(Photo by Bill Allen/NJ SportAction)
HISTORIC EFFORT: Princeton University softball senior pitching star Kris Schaus fires the ball in action earlier in her career. Last Saturday, Schaus produced a gem as she pitched Princeton to a 5-1 win over Harvard to give the Tigers a sweep of the best-of-three Ivy League championship series. Schaus went the distance, striking out eight and giving up four hits. In the process, Schaus pushed her career strikeout total to 824, breaking the program record of 819 set by former teammate Erin Snyder ’06.
Kris Schaus entered her senior year on the Princeton University softball team this spring determined to carry a large share of the load in her role as the squad’s ace pitcher.
“I really tried to rededicate myself a little bit coming in,” said Schaus. “I really wanted to carry the team a little more and be the pitcher I know I can be.”
In the early going, though, Schaus was a shadow of the form that had seen her earn All-Ivy League accolades in her first three seasons.
The Naples, Fla. native went 1-11 in her first 12 decisions as the Tigers stumbled to a 3-17 start in the pre-conference phase of their schedule.
But once the Tigers got into Ivy action, Schaus started to get into a rhythm. The righthander went 7-1 in league play with a 3.28 ERA as the Tigers captured the Ivy South crown.
Last weekend, as Princeton hosted Ivy North champion Harvard in a best-of-three championship series to determine the league’s NCAA tournament qualifier, Schaus was ready to go out with a bang.
After Princeton took Game One of the series 4-2 early Saturday afternoon, Schaus went to the circle in the nightcap ready to close the deal for the Tigers.
“This entire week has been emotional for all of us, this is our first time in the championship series in the new format,” said Schaus.
“We won the first game and I came out there and I just wanted to get it done for all of us.”
Schaus went out and got it done, producing a masterful complete game performance that saw her strike out eight and hold Harvard to four hits as the Tigers won 5-1 to take the title and punch their ticket to the upcoming NCAA tournament.
The outing against Harvard was quite a contrast from Schaus’ effort the Sunday before which saw her labor as Princeton outlasted Cornell 12-11 on the way to winning the Ivy South title.
“I focused on each pitch individually better today,” said Schaus, who had a long hug with her mother in the course of the team’s raucous post-game celebration on Class of 1895 Field.
“It’s hard to explain, I fought through it a little bit last weekend. It was really good for me on a competitive level out there. It’s my last game here, it was just really great.”
As icing on the cake, Schaus pushed her career strikeout total to 824, breaking the program record of 819 set by former teammate Erin Snyder ’06.
“It means a lot, going into the season, it’s one of those things that you have in the back of your mind,” said Schaus, who now has 180 strikeouts this season.
“You know it’s going on but you don’t want to think about it or to keep up with it. To get that done is a load off of your shoulders. It’s there forever; you get to be on top of something. I love striking out people; it’s been my thing for my whole pitching career.”
Schaus loves going to the NCAA tournament, having helped Princeton make three tourney appearances in her four seasons. The Tigers will find out their NCAA assignment on May 11 with the opening round to take place at campus sites from May 16-18.
“The regionals are great; it’s the coolest thing,” said a grinning Schaus. “You sit there, you watch the selection show, and it’s just so much excitement. Being able to go out with an Ivy League title and go anywhere in the country to play a great team, I’m excited.”
The Tigers are excited at the possibility of getting a shot at some of the teams that handled them earlier in the season.
“We had a rough patch in the beginning,” acknowledged Schaus.
“We played some great teams who we could potentially be visiting in two weeks. I think that experience going in, is going to serve us really well.”
Princeton first-year head coach Trina Salcido was happy to see Schaus pitch so well in her home finale.
“Kris was really sharp today; it was a great day to be great,” said Salcido, who got a solid pitching effort from sophomore Jamie Lettire in the opening game of the series with Harvard.
“We gave her the second game because I figured that if we were going to close it out in the second game, let’s give her the chance. I think she came out and she was poised. She didn’t really have any letdowns at all; she was well prepared. She did a great job of not letting the strikeout record get into her mind or bother her at all.”
In Salcido’s view, her team showed poise collectively. “I think they were focused; there was a calmness about them,” said Salcido, whose club improved to 25-22 with the wins Saturday.
“They were on a one inning at a time mindset; they did a good job. They have been on a mission for a while now; I think it was going to be really hard to take anything from them.”
Princeton’s heroics the weekend before which saw the Tigers rally twice to sweep a doubleheader against Cornell gave the team extra confidence coming into the Harvard series.
“It’s great when you come into games and you feel you can’t be beat,” said Salcido, who got a key two-run homer from Megan Weidrick in the opener against Harvard with Lettire blasting a three-run homer in the nightcap to set the tone of that contest.
“You have that confidence as a hitter, player, pitcher, up and down the roster. Everybody feels like whoever is up to bat is going to do their job.”
The Tigers are happy to get the chance to keep coming to work. “I think when you are still playing at this time of the year, you are privileged to come to practice,” said Salcido.
“They earned that privilege; they love coming to the field everyday. They love being together. We’ll give them a few days off, a lot of people have been kind of banged up and they are healing. We’ll get to play healthy for the first time in a long time so who knows what can happen there.”
Salcido feels privileged to have led this team to a title in her first season at the helm of the program.
“I am so happy for the girls,” asserted Salcido, noting that the team only has 13 players.
“I’ve had my playing experience and I have had my successes. As a coaching staff, we all really wanted today to happen for the players because they have earned this. You want it to come full circle for them with all the time they have put in and all the battles they fought through. You want to see what they have been able to do in the last two weeks. I couldn’t be prouder and that’s really it; seeing them successful is the best reward.”
Schaus, for her part, survived the battles this spring with the help of teammates.
“I struggled a little bit, it’s been a little bit of an uphill climb,” said Schaus.
“Senior year is tough, you have a lot going on. The team has really pulled through for each other, that is the thing. Our connection is deep; we are 13 people out there and we are all contributing. It’s really unique and I think it’s for the best.”
And Schaus was thrilled to make a huge contribution last Sunday when her teammates were looking to their ace to carry the Tigers to the Ivy title.
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