With Freshman Pitcher Pilicer Making a Big Difference, PHS Softball Laying the Foundation for Future Success
IN RHYTHM: Princeton High softball pitcher Erin Pilicer fires a pitch in a game earlier this spring. Last Wednesday, freshman Pilicer fired a five-hit shutout to help 12th-seeded PHS defeated 13th-seeded Princeton Day School 9-0 in the quarterfinals of the Mercer County Invitational, the ‘B’ bracket of the Mercer County Tournament. The Tigers went on to fall 4-0 to ninth-seeded Hamilton/Nottingham in the MCI semis on Saturday. PHS, now 5-12, plays at Rutgers Prep on May 17. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
By Bill Alden
While the Princeton High softball team has gone through some ups and downs this spring as it has worked a number of young players into the lineup, Erin Pilicer has been a constant.
Freshman Pilicer has pitched every inning for PHS in her debut campaign, enduring some lopsided defeats along with hurling some mound gems.
As the Tigers lost eight of its first nine games, Pilicer kept her perspective, focusing on the long-term.
“Sometimes it is hard but I have to remember that there is going to be more games in the future when I am older,” said Pilicer. “I am just a freshman.”
Last Wednesday, Pilicer produced one of her best games of the spring, pitching a five-hit shutout in a 9-0 win over Princeton Day School in the quarterfinals of the Mercer County Invitational, the B bracket of the Mercer County Tournament.
“I was thinking curve most of the time, they had a few lefties so I threw my screw,” said Pilicer. “I was just trying to get strikes across the plate. My curve was working really well. It was really nice.”
As Pilicer has moved up to the high school level this season and dealt with taking on older players, she has relied on PHS senior catcher Clare Johnson and some of the squad’s other veterans in making that transition.
“Facing seniors has been really hard but I feel like my teammates have helped me out a lot,” said Pilicer. “Clare is amazing, she is the best catcher I have ever had. I have learned a lot from our seniors and playing the other seniors.”
Pilicer has developed more variety in her pitching repertoire through the spring.
“I started pitching two or three years ago and more competitively about a year ago,” said Pilicer, who plays club softball for the Montgomery Mavericks. “I have fewer fastballs and more curves, my movement has been getting so much better.”
PHS head coach Marissa Soprano credits Pilicer with making a big difference for the Tigers against PDS and over the spring.
“Erin was really good, even as a freshman he has been able to handle the varsity level and adapt quickly,” said Soprano. “She has been really good working with Clare and hitting her spots.”
Soprano has been impressed by the character displayed by Pilicer as she has put in yeoman’s work to always be there for the Tigers.
“She has pitched every inning, she is so calm and cool on the mound which I really appreciate,” added Soprano. “She is able to handle every pitch and she never wants to come out either. One time she got a hit ball to the shin and said, ‘No I am staying in. I am good, I am going to stay here.’ She is really determined to do well.”
The team’s batters also did well against the Panthers, pounding out 12 hits, tallying four runs in both the fourth and sixth innings.
“They did a nice job, we were just telling them to watch the low strikes because he was calling that today and go up there and be aggressive,” said Soprano. “They were able to get some timely hits. We don’t have a fence so we took advantage of that.”
Freshman Natalie Hester helped power the Tiger attack with a pair of triples.
“First of all her speed is a tremendous asset, it puts pressure on the defense to make the plays,” said Soprano. “She can also hit for power. She has been great.”
Juniors Maddie Castillo and Yeahna Lee came up big in the win as Castillo had a single and Lee contributed two hits, including a homer.
“Maddie was one of key pieces last year and she remains that for us this year,” said Soprano. “She is also really good on the base paths, she knows what is going on when she is on. We love having her steal and just be aggressive. Lee is new to the district this year and has been great, she is solid in the outfield and is really finding her swing.”
Getting a win in the MCI was a confidence builder for the Tigers.
“The last couple of years we have been at the bottom rank-wise in the Mercer County Tournament so that puts you at the top seeds which can be a little tough,” said Soprano, whose team fell 4-0 at Hamilton/Nottingham in the MCI semis last Saturday in moving to 5-12 and will play at Rutgers Prep on May 17 in a regular season contest.
“This was nice for us to be on our home field for the first game and be able to move on to the next step. We are just hoping to build on the experience and get them more innings.”
Looking ahead, Soprano believes the Tigers are building something special.
“We have a really solid freshman class, it was an adjustment in the early going,” said Soprano. “We played some tough teams and it was also just getting them used to the varsity level. Now they are starting how to find out how to work together and be better on their relays and their communication. We are just talking to them to make sure that everything we have done in practice then translates to the game.”
Pilicer, for her part, is confident that PHS can be a solid team going forward.
“Everyone is jelling really well together,” said Pilicer. “We are starting to hit and we are starting to field really well, so I think the next four years are going to be really good.”