April 18, 2018

Hampered by Interruptions From Poor Weather, Princeton Baseball Searching for Consistency

By Bill Alden

After seeing five games get washed or snowed out in late March, the Princeton University baseball team has been treading water as the calendar hit April.

“It has been a rough year because it has been hard to get into any kind of rhythm,” said Princeton head coach Scott Bradley, whose team was 3-3 in April as it looked forward to hosting a three-game set against Penn last weekend. “There are times where I think we are pretty good and there are other times where we are just not there.”

In the opening game of the Penn series last Friday afternoon, the Tigers exemplified that inconsistency, clinging to a 1-0 lead heading into the sixth inning and then yielding six runs in the top of that frame on the way to a 7-2 defeat.

“It is all about your starting pitcher keeping you in games, Ryan [Smith] did a really good job,” said Bradley.

“All year, we have had a really tough time avoiding big innings. We have two outs, a 1-0 lead, and nobody on base and then there is a walk and six straight hits and all of a sudden we found ourselves out of it, especially because offensively we are struggling a little bit. We aren’t scoring a whole lot of runs so once you find yourself behind three or four, then it gets tough.”

 A day later in a doubleheader with the Quakers, the Tigers produced another uneven performance. Former Princeton High standout and senior star Ben Gross gave the Tigers some superb starting pitching, scattering nine hits and striking out seven in a 3-0 shutout. But Princeton didn’t build on that, giving up five runs in the top of the first in the nightcap as it ultimately fell 10-1, dropping to 8-16 overall and 5-4 Ivy League.

Noting that Ivy League changed its format, doing away with its former two-division set-up and now having the teams play seven three-game series with the top two teams meeting in the league championship series, the resulting earlier start to the Ivy season hurt the Tigers as its series with Harvard slated for March 26-27 had to be rescheduled due to snow.

“To have to give up half your spring break and come home and play a home series, it is so early in the year in the northeast that there as very little chance that our field would be ready,” said Bradley. “They almost have to try to send all of the games to the turf fields; our field was still freezing and thawing.”

With Princeton now slated to play the three-game series against Harvard on April 24 and 25, the Tigers will be stretched pitching-wise.

“If you lose a weekend like we did, it is going to be rough trying to come up with enough pitching to get us through nine league games in 10 days,” said Bradley. “It is hard.”

But with the battle-tested Bradley in his 21st season at the helm of the Tigers, he will bring an even-keeled approach to things.

“You just take it one day at time, we always talk about winning series,” said Bradley, whose club has a three-game set at Columbia this weekend with a doubleheader scheduled for April 21 and a single game on April 22.

“The first weekend, we lost the first game to Cornell and then came back and beat them twice. We need to come out and get good pitching. We have got to be able to score some runs and put pressure on the other team.”