April 24, 2013

Unable to Get Big Hits in Columbia Series, Princeton Baseball on Verge of Elimination

#4 turns a double play. Please run photo full frame.As the Princeton University baseball players gathered for their post-game huddle after falling 10-2 to visiting Columbia to split a doubleheader last Sunday, their heads dropped in unison.

The Tigers brought high hopes into the weekend, trailing the Lions by just a game in the Ivy League’s Gehrig Division standings with a pair of home doubleheaders.

On Saturday, Princeton lost 4-0 and 7-1 to fall three games behind. Needing a sweep on Sunday to get back to where it started the weekend, the Tigers got off to a good start, winning the opener 2-0 behind a five-hit shutout from junior Mike Ford, a former Hun School star.

In the nightcap, the teams were knotted at 2-2 in the sixth but then things started to fall apart for the Tigers. In the top of the frame, Columbia got a two-run single to go up 4-2. Princeton appeared to have tied the game as John Mishu knocked the ball over the right field fence for a two-run homer but the ball was called foul. The roof fell in on the Tigers as the Lions tacked on six unanswered runs to pull away to a 10-2 win.

Princeton head coach Scott Bradley reflected the mood of his players as he assessed the weekend.

“It was disappointing, they outplayed us,” said Bradley, whose team ended the weekend at 12-25 overall and 9-7 Ivy while Columbia improved to 20-17 overall and 12-4 Ivy with just four league games remaining.

“It is not how often you get hits and how many hits, it is when you get them. I thought our pitching was pretty good; it kept us in. But when you score five runs in four game series, you are not winning. They got some big hits and we were not able to.”

Bradley tipped his hat to the Lions, who just need to win two of four games against Penn next weekend to eliminate Princeton no matter what the Tigers do in their season-ending four-game set with Cornell.

“They pitched the daylights out of it,” said Bradley. “They are good, Columbia plays the game really well. Coach [Brett] Boretti does a really good job with them. They have really developed a knack for getting big hits in big situations. It came down to them making a big two-out hit in a tied ball game to make it 4-2 in the sixth inning.”

Princeton thought it had a big hit when Mishu blasted the ball over the fence but it never recovered from the controversial call. 

“I thought the ball was fair from where we were,” said Bradley. “It is a tough call, it is probably the toughest call umpires have to make. I sit almost on the line and I thought it was a fair ball and so did the other guys. It changed the tone a bit. Again, you have to turn it around. At that point, we were in the game but we let the game get away from us.”

While barely alive in the title chase, Princeton is looking to keep the heat on the Lions as the Tigers play a home-and-home four-game series with Cornell this weekend.

“It is nice playing games that mean something,” said Bradley, whose team hosts Cornell (21-14 overall, 9-7 Ivy) for a doubleheader on April 26 before heading up to Ithaca, N.Y. for a twinbill against the Big Red on their home field two days later.

“We get to play on Friday; we need to come out and throw up a couple of wins and at least get them to the point where they are going to think about us. We want to put pressure on them so that they are going to have to come out and earn it.”