May 24, 2017

Princeton Softball Eliminated in NCAA Regional, Competing Hard but Not Satisfied With Performance

STANDING TALL: Princeton University softball player Keeley Walsh throws the ball in recent action. Last Saturday, Walsh delivered a two-run single in a losing cause as Princeton fell 10-2 to Jacksonville State in an elimination game at the Tallahassee, Fla. regional of the NCAA tournament. The defeat left the Tigers with a final record of 25-20. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

As it competed in the Tallahassee, Fla. regional of the NCAA tournament last weekend, the Princeton University softball team was looking to make a statement.

“When we win the Ivy League, we get to represent not just Princeton but the whole league,” said Princeton head coach Lisa Van Ackeren.

“We have a really competitive league that doesn’t get a ton of exposure across the country so it is a real opportunity to show what our league is made of. The goal is to play your best and not to play scared.”

Facing host No. 4 Florida State in its opening game on Friday, Princeton showed no fear as it loaded the bases in the top of the first inning. The Tigers were unable to capitalize, however, as FSU’s Jessica Burroughs, the ACC Pitcher of the Year, got a strikeout to end the rally.

The Tigers never really threatened again as they fell 3-0 to the Seminoles, managing just one hit in the evening.

“You are not going to get a lot of opportunities against a pitcher like Jessica Burroughs, it was a tough one to not get a run across in the first inning,” said Van Ackeren.

Princeton senior star pitcher Claire Klausner, the Ivy Pitcher of the Year, showed her toughness, going six innings and surrendering three earned runs on eight hits with a strikeout and three walks.

“Claire was absolutely phenomenal, holding that team to three runs,” said Van Ackeren.

“People don’t do that against Florida State. She was super tough. Thankfully she kept us in the game all the way up until the end. That first inning was really our best opportunity to score.”

A day later, the Tigers faced Jacksonville State and dug an early 6-0 hole on the way to a 10-2 defeat in six innings.

“We wanted to compete well and to win,” said Van Ackeren, reflecting on the defeat which left Princeton with a 25-20 record.

“We felt like Erica [Nori] was going to be our best option there. We were playing to win. Erica didn’t have her best day and unfortunately we didn’t play to our full potential.”

Princeton showed some fight in the top of the sixth as sophomore catcher Keeley Walsh lined a single to drive in two runs and cut the deficit to 6-2.

“Keeley coming up with a big hit to score a couple of runs kept us in it but we just didn’t have it,” said Van Ackeren.

“It was too little, too late. We missed some opportunities and we failed to make an adjustment against their pitcher [Whitney Gillespie], who has also done a great job. They have 40 wins on the year so they are doing something right.”

While the year ended in disappointment for the Tigers, Van Ackeren credits her group of seniors, Haley Hineman, Kelsey Smith, Marissa Reynolds, Nori, and Klausner, with making a great impact on the program over the last four years.

“Each individual that comes through the program has an opportunity to leave a legacy,” said Van Ackeren.

“This class has left a big one. The team has changed a lot in their four years and they recognize that. We had our banquet a couple of weeks ago and each of them spoke about how different the team dynamic is now than it was when they arrived as freshmen and how much more competitive everyone is. When they step on the field, they expect to win and that wasn’t the case when they came in their freshman year so they are proud of that.”

Van Ackeren is expecting her returning players to show that same competitive fire next year.

“I think for the underclassmen, they feel like we have unfinished business now, to win a game, and compete to the best of our ability,” said Van Ackeren.

“A lot of them will feel unsatisfied, particularly with our game two effort. I am thankful for that because that can be very motivating.”