, Kelsey, and Jamie, that’s all they need to do. They keep it simple and good things happen.”
Princeton is hoping more good things will happen in its playoff series this weekend against Harvard (24-20 overall, 14-6 Ivy).
“Harvard is great, it seems so long ago that we played them; it was only a two-game series and it was a really tough series,” said Salcido.
“It was our first Ivy weekend, we won 5-4, 3-2, it was a really tight series. Any time we play Harvard, it’s always a great series, they have great pitching, great hitting, and great athletes.”
Salcido is confident that her athletes will get the job done. “We are just going to worry about us” added Salcido, whose team’s 18 league wins set a single-season Ivy record.
“We are just going to go put out the best team and just compete. If we have to win it 12-11, then I guess that’s the way it’s going to have to happen. That’s been the whole season, the commitment to one another, the only way you can win those kind of games is when you are playing for one another and not yourself.”
In Lettire’s view, the team’s togetherness has made the difference this spring for the Tigers.
“We have really come together because there are only 13 of us,” asserted Lettire.
“We are extremely close knit, we work really well together. We pick each other up; there is never a moment of doubt if I don’t do my job or someone else doesn’t do their job, they will be picked up. Today was a perfect example, everyone did their part. It’s extremely comforting to know that, there is no pressure on anyone.”
It’s a simple formula that has worked well under the circumstances.
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