Playing at Penn last weekend in a pivotal four-game Ivy League South series, the Princeton University softball team was determined to get off to a strong start.
“They threw A.C. Borden in Game One and we know how talented she is,” said Princeton head coach Lisa Sweeney, whose team entered its trip to Philadelphia trailing the Quakers by two games in the division standings.
“We were able to get some hits and some runs. We felt that was a game we needed to win to set the tone for the weekend.”
Princeton seemed to be set for a big weekend as it got to Borden and took a 9-6 lead into the bottom of the seventh and final inning. But then things unraveled as Penn scored four runs to pull out a 10-9 victory.
Sweeney acknowledged that her players faced a challenge in regrouping for the nightcap.
“It was hard to swallow, there are only 20 or 30 minutes between games so it is tough to re-set after something like that,” said Sweeney.
“We told them this doesn’t determine the rest of the weekend. We have to come back and prove that we are a team that is not going down without a fight.”
The Tigers showed their fighting spirit as they prevailed 5-3 in the second game with Maddie Cousens, Tory Roberts, Rachel Rendina, and Candy Button each knocking in a run. Freshman pitcher Shanna Christian came up big in the circle, striking out five and scattering 10 hits in going the distance.
“We showed our true colors in the second game, I was really proud of them,” said Sweeney.
“I was particularly proud of freshman pitcher Shanna, she set the tone, doing everything she could to help us win.”
On Sunday, though, the Tigers failed to get a win as they lost 9-2 and 5-4. “It was one of those things, we came in fairly positive,” said Sweeney, whose team fell to 21-15 overall and 6-6 Ivy in the wake of the sweep by Penn.
“The hitters went in confident but A.C. threw a great game. She really challenged our hitters. We were able to score runs. The first game got away from us but in the second game we were right there. One hit in a couple of situations would have given us the win.”
Now Princeton finds itself in a tough situation, trailing first place Penn (20-15 overall, 10-2 Ivy) by four games with eight Ivy contests to go.
“We are not losing sight of the things we can control,” said Sweeney. “We have to take care of our business and the things we can control. A lot of things can happen.”
Sweeney is looking for some good things to happen this week as the Tigers host Lehigh (23-14-1 overall) at Class of 1895 Field for a doubleheader on April 17 and then welcome Ivy South rival Columbia (18-18 overall, 6-6 Ivy) for twinbills on April 20 and 21.
“It will be nice to be at home on Wednesday against Lehigh,” said Sweeney. “We are expecting a big crowd this weekend. It will be Senior Day on Sunday and that class is really special.”
While Princeton faces an uphill battle in its quest for the Ivy South crown, it knows it can still enjoy a special spring.
“We talked about fighting the entire season and earning everything,” said Sweeney.
“When you work so hard for something, you can’t let one bad weekend destroy that. They have good confidence, they know this is bigger than any of us.”