Princeton High pitcher Rohit Chawla was pumped up to pitch against Nottingham long before he took the mound last Friday with PHS hosting the Northstars for Senior Day.
“I was thinking about this for weeks; it got rained out originally and I knew I was getting the ball then,” said senior star Chawla.
“Coach [Dave Roberts] asked me what I wanted to do this week, we had five straight games. I told him I wanted to go four innings against Voorhees on Tuesday and then come back for Senior Day. All day I was thinking about the game, starting when I woke up. It is one of my last high school games; it is going to be a special time for the seniors with all my buddies out there. It was definitely a really emotional game; I had a lot of fire.”
With blue and white balloons hanging from the fence at the Valley Road field for the Senior Day festivities, Chawla fired the ball hard, shutting out the Northstars over the first three innings.
In the fourth, Chawla ran into some trouble giving up two runs and loading the bases. He worked out of the jam, though, without giving up any more runs.
“My arm wasn’t feeling too good yesterday so I was a little bit scared that I wasn’t going to feel 100 percent but I came out here and said whatever,” said Chawla.
“With three days rest and 60 pitches, it was pretty tough. I just wasn’t pitching [in 4th inning jam]. I was throwing fastball after fastball but I settled down and focused and collected myself and started pitching.”
Chawla ended up pitching six innings, not giving up another run, as PHS went on to a 6-2 triumph.
The win was Chawla’s fifth of the season and it was the eighth victory in the last 11 games for the Little Tigers after a 1-10 start.
“It feels good, it is one of the first years I have been able to string together a good season,” said Chawla, reflecting on his solid spring.
It feels good for the Little Tigers to get rolling collectively as the program is coming off a 4-18 season in 2012.
“I think we are really focusing, we are getting everything together,” said Chawla.
“Early in the season, we would hit but we wouldn’t pitch or we would pitch well and we wouldn’t hit. We had a couple of games where we were hitting balls right at people. We are finding holes now.”
PHS head coach Roberts enjoyed seeing his team roll on Senior Day. “This is fantastic,” asserted Roberts.
“We have had two 3-game winning streaks. We have won eight out of 11, all great things for us. Nine wins are the most since 2005. We have two chances for 10. That team in 2005 was 11-14. This is a quality baseball team we have put together here.”
In Roberts’ view, the team’s recent success has come down to basics. “I think pitching and defense [has made the difference],” said Roberts.
“Rohit, Ben Gross, and Andrew Frain have been running out there, start after start after start. The defense has been there most of the days behind them.”
Chawla has produced a special run, according to Roberts. “Rohit, from what we know, just set the modern day school record for five wins in a single year,” said Roberts.
“There were two kids from the 2001 that had five wins and Jake Horan had five wins for the 2005 team. That’s a pretty big achievement, five wins in a single year. It is pretty good for this team and this high school.”
In getting out of the fourth inning jam, Chawla displayed some good maturity.
“The one thing he started to do and I tried to relay that to him without going out there was to remember to pitch,” said Roberts.
“He is in trouble, the bases are loaded, and I said don’t forget the breaking ball, don’t forget the offspeed stuff because those guys are excited and you can get them out on the front foot and that is what he did.”
Roberts is excited about the balanced offense that PHS has shown down the stretch.
“It has been different guys, different days,” said Roberts, whose team lost 7-1 to Hamilton last Saturday to move to 9-14 and was slated to end the season by hosting Notre Dame on May 21.
“But the addition of Hayden Reyes as a freshman has been amazing. He had a seven-game hitting streak snapped yesterday; he is up over .300 as a freshman. Gross and Ellis [Bloom] are up over .300.”
PHS has been sparked by good leadership from senior captains, Matt Farinick, Chawla, and Bloom.
“I think the three captains who have been here a long time have kept them up mentally,” said Roberts, whose other seniors include Frain, Christian Giles, Zach DiGregorio, and James Itkoff.
“They have kept their heads in it. We were 1-10 at one point and now it’s 9-13. You can’t ask for much more right now.”
Chawla, for his part, believes the seniors have brought a special sense of urgency this spring. “We are all taking charge, coming out as seniors,” said Chawla.
“We know we have the talent. Everything is coming together now, it feels good.”