April 4, 2018

With Sophomore Davis Returning to Full Speed, Tiger Baseball Starts Ivy Play With 2-1 Weekend

LEADING THE WAY: Princeton University baseball player Chris Davis follows through on a swing in action last weekend. Sophomore outfielder and lead-off hitter Davis starred as Princeton won two out of three games against visiting Cornell to open Ivy League play. Davis went 6-for-15 in the three-game set, knocking in the game-winning run in a 7-6 win on Sunday. The Tigers, now 5-11 overall and 2-1 Ivy, host Monmouth on April 5 before heading to Brown for a three-game set with a doubleheader on April 7 and a single game on April 8. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Chris Davis has displayed an ability to bounce back in emerging as a star this spring for the Princeton University baseball team.

Last year, Davis saw his freshman campaign cut short by injury after eight appearances, rupturing his spleen against the University of Maryland in mid-March to get sidelined for the rest of the spring.

Going through some arduous rehab and getting back on the diamond for summer ball, Davis is back to full strength, starting in left field and batting lead off for the Tigers.

“It has been great, I feel 100 percent,” said Davis, a 5’9, 190-pound native of Avon, Conn, whose father, Rece Davis, is a longtime ESPN reporter and studio host. “I am just happy to be out here with these guys. We are out here riding for each other.”

Last Sunday against visiting Cornell, Davis came through for his guys, stroking a line drive single to plate the winning run in the seventh inning as Princeton bounced back from deficits of 2-0 and 4-2 to prevail 7-6 and go 2-1 in the three-game set to open Ivy League play.

“I had to go up and get some good metal on the ball,” said Davis, recalling his hitting approach.

“As soon as he bounced that pitch and Taylor [Beckett] got to second, I was thinking about a line drive up the middle because I knew that would score Taylor. He threw a fastball up in the zone and I was able to get the bat on it and get it through.”

For Davis, the clutch hit was particularly sweet as he had misplayed a sinking liner in the fifth inning that helped Cornell tie the contest at 6-6.

“It was absolutely a big moment, I had that error in left field early in the game that let a couple of runs score,” said Davis, reflecting on the win that improved Princeton to 5-11 overall and 2-1 Ivy.

“We tied it up and it was good to put that behind me and be able to go get a hit and put us back on top.”

Getting a win in the rubber game of the series with Cornell was key for the Tigers, who rode a superb relief pitching effort from sophomore Eli Kimbell as he gave up just one run in five innings of work to earn the victory.

“I definitely don’t think we played our best baseball, we can play better but ultimately an ugly win is better than a pretty loss,” said Davis, who went 6-for-15 over the weekend as Princeton split a doubleheader with the Big Red on Saturday, dropping the opener 5-2 before coming back to win the nightcap 10-4. 

“Eli pitched great today. He did the same thing up at Rutgers on Wednesday. He came in with the bases loaded and nobody out and got us right out of it.”

With Princeton coming off a rough 2017 campaign that saw it go 12-28-1 overall and 7-13 Ivy, Davis and his teammates are determined to get back on the winning track.

“I think there is excitement with the younger guys. The freshmen have come in and have been able to contribute right away but we have got some senior leadership with guys like Asher Lee-Tyson and Ben Gross,” said Davis, who is now hitting .286 with a team-high 12 runs.

“We are hungry to bounce back. We are hungry to go out there and prove that we are the best team in this league. We had a tough season last year. We are winning team and we want to be on top.”

The route to the top of Ivy baseball will be different this spring as the league has changed its format from a two-division set-up which saw the winners meet in the Ivy League Championship Series to three-game sets against each of the seven other league foes with the top two teams overall advancing to the ILCS.

“We like the three-game weekend, we are going to see how it works out,” said Davis, who will look to keep up his hot hitting as Princeton hosts Monmouth on April 5 before heading to Brown for a three-game set with a doubleheader on April 7 and a single game on April 8.

“It makes it tough with the top two teams getting in there without the division. We are excited to see how it works this year. We are confident we can use it to our advantage.”

While Davis was excited to see the Tigers come out on top against Cornell last Sunday, he knows there is plenty of room for improvement.

“It showed a lot of character that we were able to get into the win column today but ultimately we didn’t play good baseball,” said Davis. “We need to be cleaner on defense and be more locked in on every at bat. We wasted a lot of at-bats this weekend.”