As the American Legion baseball state district playoffs started last weekend, Princeton Post 218 manager Tommy Parker rued what might have been.
“It was literally the way the ball bounced,” said Parker, reflecting on his club going 8-17, two wins away from the Mercer County American Legion League’s (MCALL) final state playoff spot.
“We were hitting the ball well but right at people, that was the story all season. We were as talented as anybody, we had several one-run losses and four extra inning games and we lost three of them. We got hit by the injury bug. We could have been playing this weekend if a couple of those one-run games had gone our way when we were shaking off our spring rust.”
Princeton played hard in the last week of the regular season, going 2-2 after dropping a twinbill to MCALL champion Bordentown on July 12.
“We did bounce back after the double header,” said Parker, whose team topped Hopewell Post 339 4-3 on July 13 and North Hamilton 6-4 July 14 before falling to Robbinsville 3-0 last Wednesday and Allentown 10-5 last Thursday.
“We fell off a little in midweek but we were still in the playoff hunt, fighting until the last pitch. We played more inspired as the week went on.”
Parker got inspired play all season long from a trio of veterans, Ellis Bloom, Rohit Chawla, and Jon Hayden.
“Ellis was my pit bull, he was ready for bear every game,” said Parker of the former Princeton High star who walked on to the Gettysburg College baseball team.
“When he started throwing, he had some good outings. He also played shortstop and third. Rohit is the vocal leader. He and Jon led the team in hitting, he caught fire with the bat and was among the league leaders in hitting. I called him my iron man; he was always ready to take the ball. He was our fearless leader, he was a leader on the field and on the bench. When the players had meetings, he would speak up. Jon gave us punch, he led the team in hitting and really did the job for us.”
Two rising college freshmen, centerfielder Alex Deutsch and infielder Austin Taylor, made some noise.
“Alex Deutsch was first time player for us, he was an excellent asset,” said Parker of former Hun School standout and Middlebury College-bound Deutsch.
“He hit the ball well and defensively, this guy was great. He went field to field out there; he had the ability to get the ball. Austin Taylor did a good job. He played third when we needed him to and we put him over at first.”
The squad’s younger players showed plenty of ability as well. “We had some seasoned young guys,” said Parker.
“Chris Sumners played first and outfield; he is in his second year with us and he just finished ninth grade. Ben Grass came on a lot with his pitching. He kept us in a couple of games and he just turned 17. Steve Majeski will be back. He came up through the junior system like a lot of the guys. He is a super utility guy, he caught a couple of games and he played across the outfield. John Reid is coming back next year, he played great for us. Big Jay Barry did well.”
Two Hun School standouts, catcher Gideon Friedberg and infielder Peter Schintzler, came up big for Post 218.
“Friedberg did yeomen’s work behind the plate,” added Parker. “He is a general on the field like a catcher should be. Schintzler looked like he had been playing Legion ball for years. He is very schooled and a very smooth infielder. I was as comfortable with him at shortstop as at second base. He was on pace to be among the league leaders in hitting until he got hurt. He was definitely our rookie of the year; he was completely unruffled.”
In Parker’s view, his players kept their heads collectively as they dealt with frustrating losses.
“All these guys pitched in and contributed; nobody got down,” said Parker. “Everyone got to play. I believe in these guys, I tell them they have to believe in themselves as well.”
Ever the optimist, Parker believes the future is bright for Post 218.
“We were right there for a second year in a row,” noted Parker.
“We have some really impressive players coming back. If we get the chemistry working again and stay injury free, we should be good.”