April 24, 2013

Senior Star Peyton Going Out With a Bang, Helping PU Softball Regain Winning Ways

sports2Alex Peyton has saved her best for last in wrapping up her career with the Princeton University softball team.

The senior pitcher/first baseman has sparkled at the plate and in the pitching circle this spring. She is hitting .366 with team highs in homers (9) and RBIs (33). The 5’10 native of Fullerton, Calif. has been equally valuable at the top of the Tiger rotation, going 7-7 and leading the Tigers with a 2.47 ERA and 74 strikeouts.

For Peyton, her superb final campaign is the product of a calmer mindset.

“I feel good this year,” said Peyton. “I am a little more relaxed and confident this year and it has definitely helped me.”

Last weekend, Peyton experienced some bittersweet feelings as the Tigers played their last home games of the season with doubleheaders against Columbia on Saturday and Sunday.

“It is definitely sad; I have been playing since I was five,” said Peyton, who has 22 career homers, tied for fifth-best in program history. “I am just going to go out and play as hard as I always have and enjoy it while I have it.”

Peyton enjoyed Game 1 on Saturday as she hurled a four-hit shutout and got an RBI in a 3-0 win over the Lions.

“The umpire was giving me a good zone,” said Peyton, reflecting on her pitching effort.

“I just went out there and threw my pitches, not trying to think too much. I knew my defense was going to make the plays today and I just did what I have been doing all season.”

In the nightcap, Peyton went 3-for-4 as the Tigers pulled out a 2-1 decision in nine innings.

“We have had a couple of heartbreaking losses in the past couple of weeks so we needed this,” said Peyton.

“So many people stepped up in that game and made a clutch play when we needed it and got hits. I think our defense was great. Shanna [Christian] threw a great game; that was really good for a freshman.”

For Peyton, the extra-inning triumph spoke volumes about the progress Princeton has made this spring as it rebounds from a 14-32 campaign in 2012.

“We have come together really well and there is a whole new energy that we just haven’t had,” said Peyton. “I think in the past, this is a game that we would have lost.”

While Princeton split the doubleheader on Sunday to move to 24-18 overall and 9-7 Ivy League, four games behind Ivy South leader Penn (24-16 overall, 13-3 Ivy) with four league games remaining, Peyton is leaving college with great memories even if the Tigers don’t get a title in her final season.

“I could not have asked for more, playing Division I softball at the best school in the country,” asserted Peyton. “I am getting a great education and getting to play the sport I love.”

Princeton first-year head coach Lisa Sweeney has gotten all she could ask from Peyton.

“It is funny, people have to bring it up because I am never surprised,” said Sweeney, reflecting on Peyton’s performance this spring.

“I expect her to have two or three hits. She has been just an unbelievable leader on the field and whenever we need a spark, she is the spark. She threw a great game in the first game. She is just a solid player all the way around.”

Sweeney viewed the Game 1 win on Saturday as a solid effort for the Tigers.

“I was really happy with everything that went on,” she said.

“We haven’t had great defensive games and I think today we really did. Some outs that were recorded were diving plays and just fantastic defense.”

The victory in the nightcap exemplified a resolve that Sweeney was happy to see.

“We really had to reset our minds and get back to a spot where it was like let’s take one pitch at a time and we’ll just try to win every inning that we play in,” added Sweeney.

“If we win every inning, we’ll win every game. We knew we were going to win; it is just a matter of how long it was going to take us to get it done.”

In Sweeney’s view, the team was primed to go the extra mile last weekend for its senior group.

“I think everyone, because of the group that we have, the whole team wants to play for them as much as we want to win as a group,” said Sweeney, whose squad wraps up regular season play with doubleheaders at Cornell on April 27 and 28. “This weekend is special for them and that makes it special for everybody because they are that close of a team.”

Sweeney credits the team’s seniors with making this spring special. “I think they were just so dedicated to turning things around that they were willing to do whatever it took,” said Sweeney, whose Class of 2013 includes Liza Kuhn, Nikki Chu, Candy Button, and Lizzy Pierce in addition to Peyton.

“I don’t think that would have been possible without their leadership. Every game means something to those guys and people follow that.

It means a lot to Peyton to have seen things turn out better for Princeton.

“There is a whole new fight in the team,” said Peyton. “We had a team talk this week where we looked at our goals and values as a team and said we are going to keep going after them.”