Even though the Princeton High softball team had never won a game in state tournament competition, the squad was not intimidated when it played at Nottingham last week in the opening round of the Central Jersey Group 3 tourney.
“We had no lack of confidence coming into that game,” said PHS first-year head coach Dave Boehm, reflecting on the matchup between his 11th seeded Little Tigers and the sixth-seeded Northstars.
“We had played two close games with them. We lost in the top of the seventh and bottom of the seventh.”
While PHS got off to a rough start in the contest, falling behind 4-0 after two innings, the squad didn’t fold. The Little Tigers rallied for a run in the top of the fifth on an RBI single from senior Hannah Zink but couldn’t tally after that on the way to a 4-1 defeat
“We knew they had a good pitcher who was going to be tough,” said Boehm, whose team ended the spring at 9-14, tying a program record for single-season wins.
“We gave up four runs in the first two innings and no more after that. They had five hits; we had two.”
The Little Tigers showed toughness this spring in making some key breakthroughs as they won an in-season tourney and edged Lawrence High 3-2 in extra innings in the first round of the Mercer County Tournament.
“We won the Teaneck tournament, we had lost there the last three years,” said Boehm, whose team beat Ridgefield 8-4 and Teaneck 15-3 on the way to the title of the Teaneck Highwaywoman Tournament.
“We took the next step in MCT; that was our first county win in recent memory. That team had beaten us 13-0 last year and really pounded us. I think they came in there thinking they were going to roll us over. We stepped up; it was an exciting game.”
Junior star outfielder Marisa Gonzalez stepped up this spring, moving to the No. 3 spot in the PHS batting order and responding by hitting over .500.
“Marisa had 38 hits and 42 RBIs; she was the most important part of our team,” asserted Boehm, noting that Gonzalez will be playing high-level travel ball over the summer. “She has 112 hits going into senior year; she has a good chance at getting 150.”
The team’s senior trio of Louise Eisenach, Hannah Zink, and Angela Matchum made a good contribution.
“They took more of a leadership role,” said Boehm. “Louise came into her own; she really stepped up as a leader. Zink was steady at first base and a good influence on the younger players. Matchum played a nice right field for us.”
PHS has some nice pieces in place with the freshman pitcher Sarah Eisenach, junior third baseman Hannah Gutierrez, junior catcher Maddie Cahill-Sanidas, and junior outfielder Helen Eisenach.
“Sarah pitched two-thirds of our games and I batted her fourth a lot,” said Boehm.
“She will throw the ball harder. I think she will hit with more power in the future, she just needs to shorten her stroke. All of them (Gutierrez, Cahill-Sanidas, and Helen Eisenach) are solid players. We will have three good arms and good players in outfield with Gonzalez, Helen, and Charlotte Gray.”
In order to become even more competitive, PHS needs to play harder on a constant basis.
“We need to play a full seven innings,” said Boehm. “There were games where we got behind and chipped away and then there were games where we lost leads. We hung tough.”
For Boehm, taking the helm of the program after serving as an assistant coach the last four seasons was not a tough transition.
“I enjoyed it; I knew that I didn’t have a team that was going to rip the cover off so I knew we had to play some hit and run, bunt, and steal bases,” said Boehm.
“Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t but it was fun. It was a good group of girls; they responded well. They had fun, even in practice. There was a good chemistry. The seniors and juniors were helping the younger players.”