Displaying Flair in All Phases of the Game, PLL Cruises to District 12 Intermediate Crown
GRAND SLAM: Gordon Grandbouche delivers a pitch last weekend for the Princeton Little League (PLL) squad hosted Millstone-Roosevelt in the two-team, double-elimination District 12 Intermediate 50/70 tournament. Grandbouche starred on the mound, at the plate, and in the field as PLL posted a pair of 13-3 wins over Millstone to take the title, its fourth in six years in the competition. The squad will now compete in the Section 3 tournament, which starts on June 29 and is being held in Middletown. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
By Bill Alden
As the Princeton Little League (PLL) squad hosted Millstone-Roosevelt in the two-team, double-elimination District 12 Intermediate 50/70 tournament last Friday at the Farmview Fields, it was determined to seize the momentum.
“We were really looking to get out to a strong start, right from the get-go,” said PLL manager Jon Durbin.
“I think the more positive the messaging to the players, the better starts you get out to. One of the things I have learned through the years is that you gave got to make them be confident in themselves and as a team. We have a history of getting off to a good start early in this tournament.”
Living up to that history, PLL jumped out to a 3-1 first inning lead in the opener on the way to a 13-3 win. A day later, it was deja vu as the team cruised to another 13-3 victory to earn the District 12 crown.
In reflecting on the District title, the fourth in six years for the PLL intermediate program, Durbin pointed to the team’s intensity in practice as a big factor in its success.
“At our first district team practice two weeks ago, the boys made the commitment to play together as a team, battle, stay focused, and do whatever the team needed for the expressed goal to win the District Title and to hopefully play in the State Championship Tournament,” said Durbin.
“I think we really set the tone with the practices last week. Their high level of performance in the two district games showed that they delivered on that commitment.”
In preparing for the District tournament, PLL put a special emphasis on hitting.
“We bring back alum players and coaches and we have them throw live batting practice from the mound,” said Durbin. “We don’t hit in the cages with this team ever, except in pregame.”
That extra effort paid dividends as the PLL squad batted .397 as a team in the tournament with 23 hits and an on-base percentage of .521.
“Gordon Grandbouche had a standout tournament; on offense, Grandbouche went 4-for-6 with two walks, a 2-run homer, 4 RBI’s and 6 runs,” said Durbin.
“Danny Harlan had a great offensive tournament going 5-for-8 with 5 RBI’s, including several clutch hits with two outs. AJ Surace went 3-for-6 scoring 5 runs, and did a great job catching behind the plate.”
Princeton also excelled in pitching and defense, yielding just 7 hits, 3 earned runs, 5 walks with a team ERA of 1.75 in the tournament and committing only two errors.
“Rohan Sheth did a great job as the starting pitcher in Game 1, getting us off to a strong start, going 4 1/3rd innings giving up 4 hits, with 5 strikeouts and 1 earned run,” added Durbin.
“Gordon was the starting pitcher in Game 2, going 5 innings giving up only 3 hits, with 4 strikeouts and 2 earned runs. On defense, Grandbouche did a stellar playing center field in Game 1.”
Mindful of PLL’s success over the years in the tourney, the players brought a special motivation into the competition.
“We have built up enough of a tradition now with the intermediate district tournament and the sectional tournament that this group was really determined to keep up with the guys that came before them,” said Durbin.
“They really wanted the banner and they really wanted a championship sign up over at Grover at our other complex because they have been following the guys that have been in front of them in recent years and have enjoyed a lot of success.”
The PLL squad will be looking to enjoy success in the Section 3 tournament, which starts on June 29 and is being held in Middletown.
“Now we’ve got to continue our progression of getting ready at our special practices this week for sectionals, where the competition level will be higher and the game will be played with even more power and speed,” added Durbin. “I feel like with this group, if we keep playing at this level, we will be competitive at sectionals.”