March 30, 2016

Starting Home Slate by Sweeping Colgate, PU Softball Fired Up for Ivy League Play


FRESH APPROACH: Princeton University softball player Kaitlyn Waslawski lays down a bunt against Colgate last Saturday. Freshman outfielder Waslawski went 4-for-8 with two runs and an RBI as Princeton swept Colgate 7-4 and 9-6 in its first action at home this spring. The Tigers, now 5-17, play at Rider on March 30 before opening Ivy League play with home doubleheaders against Dartmouth on April 1 and Harvard on April 2. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

After going 3-17 as it started its 2016 campaign with trips to Texas, Virginia, and California, the Princeton University softball team was looking to make a statement as it hosted Colgate for a doubleheader last Saturday in its home opener.

“The talk before the game was that we have to learn how to play at home and we have to prove how we are going to play at home to set the tone today for the Ivy season,” said Princeton head coach Lisa Van Ackeren.

The Tigers didn’t waste any time setting a positive tone, scoring four runs in the bottom of the first inning of game one to take a 4-1 lead as freshman Kaylee Grant slammed a key two-run double. Building on that strong start, Princeton went on to a 7-4 victory.

With Grant going 2-for-4 with a run and three RBIs and classmate Kaitlyn Waslawski going 2-for-4 with a run and an RBI, Van Ackeren believes the newcomers could do some big things this spring.

“They are workhorses both of them; they were unsuccessful early in the year,” said Van Ackeren, whose starting lineup includes another freshman, third baseman Alex Viscusi.

“They had some things they were working through and they worked through them and it is great now because they stuck with it and it is starting to show up more consistently. We know what they are capable of and we are just starting to seeing a glimpse of that.”

Princeton gave a glimpse of its hitting prowess as it rolled to a 9-6 win in the nightcap, as a grand slam by sophomore shortstop Danielle Dockx in the third inning broke open the contest.

“It was exciting,” said Van Ackeren, referring to Dockx’s blast, which sailed well over the center field fence.

“I think we just needed to capitalize on some mistakes on the other side and make sure that we come up with big hits when they count and we did a good job of that today; that is what we have been parking towards. In California our focus was timely hitting and RBI situations, so we worked on that quite a bit this week and it showed up.”

Although the Tigers took their lumps in California, going 0-11 on the trip, Van Ackeren believes the experience will help her squad in the long run.

“It was a trip that was purposeful for the program’s sake; facing better teams is how you learn how to get better,” said Van Ackeren.

“I think Colgate gave us a good test today and it is nice to have a little bit of momentum at home close to the Ivy season.”

Princeton needs its pitching corps of sophomore Ashley La Guardia, senior Shanna Christian, junior Claire Klausner, junior Erica Nori, and freshman Riley Wilkinson to gain some momentum as the staff has an ERA of 4.42.

“We have five very capable pitchers and all of them are refining what they are doing, refining their craft,” said Van Ackeren, who got wins from Klausner and La Guardia in the sweep of Colgate.

“It was great today because Colgate did a great job of punishing our mistakes and that is what we need to learn to get better. We need to shore some things up and make some small adjustments. They are vary capable. We have had pitchers injured in the past so it is great to now have five. They are very different, they have different game plans. When they get in the circle, the matchups end up being kind of fun based on what we see from the hitters.”

It has been fun for Van Ackeren to see the team’s seniors shoulder more responsibility this spring.

“The senior class has done an amazing job with the leadership and the buying in,” asserted Van Ackeren, whose group of seniors includes Kate Miller, Emily Viggers, Kayla Bose, Danielle Allen, and Skye Jerpbak in addition to Christian.

“The support that they give to the freshman class is really important because some of them have taken on big goals and the senior class is at the heart of that. They have created this team and it is a group that has a really good work ethic, win or lose.”

In Van Ackeren’s view, Bose has been at the heart of things, hitting .318 with 8 RBIs.

“Bose is a senior captain, she is just a tough kid,” said Van Ackeren of Bose, who had 3 RBIs in the twinbill on Saturday.

“She has been through a lot in her career with three ACL tears and she has come back from all of them and has just stepped into a leadership role as a senior captain this year, not having had much time in years past. She has stepped into a three hole and just has quality at-bats really consistently.”

The Tigers are aiming for more consistency as they start Ivy play this weekend. “We are not going to look ahead to the whole 20-game schedule,” said Van Ackeren, whose team plays at Rider on March 30 before opening Ivy League play with home doubleheaders against Dartmouth on April 1 and Harvard on April 2.

“We are going to take it one pitch, one inning, one game at a time and if we do our job in each one of those, I think we will have success in the league.”