Tuesday, March 31, 2009

By the Slimmest of Margins...

The Princeton softball team stands at 7-11 overall and 2-2 in the Ivy after its first weekend of Ivy League play. While the 7-11 partially represents the Tigers annually getting off to a late start compared to most other teams and challenging themselves by playing schools from warmer climes with much more outdoor practice, standing at 2-2 after splitting doubleheaders with Yale and Brown isn't where the Tigers wanted to be.

Princeton hadn't lost a game to Yale since 2004 and Brown since 2001, teams Princeton has two games against annually. Both came by one run, a theme that has befallen the Tigers all too often this season.

Of the last 16 Princeton softball games, 11 have been decided by a single run. Seven of those games have gone against the Tigers. That's one more hit with runners in scoring position, a ball dropping for a double instead of a single, any number of mini-situations that could have tipped it another way.

There are only a few Princeton teams that know first-hand about having had so many nailbiters in 2008-09. Logically, the soccer teams know about sweating it out; the men's team had 11 of its 17 games (65%) decided by one goal or end in a tie, while the women's team had 13 of 17 decided by one goal or end all square (76%). The hockey teams were up there in total number of one-goal games and ties, with the men having 12 such games (of 35) and the women also 12 (of 31), but that's out of a much greater number of games.

While soccer has long had the criticism that it doesn't have enough offense to keep fans who are used to 100-point basketball and 35-point football games interested, the same kinds of things have been long held about softball. It's all about the pitchers and small-ball, and most of the games end up 1-0 because there's hardly any offense.

Not true.

Last season, softball had 12 one-run games out of 49. At no time in the history of Princeton varsity softball, which began play in 1982, have the Tigers had more than nine one-run games in their first 18 (For completeness' sake, those seasons were in 2000, 1998 and 1992). No preponderance of 1-0 games around here.

The Tigers will return to play Wednesday at Class of 1895 Field for a 4:30 single game against Hofstra, which, for the record, has had six one-run games through 24 this season.

The 2-2 Ivy start can be made up. The 20-game league schedule accounts for that, and Princeton won't necessarily need any help as long as it keeps on winning. Cornell stands at 2-0 with two make-up games later today against Yale, while Penn and Columbia are both 1-3 in the Ivy South. Princeton will have two more each against Harvard and Dartmouth next weekend up in New England, along with four more each at Penn, versus Columbia, and home-and-home against Cornell. There's a long way to go.

Speaking of make-up games, Princeton has none this week. A big note of recognition goes out to the grounds crew, headed for softball by Garfield Brown, who worked early and tirelessly to ready the field after overnight rain for Sunday's doubleheader against Brown (and after overnight rain before Saturday's DH against Yale too). Princeton played Sunday, but the three other sites, to the south and the north, had their games washed out. Good job, Garfield.

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