With Senior Stalwarts Going Out With a Bang,PDS Baseball Makes Run to Prep B Title Game
NICE RUN: Princeton Day School baseball player Matt Nyce takes a swing in a game earlier this season. Senior infielder/pitcher Nyce helped PDS enjoyed a special stretch run as the fourth-seeded Panthers advanced to the state Prep B title game. Nyce contributed an RBI as PDS battled second-seeded Rutgers Prep in the title game last Thursday at Diamond Nation in Flemington but it wasn’t enough as the Panthers lost 6-2. The defeat left PDS with a final record of 8-10. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
By Bill Alden
Matt Nyce and his teammates on the Princeton Day School baseball team weren’t rattled when they fell behind Rutgers Prep 3-0 in the first inning of the state Prep B title game last Thursday evening.
“This whole season we have gotten down, we had an 8-1 game against Gill St. Bernard’s where we came back and won,” said senior infielder/pitcher Nyce. “Honestly, all of these guys just want to win.”
Nyce started a Panther comeback with an RBI single in the top of the third inning as he drove in Michael Carroll to make it a 4-1 game in the contest played at Diamond Nation in Flemington.
“The biggest thing is that we will build on each other so one guy gets a hit and we feed off of that,” said Nyce.
In the top of the fourth, Kevin Flahive and Vinny Gasparro both got singles as PDS loaded the bases but failed to push a run across. An inning later, the Panthers narrowed the gap to 4-2 as Tom Bocian got a big hit, lashing a triple to the right field corner to score John Carroll, who reached on a single.
PDS, though, never got closer than that as Rutgers Prep tacked on runs in the bottom of the fifth and sixth to earn a 6-2 win and the title.
While the loss stung, Nyce was proud of what the Panthers accomplished in advancing to the Prep B title game for the first time since 2010.
“This was an awesome run, it was super fun, “ said Nyce, who was the winning pitcher as PDS edged fifth-seeded Morristown-Beard 5-4 in the Prep B quarters on May 9 and then contributed two RBIs as the Panthers routed ninth-seeded Ranney School 12-0 in the semis.
“I tell the guys all the time it is the best group of guys at our school. There is not one bad guy on the team. I think the reason we made it this far this year is everyone is willing to go 0-for-4 if we win. No one is caring about stats too much, we just want to win. We don’t have one guy who is going to hit five home runs, everyone can do something.”
Nyce relished going on the run with his four classmates on the squad – Brendan Bucceri and Tommy Sarsfield along with Flahive and Gasparro.
“I am going to miss them so much,” said Nyce, “In my four years on varsity, this is the closest group of guys as seniors. We hang out on the weekends, we do stuff. This where we had the biggest leap this year with the five seniors. We led really well, we were selfless guys. No one wanted to be the guy, it was five guys collectively.”
In the team’s postgame meeting, the seniors talked about leaving a legacy as the players gathered in left field.
“The message for the young guys was to remember this feeling, how much it hurts, and keep working,” said Nyce.
“I think they are going to be solid; we have some really good younger guys. I told them to represent us well at school as the baseball team and be good guys.”
PDS head coach Brian Dudeck liked the way his guys didn’t get fazed by the early deficit.
“We battled back; in the beginning of the season, we would kind of hang our heads a little bit and get down on ourselves,” said Dudeck. “But the last three-quarters of the year, every game, we fight and we fight and we fight.”
Dudeck acknowledged that the Panthers made things hard on themselves against Rutgers Prep.
“We dug ourselves a hole early,” lamented Dudeck. “It is typical of high school baseball, it comes down to who makes the most mistakes, throwing strikes and just putting the ball in play. You put the ball in play and you give yourself half a chance.”
Seeing his squad earn a chance to play for a title was heartening for Dudeck.
“I am proud of these guys,” said Dudeck, whose team ended up with a final record of 8-10. “I am proud of the fact that we came a long way. There is a lot of progress.”
Dudeck credited his quintet of seniors with sparking that progress. “It is a really solid group. Every single one of them contributes,” said Dudeck. “Vinny Gasparro had a nice catch the other night in left field. You saw what Matt Nyce did tonight; he looked great.”
The Panthers got a great contribution this spring from junior standout John Carroll, who went 2-for-4 with a run against Rutgers Prep.
“John is hitting over .600, every at-bat is tough with him just fighting,” added Dudeck, noting that junior catcher Bocian had three hits in the defeat.
“He is not afraid to just take the ball to right field. He made some great adjustments this year from the beginning of the season to the end of the season.”
With Carroll and Bocian returning next season along with Alex Stillwell, Hunter von Zelowitz, and Michael Carroll, Dudeck believes the playoff experience gained this spring will pay dividends.
“We have a lot of young guys who got some opportunities,” said Dudeck. “You are trying to initiate somebody into how you are going to do things and that type of stuff. It is not easy.”
Nyce, for his part, is confident that those players will come together, following in the tradition of the tight-knit program.
“It is the closeness of the team,” said Nyce, when asked what stood out about his PDS baseball experience.
“It is a small school and there are about 20 guys in the baseball program. We had everyone dressing for this game. Seniors could talk to freshmen, it wasn’t like this little barrier. We worked out with the freshmen in the fall and asked them to go out to dinner with us.”