Princeton Softball in Thick of Ivy Pennant Race, Helped by Power Surge from Sophomore Meyer
MAC ATTACK: Princeton University softball player Mackenzie Meyer takes a swing in recent action. Last Friday, sophomore outfielder Meyer with 3-for-4 with a homer, double, three runs scored, and three RBIs to help Princeton defeat Columbia 11-5 in the opener of a three-game set between the foes. The Lions rebounded to sweep a doubleheader a day later, edging Princeton 2-1 and 5-4. The Tigers, now 6-15 overall and 3-3 Ivy League, host a doubleheader against Rider on April 3 before heading to Brown this weekend for a three-game set with a doubleheader slated for April 6 and a single game on April 7. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
By Bill Alden
Mackenzie Meyer came into last weekend mired in a batting slump as the Princeton University softball team hosted Columbia for a three-game set.
The Princeton sophomore outfielder had gone 2-for-17 in her previous six games as her batting average dipped to .175.
But with Princeton trailing Columbia 2-0 in the second inning last Friday afternoon, Meyer found her stoke blasting a homer over the right field fence.
“The first pitch was high and outside and my swing was a little late,” said Meyer, a 5’8 native of Lakewood Ranch, Fla. reflecting on her at-bat.
“She pitched me the same pitch the next one and I said ‘I don’t want to sit back and let it be a strike,’ so I just swung. When I hit it, it was, shoot, this could go out.”
Meyer’s blast got the Tigers rolling as they pulled away to an 11-5 triumph over the Lions.
“Any time somebody comes up and does something for the team in that way, it continues with the others,” said Meyer, who ended up going with 3-for-4 with a homer, double, three runs scored, and three RBIs.
“We had a couple of huge hits. Megan [Donahey] has been on fire. It was a good win. Everybody did their job and I think that is why we won. Everybody took care of what needed to be taken care of.”
Coming off a superb freshman campaign which saw her hit .326 and earn All-Ivy honors, Meyer wasn’t fazed by her slow start this spring.
“It was just coming into the box; today is a new day and you don’t want to ride the highs or ride the lows and just to have fun with it,” said Meyer, who didn’t have as much fun on Saturday as Columbia rebounded to sweep a doubleheader, edging Princeton 2-1 and 5-4.
“I think a lot of us do better when we are relaxed. I have great teammates behind me who are nothing but encouraging.”
The Tigers are looking to do better collectively after a tough 2018 season which saw Princeton go 10-29 overall and 8-13 Ivy after winning the league title the previous two seasons.
“I think this year we want to win for each other so badly that we are not going to let other teams decide that for us,” said Meyer.
“We are going to do the things to make us successful and if we come up short then we work harder at practice the next week. I think this year it is just getting back to that mindset.”
Princeton head coach Lisa Van Ackeren credited Meyer with helping to spark the win for the Tigers.
“MacKenzie changed the tone of our offense with that homer and everyone followed her,” said Van Ackeren.
“That was really cool and she wasn’t done yet. She had two huge hits. The kid is so committed to the process. I think she had some sophomore expectations after a really strong freshman year and she is finding her mindset again. That is super important and this is the time of the year to find it.”
Van Ackeren was thrilled to see the Princeton offense pound out hits all afternoon long.
“The most proud I was of them was for scoring against different pitchers, that is a really good indication that we are focused on us and the right things,” said Van Ackeren, whose team piled up 11 hits in the win.
“We don’t sit back on the pitching change and take it easy the rest of the game. We scored against every pitcher and I think that is an important note.
Junior outfielder Megan Donahey has played an important role in getting things going at the top of the order.
“She does such a good job, she has been that way her whole career, you just know what you are going to get,” said Van Ackeren. Donahey went 2-for-3 with a run and an RBI in the win, and ended the weekend hitting at .362 for the season.
“She is a leadoff hitter to her core. She does a really good job and even if she doesn’t get on base, she gives good information. She sets the table and puts pressure on the defense.”
With Princeton, now 6-15 overall and 3-3 Ivy League and trailing first place Columbia by two games with 15 more league contests to play, Van Ackeren credits the team’s improvement in the circle this spring to keeping it in the league race.
“Pitching is everything and we have two legit starters,” said Van Ackeren, referring to sophomore Allie Reynolds, the winning pitcher against Columbia, and freshman Ali Blanchard, who already has a college no-hitter to her credit.
“We have got Riley [Wilkinson] back at closer. We just have a nice rounded out staff this year and that really helps us. If you don’t have pitching, it is really tough to win ball games.”
After having gone through a tough 2018 campaign, Princeton is hungry to make another title run.
“They are fired up, they are a little bit angry about last year,” said Van Ackeren, whose team hosts a doubleheader against Rider on April 3 before heading to Brown this weekend for a three-game set with a doubleheader slated for April 6 and a single game on April 7.
“They came into this year saying we need to prove who we are again. I think that is the tone that our senior class has set and our captains are giving great leadership and the team is willing to follow in a positive direction.”
Meyer, for her part, believes things are headed in the right direction for the Tigers.
“We came back after two Ivy championships and learned something new last year,” said Meyer.
“It helped us this year to transition into a team that comes out and fights for every out of the game.”