May 1, 2019

Sparked by Junior Carroll’s Hitting Surge, PDS Baseball Picks Up Dramatic Victories

ON A ROLL: Princeton Day School baseball player John Carroll making contact in recent action. Junior standout Carroll has been on a hitting tear recently, delivering walk-off hits for PDS as it overcame an 8-1 deficit in defeating Gill St. Bernard’s 9-8 on April 26 and then pulled out a 7-6 win over Bishop Ahr last Saturday. PDS, which fell 4-3 to the Hill School (Pa.) last Monday to move to 6-6, plays at New Hope-Solebury (Pa.) on May 3 and then starts action in the Mercer County Tournament. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

It is a seemingly minor adjustment but it has triggered a hitting tear for John Carroll.

“I cut down on my leg kick; before I was going with a high leg kick and recently I have just been lifting my foot up and putting it down,” said Princeton Day School baseball junior standout Carroll. “It is really helping me, I have been getting a good barrel on the ball almost every at bat.”

Last week against Gill St. Bernard’s, Carroll got the barrel on the ball when it counted the most as PDS rallied from an 8-1 deficit heading into the bottom of the sixth inning to pull out a dramatic 9-8 triumph.

Carroll helped jump start the comeback with a two-run double in the bottom of the sixth inning.

“I knew the pitcher was going to come right at me with fastballs,” recalled Carroll.

“I love the outside pitch. I saw one and I was able to put it down the line and got the rally started.”

Culminating the rally an inning later, Carroll lined a two-run single with the bases loaded and two out to plate the winning runs.

“It was the situation you play in your head when you were eight years old,” said Carroll, who went 3-for-5 with four RBIs in the victory.

“I was really excited. I got the first pitch fastball that I always look for and was able to get it. I knew right away, it felt good.”

Even as PDS dug the seven-run hole, Carroll was confident that the Panthers wouldn’t give up. “My favorite part about this team is that no matter what the situation, we always have so much energy,” said Carroll, who delivered another walk-off hit as PDS pulled out a 7-6 win over Bishop Ahr last Saturday.

“I know we all believe we can always come back and win the game. I never have any doubt. It shows that we have heart. We don’t have a big team. You look at the other team, they look like grown men compared to us. We have more heart than any team out there, and that allows us to stay with any team.”

In assessing his hitting surge, Carroll said getting bigger has helped him thrive.

“I have gotten much stronger. I have gained 30 pounds since last year,” said Carroll. “I have been in the weight room, I was hitting almost everyday in the summer. I came into his season much more prepared.”

PDS head coach Brian Dudeck credited Carroll’s strong hitting with sparking the Panthers.

“These last couple of games he has been putting us on his back,” said Dudeck.

“He had a little more of a leg kick at bat before, it is more up and down now. The other thing is that some of the balls he drove today were to right centerfield. I keep trying to get these guys to buy into hitting the ball the other way.”

Getting four runs in the bottom of the sixth put PDS back in the game against Gill.

“I think that made them a little more positive, thinking hey we can actually do this,” said Dudeck.

That positive mindset paid dividends as the Panthers produced the walk-off victory.

“I told them out there you never know, it is baseball,” added Dudeck. “There is no clock, you have to keep playing to the end.”

In Dudeck’s view, the comeback win could be a turning point for his squad.

“It shows hard work pays off, they have been practicing hard,” said Dudeck, whose team fell 4-3 to the Hill School (Pa.) last Monday to move to 6-6 and plays at New Hope-Solebury (Pa.) on May 3 and then starts action in the Mercer County Tournament.

“Sometimes it is frustrating when you are working so hard and you don’t get the result that you want. It is rewarding when you have a situation like this when you actually come through and you see it and it is confidence builder for sure.”

Carroll, for his part, is confident that the Panthers can keep coming through.

“Every single guy on the field is willing to play any role and that helps us tremendously,” said Carroll.

“As pitchers, we need to throw strikes. We can’t kill the momentum by walking guys. Defensively, we make our plays in the field. We always hit. I think we will be fine.”