Ending with a 6-2 Run Down the Stretch, PHS Baseball Confident of Future Success
TOM TERRIFIC: Princeton High baseball player Tommy Reid takes a big cut in a game this spring. Senior outfielder and co-captain Reid helped spark PHS at the top of the lineup. The Tigers went 9-13 this spring, winning six of their last eight games and advancing to the Mercer County Tournament quarterfinals. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
By Bill Alden
While the Princeton High baseball team stunned many when it edged second-seeded Hamilton 1-0 in the opening round of the Mercer County Tournament this spring, Dom Capuano wasn’t surprised.
“That game was awesome; for whatever reason, I had confidence going into that game. I said to them before the game, ‘I have never believed in you more at this point,’” said first-year head coach Capuano, whose team was seeded 15th in the MCT and went on to fall to 10th-seeded Lawrence High in the quarterfinals.
“That was based on where we were trending and how we played against them the first time and obviously with Ben [Amon] on the mound that makes a world of difference. It was pretty nerve-wracking from start to finish. We pushed across a run and then we hung on.”
After a rocky start this spring, PHS made a strong final push. “We finished 9-13 and we were 3-11 at one point. So we won six out of eight to end the year,” said Capuano.
“You are never going to be upset with that. I have also said to everybody who is going to be back next year that our season ended a little earlier than we all know it should have and that is on us. It was definitely a good thing for the program to end like that because I think it does give everybody a taste of what we need to do in the offseason to get better.”
Senior standout Amon did some very good things in his final campaign.
“Ben threw 32 straight shutout innings to end the year,” said Capuano of Amon, who is heading to The College of New Jersey where he will play for its baseball program.
“His first game was OK, his second game got a little better, and then from the end of the second game to the end of the year, he didn’t give up a run. It is funny because Hamilton West was his first win; he had 10 strikeouts in that game.”
The squad’s crew of seniors — Teddy Durbin, Owen Seals, Eli Okoye, Tommy Reid, and Amon — gave PHS a winning mentality.
“They are going to be pretty hard to replace; the senior class really did a good job of helping us this year,” said Capuano.
“Ben is going to be extremely difficult to replace on the mound. Not having Teddy on the mound definitely hurt, but he was a constant in the top of the lineup so that is going to be missed. Owen led the team in batting average; he beat Eli by two points. When you look at every other statistical category, Eli was our guy this year; he did a lot of good things for us. Tom is like a Swiss Army knife, you can put him anywhere in the field and he will play well. You can put him anywhere in the lineup and he does what that role needed. Hopefully the juniors and sophomores took notice and can elevate their games to where our seniors were this year.”
Capuano will be looking to sophomore Tommy Delany, junior Gautam Chawla, junior Jason Ramirez, junior Aiden Regan, and junior Judd Petrone to step into those shoes.
“Tommy is only going to be a junior but he going to be a third year varsity player, which puts him in a class by himself,” said Capuano.
“We are going to look for Chawla to be like Tommy Reid where we can put him around the field and he is going to help everybody else around him. We are going to look for Ramirez to really lead us on the pitching staff. Aiden had a tremendous year as far as his first season on varsity. If we are going to be as successful next year as I want, he is going to have to be a big part of that. He was pretty much an everyday player down the stretch; he is somebody who is going to really need to be important for us. Judd is another key guy; he is probably going to take over for Tommy [Reid] in center field. I am hoping he will be controlling the outfield, be a top of the order guy to get on base and set the table.”
At catcher, freshman Carl Birge made an important contribution. “Carl did a great job this year behind the plate,” said Capuano.
“Offensively, we really want him to take the next step next year. He will be a sophomore who has a full year of varsity. He and Tommy Delany are both a little bit more elevated than their class.”
In reflecting on his debut campaign at the helm of the program, Capuano gained some lessons he plans to apply next year.
“It was a good first year; I walked into a program that was good to be around,” said Capuano.
“It was a lot of learning. We lost eight games in a row and you learn something about yourself as a coach, figuring it out during the season. There are some things strategically that we are going to have to talk about and we are going to start working out and doing things earlier.”