Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXI, No. 25
 
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
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(Photo by Bill Allen/NJ SportAction)
SHOWING HEART: Princeton High senior outfielder Matt Walters sprints around the bases in a game this season. Walters, who had a heart operation last year, came on strong for PHS this spring as he led the Little Tigers in doubles and stolen bases. He won the team's 'Iron Man' award for his efforts.

PHS Baseball Fought Hard to the End Even Though Wins Hard to Come By

BIll Alden

Scott Goldsmith had high hopes coming into this spring in his debut season as the head coach of the Princeton High baseball team.

With a senior-laden team, PHS was shooting for the .500 record necessary to qualify for the state playoffs.

After one of those seniors, Colin Sarafin, pitched the Little Tigers to early season wins over perennial powers Hamilton and Nottingham, PHS looked like a dangerous team.

But with Sarafin sidelined in the middle of the season due to eligibility issues stemming from his playing for the Peddie freshman team as an eighth grader, the Little Tigers stumbled.

Sarafin eventually returned to action but PHS could never right itself as it staggered to a final record of 4-19-1.

Although PHS couldn't get into the victory column in the last few weeks of the season, Goldsmith liked the way his players grinded to the end.

"Actually that last stretch was some of our best baseball," said Goldsmith. "We had a close one against Ewing; we lost 5-4 in nine innings. Matt Alvarez threw a terrific game. Montgomery was another good game but we were swinging a lot at first pitches. We also did well against Hopewell. The kids didn't want the season to end."

In Goldsmith's view, the program as a whole is in better shape from top-to-bottom. "I'm disappointed with the record but I still think we made progress," asserted Goldsmith.

"We call our JV and freshman teams the 'farm system' and we brought some kids up from those teams. The JV team had a winning season so that's a good sign."

Goldsmith acknowledged that it was a bad sign when the Little Tigers lost the services of Sarafin for several weeks in the middle of the season.

"When Colin pitched, he threw his hardest," said Goldsmith of the Haverford-bound Sarafin, who also starred at third base. "It was mentally tough on all of us when he was out; it hurts to take one of the best players out of the line-up for a while."

Senior centerfielder Danny Etherton was PHS' best player this spring, day in, day out. "Danny Etherton was the team MVP," said Goldsmith, whose other seniors included co-captains Erik Cooper and Matt Gerard together with Ryan Gordy, Luke Stern, and Will Comer. "He hit .389 with 11 doubles, a triple, and seven stolen bases. He played really well all season."

Down the stretch, senior outfielder Matt Walters played particularly well for PHS. He was phenomenal at the end," said Goldsmith of the Union-bound star.

"In the last six or seven games, he had at least one hit every time out. He led the team in doubles (13) and stolen bases. He won our 'Iron Man' award; he did so well coming back from the heart surgery he had last year."

The team showed heart collectively as it kept fighting even as the losses piled up. "The kids stayed positive," said Goldsmith. "The intensity is there; the kids have the fire. The problem this season was the killer inning; we just couldn't get that third out at times. We just need to execute better."

With one year of head coaching under his belt, Goldsmith will make some changes to help get the team to execute better. "It's very different from being the assistant, everything falls on you," said Goldsmith.

"I will do some things differently. I will handle the pitching rotation differently; I will pull pitchers out earlier. I will make the practices run smoother so that there is less standing around. The intensity is there; the kids have the fire."

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