April 14, 2021

Featuring a Stellar Contingent of 11 Juniors, PHS Baseball Looking to Wear Down Foes

SWING TIME: Princeton High baseball player Connor McDowell takes a cut last summer in the “Last Dance Word Series” statewide New Jersey high school baseball tournament. McDowell is part of a strong junior class that will be leading PHS this spring. The Tigers start their 2021 campaign by playing at Hopewell Valley on April 20. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

With the Princeton High baseball team featuring a stellar group of 11 juniors, Dom Capuano is primed to mix and match his players in order to grind out wins this spring.

“The pieces are there to be that grindy team that just works opponents to death,” said PHS head coach Capuano.

“I really think we can wear teams down offensively and defensively. It is just committing to it and understanding that we just need to be ourselves and play within ourselves. It is don’t get out of the comfort zone, don’t get too high, don’t get too low. Stay the course the entire game.”

A big piece on the mound for PHS this spring will be senior Tommy Delany.

“Tommy is going to pitch at Penn, we are going to rely on him a lot,” said Capuano.

“He is the hardest thrower on our team and he is in the upper tier of the CVC (Colonial Valley Conference) when it comes to velocity. He has got a good slider, a good changeup, and he understands pitching.”

The Tiger mound corps will also include junior Jaxon Petrone, junior Kenny Schiavone, sophomore Jon Tao, junior Palmer Maurer, junior Connor McDowell, junior James Petrone, and sophomore Wes Price.

“Tommy is going to be the ace and then after that we are going to figure out who is going to start week one,” said Capuano, whose team starts its 2021 campaign by playing at Hopewell Valley on April 20.

“It is going to be the hot hand until somebody rises to the occasion.”

Capuano is counting on junior Jensen Bergmen, senior Flynn Kinney, Schiavone, Jaxon Petrone, junior Carl Birge, Delany, junior Drew Petrone, and junior Aiden Castillo to spark the team’s batting attack.

“We are not the team that is going to hit six doubles in a game,” said Capuano.

“We are going to need to hit singles, get a timely double and then use our speed on the bases to steal, to hit and run, and to make things happen.”

Junior star Birge will be keying the defense from the vital catcher spot.

“For my money, Carl is the best defensive catcher in the CVC,” asserted Capuano.

“He can block everything, he has a great arm, and he knows what he is doing. He was our starting catcher as a freshman and even with no season last year, he is just so much more refined. He brings the sense of confidence that pitchers need. With his ability, they are going to be comfortable throwing to him. He can command the field and can see what is going on and tell everyone where to be. He has the intangibles on top of his physical abilities.”

Along the infield, Drew Petrone, Kinney, and Delany will rotate between second base, shortstop and third with Jaxon Petrone and Schiavone seeing time at first.

“They are interchangeable between all three positions,” said Capuano of Petrone, Kinney, and Delany.

“Then we have guys like Maurer and Peter Hare who can play third and maybe a little second.”

The outfield will feature Bergmen in center with Schiavone, Castillo, senior Andrew Lambert, James Petrone, Tao, and McDowell getting time in the corner spots.

In figuring out the defensive alignment, Capuano noted that batting production will play a key role in his decision process.

“From my perspective — and I always say this to kids — if you are hitting, you are going to find a spot in the field,” said Capuano.

“These people can all play the field. If one person is hitting, we are going to find him a spot.”

In Capuano’s view, the Tigers can play very well this spring if they keep the focus on just being themselves.

“I think the biggest key to success is understanding who we are; in baseball sometimes people don’t understand who they are,” said Capuano.

“We are not a team that is going to hit doubles off the fence, we are a team that is going to need to hit singles to certain spots. We are going to need to bunt, we are going to need to hit and run. We are going to need to do what we can do best. On the mound, outside of Tommy, nobody is really going to overpower anybody so we have got to understand who we are as pitchers. We need to move the ball in and out, we need to throw strikes, we need to force them to put the ball on play and trust our defense. If we can do that, I really think we can have some success.”