By STEPHEN WOOD
After a strong start followed by a shutout loss at Seton Hall on Wednesday, the baseball team will try to get back in the win column and keep pace with Gehrig Division rivals Penn and Cornell this weekend as it leaves the Orange Bubble for doubleheaders against Dartmouth and Harvard.
The Tigers (5-18 overall, 3-1 Ivy League) swept the Crimson (4-19, 1-3) last year and split a doubleheader with the Big Green (15-3, 2-2) last year at Clarke Field.
Princeton needs to get its bats going in order to stay competitive in the Ivy League. So far, the Tigers have relied heavily on the strength of their pitching, getting complete game wins from seniors Zak Hermans and Kevin Link as well as junior Mike Ford last weekend.
Performances like those have allowed them to win several tight, low-scoring games, including consecutive 3-1 decisions against Brown on Sunday, but higher-scoring games have not been as kind to them. A 9-1 loss to Yale, the Tigers’ only Ivy defeat of the young season, came after junior starter Mike Fagan struggled and the bullpen could not stop the bleeding. Freshman pitcher Cam Mingo, who allowed no earned runs in five innings in that game while his fellow hurlers struggled, will make his second collegiate start in the second game against Harvard. Head coach Scott Bradley said he is confident in the rookie, who has a 2.78 ERA and has logged the fourth-most innings of any pitcher on the team this season.
“He’s pitched very well,” Bradley said. “He’s a pretty cool customer.”
The Tigers will need a solid performance from Mingo, as they do not do well when their pitchers are not on. Princeton has not won a game in which its opponent has scored more than four runs this season.
So far, the hitters have had a little trouble stringing hits together.
“It’s all up to our hitters,” Bradley said. “A lot of times, these games come down not to how many hits you get but when you get them.”
The hits have been coming largely from the top of the lineup, where junior leadoff man Alec Keller and freshman second baseman Danny Hoy are leading the starters with .333 and .300 batting averages, respectively. Though Keller has been stellar and Hoy has been a pleasant surprise, many of the hitters who helped Princeton to its 13-7 Ivy record last year have yet to get it going.
They may have a good shot of doing so against Harvard. Bradley emphasized that ERAs are oftentimes inflated this time of year, but it is worth noting that the Crimson has the highest in the league and has allowed the most home runs so far. In contrast, Dartmouth has the league’s best ERA and boasts two starters, lefty Kyle Hunter and righty Cole Sulser, with sub-two ERAs.
“If they throw Sulser matched up with Hermans, it’ll be as good a pitching matchup as we’ve had in this league in a while,” Bradley said.
If Hermans and company continue to pitch like they have so far, the Tigers may only need to slip a few runs past pitchers like Hunter and Sulser, but they hope to do much more than that this weekend. Comfortable wins would bode well for the remainder of Ivy play, which will pit Princeton against its divisional opponents, all of whom have had good starts to their seasons. A good showing against Dartmouth would bode especially well, as Bradley and his players have indicated time and time again that the Tigers expect to meet the Big Green should they make it to the Ivy championship series.