Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXV, No. 18
Wednesday, May 4, 2011
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SLAMMING SAM: Princeton University baseball player Sam Mulroy awaits a pitch in recent action. Junior catcher/outfielder Mulroy’s clutch hitting helped Princeton take three-of-four games from Cornell last weekend as the Tigers clinched the Gehrig Division crown and home-field advantage for the upcoming Ivy League Championship series against Rolfe Division winner Dartmouth.

Mulroy Helps PU Baseball Clinch Division, Tigers to Host Dartmouth in Ivy Title Series

Bill Alden

Sam Mulroy and his teammates on the Princeton University baseball team weren’t fazed when they got blanked 5-0 last Friday in the first game of a doubleheader to visiting Cornell.

“We have been bouncing back from game one losses the last couple of weeks,” said junior star Mulroy.

“We decided in between games that we were just going to come back, get tough, and take the second game.”

The Tigers bats toughened up in the nightcap, producing a three-run rally in the second inning and then adding four more in the seventh on the way to an 8-5 win over the Big Red.

“In the second game, we got some clutch two-out hits,” said Mulroy, who blasted a key two-run double in the seventh inning outburst. “We got some guys on base and our bullpen did a pretty good job at the end of locking it down.”

The Tigers went on to sweep a doubleheader at Cornell on Sunday and improve to 21-20 overall and 15-5 in Ivy League play as they locked up the Gehrig Division title and clinched home-field advantage for the league’s best-of-three championship series against Rolfe Division champion Dartmouth (28-10 overall, 14-6 Ivy). The teams are scheduled to play a doubleheader at Clarke Field on May 7 starting at noon with a third game, if necessary, slated for Sunday at 1 p.m.

Mulroy’s clutch hitting this season has been a major spark for the Tigers as they have risen from last place in 2010 (12-30 overall and 6-14 Ivy) to the top of the league heap.

“Any time you hit in the middle of the lineup, you are expected to drive in runs,” said the 5’11, 200-pound catcher/outfielder who is hitting .312 and leading the team in homers (6) and RBIs (33).

“I think all of us in the middle of the order have done a pretty good job with that this year.”

In getting his pivotal double in the second game on Friday, Mulroy did a good job of executing on a hunch.

“I hadn’t seen too many fastballs on the day; I got a first pitch slider and then just took an awful swing at the second one,” recalled Mulroy.

“I had a pretty good idea that they were going to go to the slider again and I was expecting it a little bit and I was able to put a good swing on it and get in the gap.”

Despite last year’s struggles, Mulroy had a good idea coming into the spring that the Tigers could turn things around.

“We knew we had the talent; it was just a matter of getting everybody going and jelling as a team,” said Mulroy, a native of Bethesda, Md.

“It is just a bunch of guys who love playing good baseball and playing hard together.”

Taking their lumps earlier in the spring helped the Tigers come together. “We had a really rough spring break trip; I think we went 2-8 over that trip,” said Mulroy.

“I think playing the bigger, tougher schools really helped us; we knew what we had to do in the Ivy League season. We have pitched really, really well once the Ivy season came around. The bats have come alive too.”

Now the Tigers can stay home in their bid to win the Ivy title. “We get to sleep in our own beds and have our own home crowd,” said Mulroy.

“It will be a really great atmosphere to host the championship and we are really excited about that.”

Princeton head coach Scott Bradley is likewise excited to have the series at the friendly confines of Clarke Field.

“I think it is going to be a really close, hard fought series,” said Bradley, whose team fell 4-3 and 5-2 in a doubleheader at Dartmouth on April 10. “We play so few home games, it would be nice to play at home.”

Home or away, the Tigers have demonstrated a resilience that pleases Bradley.

“I like the fact that our guys have shown that we can lose the first game and come back and win the next three,” said Bradley, whose team pulled off that feat against Penn and Columbia as well as Cornell.

Bradley certainly likes the production he is getting from Mulroy. “Sam has had a lot of big hits for us; he is leading our team in RBIs,” said Bradley. “He is so dynamic for us on the bases; he is our fastest and best baserunner. We have been able to run a little bit more.”

The team’s run this spring has been due in part to a deeper pool of talent as freshmen Mike Ford, Jonathan York, and Alec Keller have supplemented sophomore standouts Matt Bowman, John Mishu, Alex Fink, Steve Harrington, and Zak Hermans.

“I knew going into this year that we had a little more depth and it has really proved valuable,” said Bradley, noting that pitcher Kevin Link and outfielder Nate Baird were sidelined with injuries.

“We had enough depth to withstand losing a couple of guys which we hadn’t had in a while.”

While Bradley doesn’t see any one key turning point this spring, he feels that going undefeated in the first weekend of Ivy play gave the Tigers a major lift.

“It helps when you get off to a 4-0 start,”
said Bradley, who is in his 15th year at the helm of the Tigers. “We put such an emphasis on the league so all of a sudden when you go 4-0 in that first league weekend, we are in good shape.”

Mulroy, for his part, thinks the Tigers are in good shape to achieve their goal of a league title and a trip to the NCAA tournament.

“I think it is a lot of young guys that got some experience last year and carried that over to this year,” said Mulroy.

“Obviously we have a couple of impact freshmen and we have all just hung with it and played hard all year. We have been able to come back if we get down. We have just been on a roll so far and I hope we can keep going. The ultimate goal every year is to win the league and go to the NCAA tournament. Now we have put ourselves in the position to do that.”

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