Vol. LXI, No. 29
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
(Photo by Bill Allen/NJ SportAction)
LOCKED IN: Princeton Post 218 second baseman Andrew Baxter strokes the ball in recent action. Baxter has produced a huge summer for Post 218. As of games through last Wednesday, Baxter was leading the team in batting average (.508), hits (32), doubles (7), on-base percentage (.508), RBI (14), and total bases (44). He was in the Mercer County American Legion Baseball League's (MCALL) top three in batting average, hits, and doubles.
This summer has been quite a change of pace for Princeton Post 218 second baseman Andrew Baxter.
In late May, Baxter and his Hun School teammates were celebrating their dramatic 3-run, seventh inning comeback victory over Lawrenceville to secure the Raiders' first Prep A baseball title in six years as well as a school-record 20 wins.
The American Legion has been much less kind to the Hun graduate to say the least. Post 218 is currently sitting in tenth place out of twelve teams in the Mercer County American Legion Baseball League (MCALL) with a record of 5-15, guaranteeing itself an 18th consecutive season without a playoff berth.
One thing that has not changed about Baxter's final season as a high schooler, however, is that he is still hitting the cover off of the baseball. Through action last Wednesday, Baxter was leading Post 218 in batting average (.508), hits (32), doubles (7), on-base percentage (.508), RBI (14), and total bases (44). He was in the MCALL's top three in batting average, hits, and doubles.
"I just feel really relaxed up there right now," Baxter said. "I'm not thinking about it much; I'm taking a lot of swings on off-days but luck plays a role too."
Coming into last Thursday's game against Hightstown Post 148 at Smoyer Park, things were looking up for Baxter's squad.
Princeton had won two out of its last three games, defeating perennial powerhouses Broad Street Park Post 314, and North Trenton, 5-4 and 11-7, respectively, to hold onto a glimmer of hope for a late playoff push.
Yet after an 11 day break in the schedule over July 4th weekend, Post 218 was defeated by Hightstown in methodical fashion, 5-1, all but mathematically eliminating Post 218 from playoff contention.
After Princeton stranded two runners in the top of the first, Hightstown manufactured a run to take an early lead.
Princeton had a great chance to tie the game in the top of the fourth, when first basemen Ben Siegel who had singled was advancing towards second on a line drive by Chris Brooks to center. Thinking that the outfielder caught the ball instead of trapping it, however, Siegel ran back towards first and eventually was forced out, leaving Post 218 with a runner on first with two outs instead of runners on first and third with one out.
After Hightstown extended the lead to two with a homerun in the bottom half of the frame, Princeton cut it back down to one in the fifth. Sean Pucciarelli smoked his third hit of the game to the opposite field before swiping second his third steal of the contest. Baxter then proceeded to stroke a groundball to short which was mishandled, allowing the run to score.
That was all of the offense Post 218 could muster, however, as pitcher Brian Greubel went on to toss a complete game gem, allowing only six hits all singles while punching out six to earn the victory.
"What can I say, our guys played hard we just couldn't seem to get big hits at big times," Princeton assistant coach Dave Gorman said. "That is our season in a nutshell, we haven't hit with runners in scoring position all year."
Post 148 used two singles and two walks to score three more insurance runs in the bottom of the sixth off of Princeton hurler Mark Madden, who allowed all five runs on nine hits with four strikeouts in six innings.
"Mark has some great stuff and he's probably had the best season on the pitching staff," Gorman said. "We just didn't give him any support today."
The player who did support Madden with the team's lone RBI is also the one who has seemed to carry the Princeton offense all summer Baxter. "If we were to have an MVP, he would definitely be it," Gorman said. "He's been our greatest offensive producer by far, I mean he had a nine or 10 game stretch there with multiple hits in every one. You just don't hit for that high an average in this league and be average."
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