Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXI, No. 18
 
Wednesday, May 2, 2007
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SHOWING THE WAY: Princeton University senior third baseman Sal Iacono gestures to a teammate in action earlier this spring. Last weekend, the senior star pounded out a total of 12 hits in two doubleheaders with Cornell to raise his batting average to a team-best .424. The Tigers won the first three games of the weekend but fell 5-4 in 12 innings in Sunday's nightcap to fall one win short of tying Penn for the Ivy League's Gehrig Division title. Princeton, now 15-23 overall and 11-9, will finish its season by hosting Rider on May 2.

Hot-Hitting Iacono Explodes in Last Weekend But Tiger Baseball Falls Short of Division Title

Bill Alden

Sal Iacono was determined to make his last regular season weekend with the Princeton University baseball team one to remember.

With Princeton needing to sweep two doubleheaders from Cornell in order to force a playoff with Penn for the Ivy League's Gehrig Division title, Iacono was primed to produce in the middle of the Tiger order.

In the Saturday twinbill at Clarke Field, Iacono helped Princeton get off to a good start as he went 2-for-3 with two RBIs as the Tigers took the opener 7-5. In Saturday's nightcap, the third baseman pounded out three hits and drove in two runs as Princeton edged Cornell 4-3 to stay alive.

A day later, Iacono chipped in two hits as Princeton won the game one at Cornell by 7-5. In the second game, the stocky 5'9, 190-pound native of Staten Island, N.Y. outdid himself going 5-for-6 with a run and an RBI.

Iacono's heroics in the nightcap, however, weren't enough as the Tigers dropped a heartbreaker that saw them squander a 3-0 lead and fall in 5-4 in 12 innings to get eliminated from the division race.

While Princeton didn't achieve its goal of getting into postseason play, Iacono certainly accomplished what he set out to do individually in his final Ivy regular season weekend.

"This was my last Ivy League game at this field," said Iacono after Saturday's nightcap. "I just wanted to come out and leave it all on the field."

In fact, Iacono has done that all spring as he has put together one of the greatest seasons in the annals of the program, hitting a team-high .424 and leading the Tigers in hits (61), RBIs (35), and slugging percentage (.625).

Iacono, whose previous career-high batting average was the .278 he produced as a junior, said he had a calmer approach with the bat this season.

"I'd say being real comfortable at the plate," said Iacono when asked what has been different this season. "I started to figure out a couple of different things."

Iacono also benefited from some intense off-season work with the bat. "I did a lot of extra batting practice down here and I did a lot of extra hitting with my dad," added Iacono.

A major highlight for Iacono this spring was his 20-game hitting streak early in the season which broke the program's previous record of 17 set by classmate Aaron Prince last season.

True to the superstitious nature of baseball, Iacono and his teammates didn't discuss the streak as it was happening.

"I wasn't really paying attention to it; I realized I was close but I didn't want to look at any of my numbers," said Iacono with a laugh.

"I remember the day I did it and our shortstop [Greg Van Horn] looks at me and says 'you did it.' I was like 'OK.' No one said anything about it the entire time."

Unfortunately, Princeton collectively didn't match Iacono's hot start. "It just took a while for us to really come together and sort of figure things out and who was playing what position," said Iacono, whose late-season surge has helped Princeton win five of its last six games coming into its May 2 finale against visiting Rider. "We had a lot of guys all over the field. We just started coming together in the last few weeks."

Princeton head coach Scott Bradley credits Iacono with sparking Princeton's solid play down the stretch.

"Sal has been a rock for us offensively and defensively," said Bradley, whose club moved to 15-23 and finished with an Ivy mark of 11-9 as a result of the split at Cornell.

"He's always there for us, He handles himself so well; he's professional in how he approaches everything. The way he comes to the ballpark really, really helps make the younger players relax just a little bit."

Princeton, though, played tight for most of its Ivy campaign. "We've just been a little inconsistent everywhere," said Bradley, who had guided Princeton to five Ivy titles in a seven-year span coming into 2007.

"The pitching has been inconsistent and I think our hitting and defense has been inconsistent. The overall numbers are like they are every year but we just haven't been able to make the big plays and get the big outs."

Although Iacono's college career wasn't extended into the post-season, he will always treasure his Princeton baseball experience. "It's definitely bittersweet," said Iacono, who hopes to play professional ball after graduation.

"It's been a great time here. Coach Bradley is a great coach to play for and I've played with a lot of great guys here. You hate to leave but it's been a great run."

And the Princeton program will hate to see Iacono go after the great run he put together in his senior campaign.

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