For the Princeton High baseball team, winning eight of its last 11 games last year has given its returning players a lift coming into this spring.
“I think all the varsity guys who got playing experience last year are very confident,” said PHS head coach Dave Roberts, who guided the Little Tigers to a 9-13 record in 2013.
Roberts is confident that senior Ben Gross will have a big year on the mound.
“Ben is no doubt our No. 1 pitcher,” said Roberts. “He threw 50 innings last year and we are looking to get the same or more this spring. We need to get him to finish games.”
Noting that the Little Tigers lost a lot of pitching from the 2013 squad to graduation, Roberts is looking for senior Jeff Gleason, sophomore Joaquin Hernandez-Burt, senior Austin Taylor, and junior Ben Danis to fill that void.
“We have 80 innings to replace,” said Roberts. “Jeff Gleason was out last year but had a nice first scrimmage. Joaquin also had a nice first scrimmage. He is a sophomore but he is big and he has some velocity. Austin Taylor will be in the back end, he can go one or two innings. He knows his role. Ben Danis should get some innings. The focus is on location and not walking people.”
The Little Tigers will be focusing on fundamentals. “We are a pitching and defense team,” said Roberts, whose defensive alignment will include senior Colin Frawley at catcher, senior Austin Taylor at first base, senior Gleason at second, sophomore Hayden Reyes at shortstop, and sophomore Colin Taylor at third with junior John Reid in left field and Danis, sophomore Micah Daly-Harris, senior John Lebeau and senior Jack Buyski in the mix for the other outfield spots. “We need to bunt, hit and run, and steal bases.”
PHS is looking to Reyes to be an offensive catalyst, coming off a freshman campaign when he emerged as a .300 hitter. “Reyes is staying at the No. 2 spot again; he’ll get plenty of at-bats,” said Roberts, whose squad was slated to start the 2014 season by hosting Hopewell Valley on April 1 and then playing at Princeton Day School on April 2, at Hightstown on April 4, and at Allentown on April 5 before hosting Trenton Central on April 7.
“That can be a big RBI spot when the lineup turns over. He will have to come up big. He will be seeing situations with runners on and two outs. Colin Taylor did well at leadoff in our scrimmage, he is an aggressive batter and can steal some bases. Gross will be in the 4-spot like he was last year. Reid, Frawley, Austin Taylor, and Danis are in the mix for the other spots.”
In Roberts’ view, PHS can build on last year’s success. “I think as a group we are looking for no drop-off in terms of the win total,” said Roberts.
“We would be disappointed if we had less than nine wins. We will emphasize pitching and defense, looking for no errors and no walks. We can control those aspects.”