Vol. LXII, No. 20
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
(Photo by Bill Allen/NJ SportAction)
TOP TIER: Princeton University sophomore softball star Jamie Lettire belts the ball in recent action. Last week, Lettire was named the Ivy league Co-Player of the Year for her hitting and pitching excellence. Lettire is hitting .352 with a program-record tying 14 homers and 40 RBIs and has gone 8-3 overall in the circle with a 3.13 ERA. Lettire will look to keep up her hot play as Ivy League champion Princeton plays in the Amherst Regional this weekend in the opening round of the NCAA tournament.
As the Princeton University softball team gathered to watch the NCAA tournament selection show last Sunday night, several members of the Ivy League champs were hoping to be sent west.
With seven of the PU squad’s 13 players hailing from California, the regionals in Fresno and Los Angeles were the destinations of choice for many in the room.
But when Princeton learned that it had been sent to Massachusetts for the Amherst Regional, the players quickly jumped on the New England bandwagon.
“We approached it like everything we have done this year,” said Princeton first-year head coach Trina Salcido, whose team brings a 25-22 record into the tournament. “We were excited but we didn’t get too up or down.”
The Tigers will be competing with host University of Massachusetts (36-11), Lehigh (38-15-1), and 12th-seeded Stanford (46-12) in the double-elimination format with the survivor advancing to a best-of-three super regional against the winner of the College Station (Texas) Regional. Princeton will open play by facing host Massachusetts on May 16.
While a trip west may have been more of an adventure, Salcido is happy that her team ended up an easy drive from Princeton.
“It’s close so that a lot of parents can get up there as well as other supporters of the program,” said Salcido.
“We don’t have to get on a flight, we don’t have to go across the country. We can get on a bus and drive up there in one day. The girls on the team who have gone before to the regional have gone to big venues like LSU and Arizona. The younger players can get overwhelmed by that atmosphere and look like deer caught in the headlights when they hit the field.”
In its last NCAA appearance, Princeton went 0-2 at the Baton Rouge Regional, losing to LSU and N.C. State. In 2005, the Tigers went 1-2 at the Tucson Regional, topping Lehigh while losing twice to Oklahoma State.
The Tigers like the fact that they have already played two of the teams in the Amherst Regional, having fallen 10-0 to Stanford on March 22 and losing to Lehigh 3-1 a month later. “It’s nice to be familiar with the teams at the regional,” said Salcido.
“We play Stanford every year now so it’s not like Uh-Oh, Stanford. A lot of our kids have played against their players in ASA ball. We played a single game with Lehigh late this season, we were both banged up. If we get to play them, it will be good to see how we do when we are both healthy.”
The Tigers, who haven’t played since sweeping Harvard 2-0 in the Ivy championship series on May 3, are entering the tournament hale and hearty.
“We have had great practices,” asserted Salcido. “The girls are going through finals so we are keeping them fresh. We are keeping our routines; they are rested. We may only be 13 but we are a strong and healthy 13.”
Princeton may be short on numbers but the squad boasts an admirable balance. Offensively, the club is fueled by the heart of its order with Kat Welch, Kelsey Quist, and Jamie Lettire each producing strong years.
Junior star Welch hit .345 with with 13 homers and 34 RBIs with sophomore Quist hitting a team-high .358 with 13 homers and 37 RBIs and sophomore Lettire, the Ivy Co-Player of the Year, batting at a .352 clip with a program-record tying 14 homers and 40 RBIs.
In the circle, Princeton is led by senior Kris Schaus, the Ivy Pitcher of the Year after going 7-1 with a 3.28 ERA in league play and setting the program record for career strikeouts with 824. Lettire (8-3 overall with a 3.13 ERA) and freshman Michelle Tolfa (7-4, 3.64 ERA) round out the Tiger pitching corps.
In Salcido’s view, her team has a strong mental approach that should serve it well this weekend.
“I feel confident that the girls will play well,” added Salcido. “We are prepared to win; we will play to win in every game. We are keeping them in their routines so that they should just go out and trust their instincts.”
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