Vol. LXII, No. 27
Wednesday, July 2, 2008
HOT CORNER: Helen Eisenach of the Princeton 12-year-old all-star softball team gathers in a grounder at third last Sunday in Princetons 2-1 win over West Windsor in District 12 play. Eisenach made several big plays at third to help Princeton to victory.
Charlotte Gray was in a pressure situation and she could feel her nerves jangling.
With the Princeton 12-year-old All-Star softball team locked in a 1-1 tie with West Windsor in the bottom of the sixth inning last Sunday in the District 12 Little League tournament, Gray strolled to the plate with the bases loaded.
I was very scared, said Gray. I didnt want to strike out.
Gray kept her head, working a walk to plate the winning run as Princeton prevailed 2-1 to end up with a 2-2 record and third place in the Pool A standings, just missing a spot in the tournaments Final Four.
My coaches didnt want me to swing at anything bad, recalled Gray, who had chipped in a hit in the fifth to start a Princeton rally which fell short. It was a relief.
Earlier in the marathon game, which was delayed twice due to lightning and rain, Gray had given her coaches relief when she made a shoestring catch in left field to retire West Windsor in the fifth inning.
I was just thinking I had to get it and I did, said Gray, who also pitched for Princeton earlier in the tournament. I was really lucky.
Princeton manager Peter Travers felt lucky to have a group of players who kept improving.
There is nothing like being able to coach girls at this level, said Travers, who was assisted by Joe Campisi and Megan McHugh.
They are good enough so that you can say something and they can incorporate it, apply it, and learn. They are learning so much so quickly; I was privileged to be able to coach them. The girls learned how to compete in a tight game.
Princeton certainly applied those lessons in the win over West Windsor as it battled back from an early 1-0 deficit to knot the game at 1-1 in the bottom of the third.
Then riding the pitching of Halley Costantino and some sharp defense, Princeton held off West Windsor until Gray was able to push across the winning run.
While both Princeton and West Windsor had been eliminated from the Final Four before taking the field Sunday, Travers said his players wanted to end the tournament on a high note.
It was a big deal for us, said Travers, whose team also included players from Cranbury and Plainsboro.
We have played West Windsor a few times, its not exactly a rivalry but we know them and they know us. I told the players at the end of the game Thursday that this was our championship game. We needed to come out and play hard and show how much we have progressed.
In Travers view, the key to his teams progress was a focus on pitching and defense.
I thought at the beginning of this that our best chance was to be a good pitching and defensive team and I think we did some of that, said Travers, whose team started the competition by losing 10-0 to Florence and then rebounded to beat New Egypt 5-4 before losing 14-5 to Bordentown. We played good defense; thats why we won those two games.
Travers credited the superb pitching of Costantino with keeping the team sharp.
Halley was terrific today; she had eight strikeouts said Travers. Halley was cruising; she got their last seven hitters. If you have good pitching, it makes defense a little easier.
The Princeton defense made it look easy at times as Gray and third baseman Helen Eisenach produced some sparkling work.
In the fifth, the game was still tied and they hit a line drive to left field and Charlotte just broke for the ball; that was a great play, said Travers.
Helen was terrific; she is such a steady player. She made those plays at third today. Earlier in the tournament, she was catching too and did well there. She led off for us. Helen was a sparkplug and a real key to the team.
Travers is hoping the teams success in the District 12 competition will spark some good things in the future.
We are a small program but there is a lot of effort being put into it, said Travers.
We have some good athletes out, playing softball. The core of our team has been playing softball for two years. Its a pretty good team; Im happy with that.
Gray, for her part, was happy with how the team improved over the course of the competition.
As the tournament went on, we got experience, said Gray. We played harder teams and got better. To go 2-2 in this tournament was a lot of fun.
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