June 29, 2016

Princeton Falls in District 12 Intermediate Tourney But Shows Competitive Fire, Promise for the Future

When the Princeton Little League (PLL) squad fell 6-3 to Millstone-Roosevelt last Saturday in the opening game of the double elimination competition between the teams for the District 12 Intermediate 50/70 title, Ed Kuczynski sensed that his players needed to loosen up.

“They were very nervous, they were very tight,” said PLL head coach Kuczynski, reflecting on the defeat. “They were afraid to hit the ball, they didn’t want to swing.”

To get the squad back in the groove, Kuczynski had his players get into the swing with some extra reps.

“Today we came out for about an hour and a half before the game, “ said Kuczynski. “It was strictly batting practice, we didn’t really care about the infield.”

That session paid immediate dividends as PLL scored three runs in the top of the first inning and later built its lead to 5-1 in the fourth inning on a two-run homer by Parker Mauer.

“Everybody from the first to the 12th guy was hitting the ball really, really hard,” said Kuczynski, reflecting on the early outburst.

Millstone-Roosevelt responded with some big hitting of its own, scoring four runs in the bottom of the fourth to tie the game at 5-5. PLL answered with two runs in the fifth to regain the lead and then built a 9-6 advantage with two more runs in the top of the sixth. Undeterred, Millstone-Roosevelt scored four runs in the bottom of the sixth to take a 10-9 lead going into the seventh and final inning.

Showing its character, PLL got even in the top of the seventh, pushing across a run to stay alive.

“It was just not giving up,” said Kuczynski, reflecting on the late rally. “Everybody was all excited, we tied it up.”

Millstone-Roosevelt, though, broke the tie minutes later in the bottom of the seventh as David Egbe blasted a walk-off homer over the left field fence to give it an 11-10 win and the District 12 title.

“We went out in the bottom of the seventh inning and got the first out on one pitch,” said Kuczynski. “We just got bad luck with a perfect pitch getting met by a perfect bat.”

Kuczynski felt lucky to get solid efforts across the board in the loss. His son, Bobby Kucyznski, was the starting pitcher and went 5 and 1/3 innings, striking out 9 and giving up 5 runs. He also went 3-for-5 at the plate, scoring one run. Aidan Regan went 3-for-5, scored 3 runs, had 2 RBIs and a double while Peter Hare went 3-for-3 with 2 runs scored and Maurer went 3-for-3 with 4 RBIs and that 2-run homer.

“There is nothing but positives to take,” said Kuczynski. “It is a young 11- and 12-year-old team so they are all going to come back next year, except for one 13-year-old. Hopefully, they will play baseball in the fall and the winter and develop a little bit better. A lot of the young players have never played District 12 ball or competitive ball before, it has always been Rec ball. I think this will give them experience coming back next year to do the best that they can.”

Guiding the team turned out to be a positive experience for Kuczynski, notwithstanding the heartbreaking loss.

“It was my first time managing a district team and it was a pleasure to work with everybody, in practices, games, whatever it was,” said Kuczynski. “I am looking forward to next year.”