Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIV, No. 20
 
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
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RALLY CRY: Members of the Princeton Day School baseball team celebrate after they beat Rutgers Prep 9-2 in the state Prep B championship game last Thursday at Diamond Nation in Flemington. The Panthers rallied from deficits in the semifinals and the title game to earn their first Prep title since 2001. PDS, which also advanced to the Mercer County Tournament semifinals, is currently 18-6.

Senior Ace Fuhrman Overcomes Rocky Start, Pitching Gritty PDS Baseball to Prep B Crown

Bill Alden

Jim Fuhrman is the ace of the pitching staff for the Princeton Day School baseball team but he didn’t look like a star in the first inning of the state Prep B championship game last Thursday evening.

The senior righthander struggled to find the strike zone, giving up two runs to Rutgers Prep in the top of the first at the Diamond Nation complex in Flemington.

Fuhrman, though, wasn’t fazed by trailing early as the Panthers have made a habit of overcoming deficits this spring.

“I don’t know what it is with this team, I have had rough first innings the entire year pretty much and we come back,” said Fuhrman.

Indeed in the days leading up to the title game, the Panthers had rallied from a 4-1 deficit to Pennington in the Prep B semis on the way to a 5-4 win in extra innings and then stunned Hopewell Valley in the Mercer County Tournament quarterfinals, winning 9-8 after trailing 8-1 in the sixth.

In the clash against fourth-seeded Rutgers Prep, No. 1 PDS didn’t waste any time rallying as senior star Jon Scott hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the first and then the Panthers tacked on four runs in the next frame with Dylan Kelly and Jon Walker producing run-scoring hits.

Fuhrman, meanwhile, scuffled a bit in the second as an unassisted double play from shortstop Tim Barrett bailed him out in a bases loaded situation. After that, Fuhrman found a groove and started mowing the Argonauts down.

“After the double play Tim made on the line drive in the second inning, that’s where the rhythm pretty much started,” recalled Fuhrman.

“My pitching coach Tony Vlahovic corrected some stuff, telling me to keep my shoulder in. I was spotting my fastball very well and towards the end of the game my changeup was just on. The curve ball was falling in nice.”

Things fell into place nicely for PDS as Dennis Cannon blasted a three-run homer in the fifth and the Panthers cruised to a 9-2 win and the program’s first state Prep title since 2001.

Fuhrman saved his best for last, striking out the side in the top of the seventh to seal the title and trigger a wild post-game celebration.

“The last inning was total adrenaline; I knew it was so close,” said Fuhrman, who ended the evening with nine strikeouts.

“I knew we hadn’t won a state championship before; I was happy to be on the bottom of the dog pile for once. I threw my glove as high as I could and let people tackle me. It was awesome.”

The team’s penchant for comeback wins has made for some awesome memories.

“We made up a motto when the year started, ‘can’t stop, won’t stop’ and every time we are in the dugout whether we are behind or up by 10 runs, we are chanting can’t stop, won’t stop,” said Fuhrman, who will be pitching for The College of New Jersey next spring.

“That’s just the attitude we have. We are just a very resilient team. We were down three the other day and won and then we were down seven in the sixth inning the next day and we just came back. It has just been an unbelievable year.”

A beaming PDS head coach Ray O’Brien tipped his hat to his resilient club.

“I am so happy for the boys; they worked so hard to get it and they got it,” said O’Brien, whose team worked hard but came up short in the Mercer County Tournament, losing 4-3 to top-seeded Steinert in the semifinals last Saturday to drop to 18-6.

“They got it for the rest of their lives. It’s been great; they never think they are out of it. They’ll battle to the end and that’s all the coaches and myself can ask for.”

In O’Brien’s view, it was fitting that his team came from behind to win in the Prep B title game.

“I said ‘let’s not get too comfortable,’” added O’Brien, joking that his team had Rutgers Prep just where it wanted by digging an early hole.

“We got a quick two in the first inning; Jon Scott’s home run was huge; just to get right back off the schneid. That was a huge, huge homer. It picked the whole team up and from then on Jimmy just settled down.”

Fuhrman’s gritty effort picked up the Panthers as well. “The first inning we were trying to figure out the strike zone a little; Jimmy was trying to keep the ball down and the ump wasn’t giving him the low strike,” said O’Brien.

“After that he made an adjustment and he settled in. He knew going in that we wanted him to take it and finish it. He started to really pitch in the last two or three innings. Talk about a kid who just guts it out.”

In O’Brien’s view, the leadership of his senior group helped the team gut things out collectively.

“I think it’s steadily built up the last four years with the seniors and their leadership trickling down to the juniors and underclassmen,” said O’Brien, whose corps of seniors includes Kenny Holzhammer, Josh Meekins, and Stephen Dillon in addition to Fuhrman, Scott, Kelly, Barrett, and Cannon.

“Everybody believes in themselves. We talked about it in the offseason and we kept pounding it home in Florida. Game by game, more people started buying into it. We get in the dugout and it is who is going to be a hero tonight. They are all interchangeable and they all have guts. They are great to coach.”

Fuhrman, for his part, believes that he and his classmates have developed a great chemistry over the years.

“We have a great class; everyone contributes,” asserted Fuhrman. “There is a core of four or five of us who have been playing baseball together since we were seven or eight years old. It’s just been the best experience of my life; I couldn’t ask for a better group of seniors. We know how people react to things and how to react to each other. If someone has a bad day, someone else picks him up.”

And with Fuhrman reacting like a true ace last Thursday, the Panther seniors have a state title to culminate their experience.

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