PHS Softball Battled Hard in State Tourney Loss In What Ended Up as Coach Boehm’s Swan Song
FOLLOWING THROUGH: Princeton High softball player Natalie Campisi finishes a swing in a game this spring. Senior center fielder Campisi gave the Little Tigers speed and production at the top of the lineup. PHS ended the season at 9-14, advancing to the Mercer County Tournament quarterfinals and making the state tourney in what turned out to be the final season for head coach Dave Boehm, who is stepping down from the program. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
Playing at Monroe in the opening round of the Central Jersey Group 4 sectional, the Princeton High softball team got off to a rough start, falling behind 3-0 in the first inning.
But with junior star Kayla Volante mowing down the Monroe hitters and going 3-for-4 at the plate, PHS fought its way back into the contest.
With Nancy Gray and Bianca Guidi delivering RBI hits, the 11th-seeded Little Tigers narrowed the gap to 3-2 against sixth-seeded Monroe. But with seventh inning rally fizzling, PHS ended up falling by that margin.
In the view of PHS head coach Dave Boehm, the tough loss served as a microcosm of a spring of near misses for the Little Tigers as they posted a record of 9-14.
“We gave away a couple of runs and we held them after that but we didn’t have enough clutch hits; we had some situations where we could have gotten runners in,” said Boehm.
“Unfortunately this has almost been the theme of the season. We don’t have the big hits, we pitch pretty well, we play defense pretty well. We gave them the two early runs and we end up losing the game. Volante pitched a hell of a game.”
In Boehm’s view, PHS had the potential for a better season. “It is pretty disappointing; I thought we could have gotten double digit wins,” said Boehm, whose team did post the program’s first two wins over WW/P-S, including a 6-0 win over the Pirates in the opening round of the Mercer County Tournament.
“We had some nice wins, beating South was nice. We always try to beat somebody we haven’t beaten in the program and beating them twice was big.”
PHS got big years from its senior class, which included Kelli Swedish (.367 batting average in 2016 with 17 runs and 16 runs scored), Emily DiLella (.254, 7 RBIs), Stephanie Wu (.356, 10 runs, 7 RBIs), Genna Garlock (.292, 5 runs, 9 RBIs), and Natalie Campisi (.289, 15 runs, 10 RBIs).
“I can’t say enough about Kelli Swedish, she is the type of kid if you want a captain, that is who you get,” said Boehm.”
“She really did a good job. Emily kept them in there and was pretty inspirational to some of the players. She was a help in that way. Wu was an enigma at times but overall she hit pretty well. Garlock played a steady outfield for us, she had some big hits. Campisi was in center field all season and was at the top of the lineup. She had some really nice bunt hits, which was valuable.
As it turns out, Boehm is leaving along with the seniors, having decided to step down from his post after five seasons at the helm.
“It is one of those things, you really don’t have a feeder program and you are up against odds going into some of these games; you are facing teams that have six, seven, eight, nine travel league players and you are sitting there with two,” said Boehm, who was an assistant coach at PHS for three seasons before taking the head coach job.
“You are behind the eight ball right off the bat. If you come close to some of these teams you are lucky. You don’t get victories by coming close. As much as you might want them to be moral victories, they are not, they are still a loss. Yes you scared them but you didn’t win, you have got to scare them by beating them and knowing that you can beat them.”
As Boehm reflected on his tenure, he is proud of some of the breakthroughs that PHS achieved over the last five years.
“Probably winning the first county game against Lawrence (3-2 in 2012) that anybody can remember and I think it was the first one in history that we won,” said Boehm, when asked about to list the highlights of his time guiding the Little Tigers.
“That was a team that steamrolled us the first time we played them and then they came to our place and it went extra innings. We were 11-12 the next season, that was the high in wins.”
Another highlight for Boehm was the relationships that he developed along the way.
“I am going to miss some of the players that I have had, some of the ones that come along the way but time moves on,” said Boehm.
“You miss them; sometimes you will see them when they come back. I have gotten some emails from former players; it is nice to get those things. I also got some emails from the parents.”
Boehm will also miss matching wits on the diamond with his counterparts from opposing teams.
“I like competing against some of the other coaches, like Jean Ruppert from Steinert and Arty Kearns from Notre Dame,” said Boehm, adding that he would consider joining another program as an assistant coach.
“Those are teams that come out and you know they are a more talented team than you are before you even get on the field.When you can stay close to them, it makes you feel good. You know what their characteristics are as far as what they are going to call and what they are going to put in play and it’s a cat and mouse game. I like the strategy part of the game.”