After losing 12 of its first 15 games this season, the Princeton High softball team could have thrown in the towel.
Instead, the Little Tigers came alive down the stretch, playing their best ball of the year.
“In the last 8 games we were 4-4,” said PHS head coach Dave Boehm, whose team ended the season by beating WW/P-N 14-9 on May 14 and topping Trenton 12-4 on May 19 to post a final record of 7-16.
“Of those losses, one was to Notre Dame, who had one defeat at that point, it was 4-0 in a game that was 0-0 in the fifth inning; there was a 5-4 loss to Nottingham in the bottom of the seventh and 6-4 to WW/P-S in the Mercer County Tournament. WW/P-S and Nottingham had 10-runned us earlier in the season.”
Going with the tandem of freshman Kayla Volante and junior tri-captain Sarah Eisenach to share the pitching duties within games helped the Little Tigers get more competitive.
“We called it our two-headed monster,” said Boehm of the rotation that saw Volante compile a 3.10 ERA with 64 strikeouts in 61 innings pitched and Eisenach post an ERA of 6.24 with 67 strikeouts in 79 2/3 innings.
“I think it threw other teams off. Kayla has a little better movement and Sarah is faster and not afraid to go inside on batters. I would have them go two or three innings at a time.”
The trio of seniors Liana Bloom, Katie Kanter, and tri-captain Jessica Campisi helped the team stay on track.
“Liana filled in for Emily DiLella at first base and she did a good job; she played the last 8-9 games and did very well defensively,” said Boehm.
“She struggled at the plate a little bit but she didn’t take that out to the field; she was able to separate that. Katie Kanter is a total team player, even though she is not catching any more, she would put equipment on and warm up pitchers. Jess stepped in at shortstop and did a really good job. She had a number of key hits for us. She works a count; she led us in walks.”
Sophomores Stephanie Wu and tri-captain Kelli Swedish led the way for PHS offensively.
“Wu hit .364, that is very good for a kid who hit about .190 last year,” said Boehm.
“She had big hits and she hit for power. Her homer against Ewing was not wind-aided. Swedish being injured for a while hurt us. We can count on her in left field. She hit .357 and she has some pop. She is our best baserunner, she doesn’t
make a lot of mistakes.”
Volante and classmate Nancy Gray emerged as players who could be counted on.
“Kayla didn’t pitch a lot in the beginning; when we went to the two-inning thing, she got more confident,” said Boehm.
“She knew she didn’t have to pitch the whole game and would be going back to the outfield. She hit .288, which is good for a freshman who has never played at this level before. For a kid who hadn’t caught in a while, Nancy did really well. She shut down the other teams’ running game with her throwing. She would throw a runner out or make it a close play and they wouldn’t run again. She’ll learn to drop down and get even better.”
Boehm expects the team to keep getting better collectively. “We won 11 games last year with six seniors; this year we won seven with a bunch of a new players,” said Boehm.
“I am excited looking at next year. They have to put in work over the offseason; they can’t just come out in March and start playing. They need to work on bunting, hitting, and the fundamentals. I told them they can have the key to the shed and use the equipment.”