Vol. LXII, No. 20
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
(Photo by Bill Allen/NJ SportAction)
DOWN SWING: Princeton Day School senior baseball star Mike Shimkin takes a swing in action earlier this spring. Last Saturday, Shimkin chipped in three hits but it wasn’t enough as second-seeded PDS fell 6-4 to No. 7 Newark Academy in the state Prep B quarterfinals. Earlier in the week, the Panthers, the top seed in the Mercer County Tournament, fell in that competition as it got knocked off 3-1 by No. 9 Robbinsville.
In rolling to a 16-3 record this spring, the Princeton Day School baseball team excelled in all phases of the game.
Led by a trio of senior stars, Clint O’Brien, Mike Shimkin, and Mark Madden, PDS displayed a potent offense, stingy pitching, and solid defense as it smashed the program record for most wins in a season.
The team has been on cruise control for most of the spring, posting double-figure wins in game after game.
But hosting seventh-seeded Newark Academy last Saturday in the state Prep B quarterfinals, the Panthers had a rough 30 minutes that ended up dooming their title hopes.
Leading 2-1 going into the top of the fifth, a disputed call on a play at first kept a Newark Academy rally alive and the visitors took advantage, scoring two runs to take a 3-2 lead.
In the top of the sixth, PDS made a series of bad fielding plays that led to three unearned runs as it dug a 6-2 hole.
Showing its character, PDS battled back for a run in the sixth and a run in the seventh but couldn’t get the game-breaking hit as it fell 6-4.
After the game, a subdued PDS head coach Bruce Devlin lamented his team’s untimely lapse.
“That was a close game, we had a bad defensive inning in there,” said Devlin.“I guess we gave them three unearned runs; we haven’t done that all year. We just fell apart in that inning.”
Characteristically, the Panthers didn’t stop fighting. “We came back,” said Devlin, who got three hits and two RBIs from Shimkin. “We had opportunities but we didn’t get it done.”
Shaking his head, Devlin reflected on how close his team came this spring to tournament glory.
“We have had four losses by eight runs,” said Devlin, whose team was seeded No. 1 in the Mercer County Tournament and fell 3-1 to No. 9 Robbinsville in the MCT quarters.
“I told the kids when you are in these games; someone has to do something that they normally wouldn’t do. In these close games, we didn’t get the big hit when we needed it. Today, we gave them runs. We did battle back from it; we had opportunities up to that last batter.”
The fact that the game marked the last tournament game for his seniors made Devlin sad.
“I feel really bad for the seniors,” said Devlin, with his voice catching and his eyes watery.
“They are the ones who came in here as freshmen when we were just starting to turn things around. They are a great group; they are a big part of where we are at today. Hopefully they made their footprint on the team; it attracts other kids when you have good players. We want to keep those kids coming in here. They all bring something special to the team. They are going to be missed.”
The trio of Shimkin, O’Brien, and Madden complemented each other and set a positive tone for the team.
“Mike doesn’t say much; he leads by example and going up there and getting a hard hit or running something out,” said Devlin, noting that Shimkin is headed to Dickinson to play football and baseball with O’Brien set to play those two sports at Gettysburg and Madden heading out to the University of Redlands to play baseball. “Clint is more vocal; Mark is the in-between guy. They mesh well together; they do a great job.”
In Devlin’s view, the seniors have certainly influenced PDS’ young stars. “Hopefully the younger kids can learn from these older kids,” asserted Devlin.
“We have a talented sophomore group; seven of them are very good. Hopefully, they won’t have this feeling again. Guys like Jon Scott, Dennis Cannon, Jimmy Fuhrman, they all bring something different. Jon is a leader as a sophomore.”
While Devlin is proud of records the team set this spring and the fact that it swept its Prep A foes (going 4-0 against Hun, Blair, Peddie, and Lawrenceville), the main highlight Devlin will take from the spring was the daily interaction with his players.
“They are all great boys, they come and learn everyday,” added Devlin.
“They have fun; it’s a great group of kids to be around. That’s why I do this; you really enjoy being around a group of kids like this. Everyday is a pleasure, they are awesome. The seniors are the ones going on; I wish them the best.”
And while the seniors didn’t get the title they so badly wanted, they certainly gave PDS their best over the last four years.
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