It started raining but that didn’t dampen Lily Halpern’s spirits as she was honored last week at her Senior Day celebration with the Princeton Day School softball team.
“I have seen so many Senior Days but I had never imagined what it would be like,” said first baseman Halpern, who was feted along with classmate Gabi Phillips in the festivities which took place before PDS faced Hightstown on May 8.
“As this year is coming to a close, it is unbelievable. It felt really awesome to be up there and to know that your teammates are really going to miss you and appreciate you. It was really nice.”
Halpern certainly appreciates the effort her teammates have put in as the Panthers have only had nine players on their roster.
“It has definitely been a tough season,” said Halpern. “I know that someone could have just said I am not going to do this anymore and quit and then we would not have had a team. People have really hung in there. I think for all the challenges we have faced, we have done a really good job of not giving up and not getting discouraged.”
In the game against Hightstown, the Panthers didn’t quit even though they absorbed a 19-0 loss.
“Throwing the ball is so difficult when it is wet, let alone pitching with it,” said Halpern.
“Despite a tough first inning, we really hung in there the next few innings. We could have gotten some more hits and capitalized on the bases but defense-wise we were better after the first inning.”
Despite being shorthanded, PDS has capitalized on occasion, topping Rutgers Prep twice and putting up some good fights in other games.
“Those two wins were definitely good,” said Halpern, who is headed to Brown University this fall.
“I think our game against Princeton High (a 17-8 loss on April 24) was actually pretty good, we hung in there. Even yesterday (against New Hope-Solebury), we kept battling back and maybe it should have been a win. It was down to the last run.”
PDS head coach Paul Lano praised the leadership Halpern and Phillips have provided in their final run with the team.
“They have supplied the absolute stoic maturity that is needed from seniors,” said Lano, who is in his first year guiding the Panther program.
“They are both very proud players and they exhibit all the things that you want from a mature player. You can’t always count on your oldest players to be the wisest. They can have a very jaded view of things and not want to help but Lily and Gabi have been extremely helpful working with the younger players. They have been very helpful working with me; it has been great having two young adults to lean on.”
The two seniors have put in some good work defensively this spring “They are both very good at their positions; in fact Gabi gets comments from every team we played about just how fast she is and how much ground she covers,” added Lano.
“She is a soccer player and she knows how to glide. Things went really well at first base for Lily. It was difficult for her to adjust catching the ball with one hand. She is such a good student of the game; she knows that two hands is the priority. As a first baseman, you need to stretch; that was a battle for her. She does a fine job over there.”
In Lano’s view, the Panthers are positioned to produce some fine play over the next few seasons.
“We are excited about the potential future of this program and the team,” asserted Lano, whose squad is 2-8 and was slated to finish their season with a game against Pennington on May 15.
“We have budding players in all the right spots. Our left side of our infield [shortstop Tess Zahn and third baseman Kate Fleming] is going to be solid. Our battery [of pitcher Dina Alter and catcher Jess Toltzis] is solid as can be. We are growing in the right direction; we are learning the game together. We have some people in positions that we have left to train. It shouldn’t be a problem to be very competitive in the next two years to come.”
The combination of sophomores Alter and Toltzis gives PDS a solid foundation upon which to grow.
“Next year will be their third year in a row with each other and they’ll know everything they need to know about each other,” said Lano.
“They have the right demeanor. Dina is very stealthy; she is a quiet player. She takes instruction very, very well. Kiki [assistant coach Kiki Johnson] has had Dina on a very short lease and she operates very well under it. She doesn’t mind being led in the right direction. With Jess behind the plate, everything is under control.”
Halpern, for her part, leaves with special memories of her final year with the program.
“I think our spirit has been really amazing so that is something I will remember,” said Halpern, who played as a freshman and sophomore but took a hiatus from the team during her junior year to concentrate on the college application process.
“It has been fun to come back. I am glad we were able to have a team. I don’t know when I will get to play again so it has really been fun to have this opportunity.”