Taking a 4-2 lead into the top of the seventh inning over Gill-St. Bernard’s last Wednesday, the Princeton Day school baseball team was on the verge of a much-needed win.
But the Knights scored two runs in the frame to force extra innings. In the top of the eighth, Gill scored three runs to take a 7-4 lead.
While PDS could have folded, it put the pressure on as it loaded the bases and brought the potential winning run to the plate. A fly out ended the rally and sealed the 7-4 defeat but PDS head coach Ray O’Brien tipped his hat to his club.
“We had that tough inning, they took the lead and we still managed to get the bases loaded and we still had a shot,” said O’Brien.
“I like the way they are battling. They are all sticking together, which I like. Hopefully we can take something away from this.”
In O’Brien’s view, the loss provided some valuable lessons for his young squad.
“We are just making the mistakes that are costing us games right now; it is part of the growing experience,” said O’Brien, noting that he only has 13 players currently available on his roster.
“We scored three in the first. We relaxed a little and we didn’t keep the pressure on them and that’s another part of the learning experience. We just have to grind it out. We have four freshmen that are a solid part of this team and three sophomores who are as well.”
Junior star and quad-captain Jake Alu gave the Panthers a solid performance in the loss to Gill St. Bernard’s, pitching five strong innings and chipping in three hits.
“Jake pitched well; I don’t like him to throw that much because he is mainly a shortstop,” said O’Brien, noting that the team has been without the services of junior pitching ace and quad-captain Cole McManimon, who hurt his hand in the first game of the season and has been sidelined ever since. “He did a tremendous job on the mound. He is hitting well.”
O’Brien is getting some good work from his two other captains, senior centerfielder Ford Schneider and junior pitcher/first baseman and Villanova-bound James Radvany.
“Ford is having a real nice year, he is hitting the ball well and he is playing a nice center field,” said O’Brien.
“He is a great leader. I am really happy with Ford. JP has picked up the slack for Cole and he is not a natural pitcher. His hitting has been up and down. I just hope we all get hot at the right time when the tournaments start.”
While it has been a tough year for the Panthers so far, O’Brien believes the team can pick it up down the stretch.
“We are making progress; right now we can’t afford to have any lapse,” said O’Brien, whose team fell to 2-8 with a 7-3 loss to Peddie last Monday and is scheduled to host Hamilton on May 1 before playing at South Hunterdon on May 3.
“It is a good group of guys, they work hard. They are a little down and they will come back. It is going to take a little while for us to learn to win. We are right there and I am happy with that.”