April 5, 2017

Opening Its Ivy League Campaign With a Bang, PU Softball Sweeps Twinbills From Brown, Yale

OPENING STATEMENT: Princeton University softball player Marissa Reynolds takes a big cut in action last weekend. Senior star Reynolds helped the Tigers start their Ivy League campaign with a bang, as Princeton swept a doubleheader from Brown on Saturday, winning 4-3 and 10-0, and then took two from Yale a day later, prevailing 9-1 and 2-0. The Tigers, now 11-11 overall and 4-0 Ivy, have doubleheaders at Harvard on April 7 and at Dartmouth on April 8. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Hosting Brown in the opening doubleheader of its Ivy League campaign, the Princeton University softball team didn’t waste any time showing it means business in the pursuit of a second straight league crown. 

In game one against the Bears last Saturday, the Tigers scored three runs in the first inning and added another in the second to take a 4-0 lead on the way to a 4-3 victory.

“The top of our lineup has done a really good job all year,” said Van Ackeren.

“We have scored much more this year in the first innings than we have ever. It is a good tone setter. They understand what their training up until this point is for. Especially when we open at home, it is always a really special weekend for them and they were fired up.”

The Tigers went on to enjoy a big weekend, cruising to a 10-0 win over Brown in five innings in the nightcap and then sweeping Yale a day later, topping the Bulldogs 9-1 in five innings and 2-0.

The freshman tandem of Megan Donahey (.400 batting average with a team-high 28 hits) in the leadoff spot and Allison Harvey (.359 with two homers and 15 RBIs) hitting third has helped jump start the Princeton batting attack.

“Their composure is way beyond their years; they will make adjustments, both within at bats and at-bat to at-bat,” said Van Ackeren.

“It is really difficult to get them out three times in a game. They make it tough, they put a lot of pressure on defense in different ways.”

Sophomore Kaylee Grant’s mental toughness and production has been big assets for the Tigers.

“Kaylee’s mindset is really what makes her; she stepped up freshman year with a wise-beyond-her-years approach and has built on that,” said Van Ackeren of Grant, who is batting .352 with one homer and 15 RBIs.

“She has suffered through a couple of injuries in her career. She is just mentally very tough. She refuses to get down for long periods of time. She understands what is going make her successful and she buys in. She has done a really good job.”

The emergence of senior Marissa Reynolds (.489, four homers, 13 RBIs) into a slugger this spring has been a big factor in Princeton’s success.

“Marissa is a really special kid; she has always had the ability,” said Van Ackeren.

“She is just obsessed with the process and with doing the little things right and maximizing her practices every day. She treats her practices the same as she treats game day, there is not a difference in the attention to detail that she gives everything. As a senior captain that is who you want doing well in this moment. She does such a good job in every aspect and leads incredibly well for the rest of the team. We are lucky to have her.”

Van Ackeren knows she is lucky to have a pair of senior mound aces in Erica Nori (5-1 record, 2.70 ERA, and a no-hitter) and Claire Klausner (5-3, 4.28 ERA).

“Erica and Claire have just grown every year at Princeton this year, especially coming back and coming into their senior year,” said Van Ackeren, who got a two hitter from Klausner in the win over Yale in the opener with Nori hurling a two-hitter in the nightcap.

“They have a renewed purpose, a great attitude, and a great approach. They have put in a ton of work this year. The results are because of their training and because they are really committed to doing whatever it takes for the team. Their team needed two pitchers that can go seven innings for the Ivy season and they understand that and that is what they are willing to sell out to.”

Getting the Ivy season off to a 4-0 start was a great result for the Tigers.

“They were pumped to sweep; we haven’t done that against Yale and Brown in the careers of the girls on the team,” said Van Ackeren.

“They haven’t been able to do that so that is a big step in their minds, small goals toward a much larger one.”

Princeton will be looking to take more steps forward this weekend as it heads to New England for doubleheaders at Harvard on April 7 and at Dartmouth on April 8.

“The Harvard/Dartmouth weekend is big; it is always circled on our calendar,” said Van Ackeren, noting that the Harvard twinbill will be televised on ESPN3.

“We are returning to the site of our championship series when we play at Harvard so our upperclassmen can’t wait to go. They are pumped to make some noise against Dartmouth; the girls on the team haven’t done that yet.”