Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXV, No. 19
Wednesday, May 11, 2011
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NATIVE SON: Princeton University senior pitcher Matt Welsh fires a pitch in recent action. Welsh, a Princeton native who starred for Princeton High and Hun, helped the Tigers enjoy a championship campaign this spring as they won the Ivy League’s Gehrig Division and then topped Dartmouth last weekend in the league’s best-of-three championship series.

Going From Local Diamonds to PU Title, Native Son Welsh Has Come Full Circle

Bill Alden

Matt Welsh came full circle this past weekend in his 15 years or so of playing baseball on diamonds in Princeton.

Starting in the Princeton Little League as a grade schooler, Welsh starred as a pitcher for Princeton High and the Post 218 American Legion team, had an outstanding post-graduate season at the Hun School, and then ended up playing the last four years at Princeton University.

After an up-and-down college career plagued by injury, Welsh’s final games on a Princeton diamond had special meaning as the Tigers hosted Dartmouth in the best-of-three Ivy League Championship Series.

By Sunday afternoon around 3:30, a beaming Welsh was savoring one of his greatest moments on a local field as the Tigers celebrated an 8-5 win over the Big Green in the decisive game of the series.

“This is a great way to end a career,” said Welsh. “Not only are people from the college here but people from town are coming out.”

Welsh started to establish himself as one of the best players around town early in his career at PHS.

“I had a growth spurt early in high school and I became a more serious pitcher at that point,” said Welsh, who now stands 6’6 and weighs 215 pounds.

“I was a freshman on the JV and got called up to play on the varsity a few times. I was a starting pitcher by my sophomore year.”

A key step in Welsh’s development as a pitcher was the summers he spent playing for the Post 218 Legion team.

“I was always one of the leaders in ERA and strikeouts,” said Welsh. “Competing against the Hamilton guys and being around older and more talented players helped me develop. The frequency I was pitching also got me to work harder.”

By his final year at PHS, Welsh had developed into a star. “I was kind of a late bloomer when it comes to elite skill level,” said Welsh, who was named the team’s Most Valuable Player as a senior and won the school’s Scholar-Athlete Award.

“My senior year was my breakout year. I went to showcases and began to get a bunch of looks from different schools.”

Before heading to college, Welsh opted to play for a different high school in town.

“By the end of my senior year I was talking to coach Bradley [Princeton head coach Scott Bradley] and he said his slots were filled and suggested a post-grad program,” recalled Welsh.

“I looked at Lawrenceville and Hun. I liked coach [Bill] McQuade at Hun and the feeling around the program.”

In his year with the Hun program, Welsh made a big impact, going 6-0 with a 1.43 ERA as the Raiders won both the state Prep A and Mid-Atlantic Prep League titles.

“That was a great experience, we went undefeated in the MAPL and had a great team,” said Welsh. “I got great coaching. I began to take baseball more seriously. I played travel ball in the fall and I was playing in the winter.”

Coming to Princeton in 2007, Welsh knew he faced a serious challenge as he looked to get innings for the Tigers.

“Everyone here was an all-star; there was a great demand for success,” added Welsh, noting that the team has frequent early morning weight lifting and running sessions and puts in plenty of work in its pit facility in the bowels of Jadwin Gym.

“There is a serious work ethic from the coaching staff down to the players. You are playing with Major League draftees, you get excited to play baseball.”

Welsh got off to an exciting start in his college career as he picked up a win against Delaware on March 2, 2008 in his first appearance for the Tigers.

“In my first game against Delaware, I came in around the fourth inning and pitched four really good innings,” recalled Welsh, who got the win in his debut. “I felt really comfortable out there.”

The righthander developed a comfort level with the college game, going 1-2 and making 10 appearances with 14 strikeouts in 16.1 innings as a freshman.

“We had great starting pitching that year, I got good experience,” said Welsh, who spent that summer pitching in a league in southern California. “In terms of playing time and getting into the college environment, I found my place.”

Welsh ended up in a bad place as his sophomore year was wiped out due to a collarbone injury after he slipped on some ice. After staying in town to work out with friends and the Princeton trainers, Welsh was back on the mound for his junior campaign. “On the spring trip, I got in against North Carolina and pitched two good innings,” said Welsh, who went 0-1 in four appearances before getting sidelined due to a sprained ankle.
“I remember coach Bradley came up to me and said ‘welcome back Matty.’ I felt like I could contribute to the team even though I would say I wasn’t all the way back to where I was as a freshman.”

After going through a 12-30 season in 2010 and finishing last in the Ivy League’s Gehrig Division at 6-14, Welsh and the Tigers were looking to work their way back to the top of the league this spring.

“We knew we had to change things,” said Welsh. “From the players to the coaches, we put in extra work. The senior class really had a sense of urgency to win; we came in here and saw how well the team had done in the past. You can’t just put on the uniform and expect to win. You have to work hard and play as a team.”

Welsh’s work paid off as he made nine appearances this spring in Princeton’s championship season, striking out four in 10.2 innings of work.

“Every time I got on the mound and got the opportunity, I wanted to pitch well,” said Welsh.

“I savored the chance to be out there. My goal has been to do whatever I can to contribute and I think I have accomplished that. I consider the season a success individually.”

Welsh’s journey from the sandlots of Princeton to Clarke Field has laid the groundwork for him to succeed down the road.

“Being an athlete has been beneficial, you have got 30 guys who are your best friends through the year,” said Welsh, who plans to relocate to Dallas and work down there.

“It is great to bring a daily commitment to something; it helps you grow as a person. As a senior, I have developed leadership skills. Having that experience helps anyone in whatever they do after college.”

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