Friday, September 5, 2008

2003 and 2004 Baseball Regionals Where are They Now?

The 2003 and 2004 Princeton baseball teams were among the best teams the school has seen in the sport. With Will Venable’s recent call-up to the Majors, three players from those two teams have appeared in the Major Leagues. Ross Ohlendorf has pitched parts of two seasons with the Yankees and Pirates. Venable now has a week under his belt as an outfielder for the Padres and although he has yet to appear in a Major League game, Tim Lahey made the Phillies out of Spring Training and spent a week on the roster before being sent down to the Minors.

In both 2003 and 2004, Princeton won the Ivy League and went to the NCAA regionals. In 2003 the Tigers went to Auburn in a regional that included Princeton, Auburn, Clemson and Ohio State. A year later Princeton was grouped with Virginia, Vanderbilt and George Mason in a quartet dubbed the ‘SAT Regional.’

Looking back it is interesting to see what has become of some of the stars of those teams.

In 2003, Princeton played Auburn in the opening game and suffered a 5-2 loss as the Auburn pitching duo of Levale Speigner and Steven Register stymied the Tigers. Five years later, both are pitching at the Major League level. Speigner has pitched parts of two seasons in Washington and Register debuted this season in Colorado. Tug Hulett batted third for Auburn that day and went 2 for 4 with an RBI. Today, Hulett is a second baseman in Seattle. Lahey went 2 for 4 in the game for Princeton.

A day later, the Tigers fell to Clemson 7-6 in 10 innings. Ohlendorf pitched six innings, allowing three runs and fanning eight, while Lahey knocked two more hits and was named to the All-Regional team. No one from the Clemson team Princeton faced has made it to the Major Leagues.

In 2004, the Tigers made a splash by knocking off top-seeded Virginia 4-2 in the opening game. Ohlendorf was dominant in 8.2 innings allowing just two runs and striking out six, while Lahey had two hits and scored a run. The lineup Ohlendorf faced featured Mark Reynolds leading off, Ryan Zimmerman batting third and Joe Koshansky in the clean-up spot. Reynolds, the everyday third baseman in Arizona now was 0 for 5, Zimmerman, the third baseman in Washington, went 1 for 3 with a run scored, and Koshansky, a first baseman in Colorado, was 0 for 4. Venable went 0 for 2 in the game.

Princeton faced Vanderbilt the next day and lost 11-1 and avoided Jeremy Sowers and Jensen Lewis, both of whom know pitch for the Cleveland Indians. The Tigers faced Virginia once more in the regional and lost 9-0. Reynolds was 0 for 3, Zimmerman was 3 for 5 and Koshansky was 1 for 5. Venable picked up a hit in the game and the Princeton starter that day, Erik Stiller, whose best NCAA start would come two years later against Oklahoma State, allowed six runs in four innings. Stiller may well be the next Tiger call-up to the Big Leagues next season after an excellent season in AA this year.

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