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(Photo by Bill Allen/NJ SportAction)

THE BEGINNING OF SOMETHING: Princeton High senior star Rob Begin uncorks a fastball in action earlier this month. Last Thursday against Pennington, Begin went 2-for-3 with four RBIs and three runs scored but it wasn't enough as PHS fell 13-12. The Little Tigers will look to get on the winning track as they host New Egypt on April 20 and Princeton Day School on April 22.

PHS Baseball Shows Battling Spirit As It Looks to Get Competitive

By Bill Alden

It would have been easy for the Princeton High baseball team to go through the motions last Thursday after it fell behind 4-0 at once-beaten Pennington School.

Instead, PHS put up five runs in the top of the third inning, jump-started by senior Robbie Begin's two-run blast over the left field fence. The Little Tigers fell behind 6-5 in the bottom of the third only to respond with two in the top of the fourth.

By the top of the sixth, Pennington appeared to have the game in hand as they took an 11-7 lead into that frame. But with Begin providing another big hit with a two-run double, PHS clawed back to tie the score at 11-11.

Pennington responded by scoring two runs in the bottom of the sixth and seemed to finally have the upper hand as the game headed into the final inning. PHS, though, still had plenty of fight as it pushed across one run and then had two runners on before Pennington got the final out to escape with a 13-12 win.

In reflecting on his team's effort in the two hour-45 minute marathon that saw four lead changes, PHS head coach John Miranda saluted his club's fighting spirit.

"They have a great attitude," asserted a weary Miranda, managing a smile. "We try to teach them that aggressiveness, that competitive nature. That was the good thing about today."

Two days before its battle with Pennington, PHS had given a glimpse of its skill and mettle as senior ace Jake Horan pitched a four-hitter and struck out eight as the Little Tigers posted a 4-2 win over longtime nemesis WW/P-S. That victory moved PHS to 2-3, thereby matching the program's 2004 win total for the whole season.

In Miranda's view, it is veteran leadership that has produced the club's never-say-die mindset. "Our seniors have done a nice job this year," said Miranda, whose other seniors include Jon Lauri, Jamie Marino, Paul Estrada, and Anthony Feo in addition to Begin and Horan.

"We have a core of seniors surrounded by sophomores. The seniors have stepped up their game, they are so much more competitive."

One of PHS' most competitive seniors is the speedy Begin, who went 2-for-3 with four RBIs and three runs scored in the Pennington game.

"Robbie has had a fantastic season for us," asserted Miranda. "He's set the table for us; he's been our leader offensively so far. It's his fourth year with the program and he sees that we might have a halfway team. He wants to be part of that."

With PHS at 2-5 after losing 15-1 to Hamilton last Monday, Miranda acknowledges that the squad needs to focus on fundamentals. "We're a little bit off in our pitching and fielding," added Miranda. "We have to tighten those things up a little bit."

Still, the offensive production and resilience demonstrated by his team in defeat against Pennington bodes well for the rest of the season.

"This is a good team, they've been hitting the ball well all year," said Miranda, whose club will look to get on the winning track as it hosts New Egypt on April 20 and Princeton Day School on April 22. "This was a good game against a good team. They battled back; they didn't give up. That is the type of spirit you want."

If the Little Tigers can keep showing that kind of spirit, they will produce plenty of good games over the rest of the spring.

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