When the Princeton University baseball team won its first four Ivy League games this spring, Alec Keller wasn’t surprised.
“We knew we were going to be good,” said Princeton senior outfielder Keller. “We are talented.”
But then the Tigers dropped a doubleheader at Yale before suffering through a 0-4 weekend at Columbia to sink in the Ivy League’s Gehrig Division.
In Keller’s view, some untimely lapses knocked Princeton off track. “The season is so quick that any bad weekend can kill you and that’s what we had,” said Keller.
“I wouldn’t say it is a complete failure; a lot of guys have had really good years. It is just kind of tough that it is so quick and so unforgiving. Give credit to Penn and Columbia, they have taken care of business.”
Princeton showed a business-like attitude last weekend as it split two doubleheaders with Penn, who is tied for the Gehrig Division lead along with Columbia with 13-3 league marks. The Tigers fell 2-0 to Penn in the opener on Saturday before pulling out a 6-4 win in the nightcap. On Easter Sunday, Princeton won the opener 4-2 and then lost the nightcap 6-1.
“It was important, they came in with one loss but we knew we could stack up with them,” said Keller, reflecting on the 2-2 weekend which left the Tigers at 12-22 overall and 7-9 Ivy.
“I think they are not quite as good as their record and we are better than ours. We knew we could get wins. It was disappointing in the first one but we came back and won two hard-fought games.”
The 6’2, 200-pound Keller, a native of Richmond, Va., starred in the wins, going 2-for-3 with a run and an RBI in the second game on Saturday before going 2-for-3 with 3 RBIs and a homer in the opener on Sunday.
“It felt good to calm myself down,” said Keller. “I just stay loose up there, not think too much, and just react.”
Keller’s cool approach at the plate has helped him enjoy a big spring, hitting a league-best .369 in all games and .440 in Ivy action, the second highest average for league contests.
“I am trying to not put too much pressure on myself,” said Keller who has a team-high 45 hits with two homers and 18 RBIs.
“The worst thing you can do is trying to press and do too many things. I have tried to stay within myself, just know what I can do and play to my strengths.”
With Princeton wrapping up the spring by playing at Rider on April 23, playing a doubleheader at Cornell on April 25, hosting a doubleheader against Cornell on April 27, and then playing at St. John’s on April 29, Keller and his teammates are looking for a strong finish.
“We have to get a lot of young guys that need to finish the season and get some confidence going into next year and that is really important,” said Keller. “And heck it is fun to win, it beats losing. We are playing these games no matter what so we want to win. Hopefully we can get a few more in these next couple of weeks.”
Keller is savoring his final days in a Princeton uniform. “It is bittersweet, I am just trying to have fun everyday,” said Keller.
“I feel you can’t think too much about it, saying it is my last this or that, you just have to live it. I am looking forward to the next few weeks.”
The last few years have been unforgettable for Keller. “It has been great, these guys are a like a family to me,” said Keller, a two-time First-Team All-Ivy selection who has a career average of .347 (173-for-499).
“It is a great release from school. While school is good in its own right, this is something that is great as a relief. At the same time, it is really fun to focus on something and put your heart into it.”
Keller is hoping to continue his love affair with the game by playing at the professional level after graduation.
“That’s the plan, we’ll see what happens,” said Keller. “Hopefully baseball is not done. I will definitely miss Princeton and playing with these guys for sure.”