Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Dr. K

Erin Snyder's last collegiate pitch came on May 20, 2006 at Louisiana State's Tiger Park (not to be confused with the other "tiger park," Class of 1895 Field), closing a career that saw Snyder win two Ivy League Pitcher of the Year awards (2005, 2006), the 2003 Ivy League Rookie of the Year award, three first-team All-Ivy honors and three NCAA tournament berths.

She may never have been more dominant than on the weekend of April 9-10, 2006. That Saturday, she threw a five-inning perfect game while the offense obliterated Yale, 16-0. Snyder got 11 of 15 possible outs via the strikeout, a number that was probably obscured by the 11 runs Princeton's bats put up in just the second inning. The top eight batters in the Princeton lineup each had at least two hits. Clearly, the day belonged to the offense.

Yale's softball sports information director, Tim Bennett, said to TigerBlog that day, "Good luck in the tournament." There were still 10 of 14 Ivy League games left to go.

But Snyder had more the next day, and her efforts are still recognized in the NCAA record book.

The first three Brown batters came up, and all three went down via the K. In the top of the second, same story. In the third, three more Ks. Nine outs, nine Ks.

The bid for 21 Ks ended there, with the first out of the fourth inning ending up in Brianna Moreno's glove in left field. Snyder quickly got back on track, and the next eight outs were Ks.

Entering the last inning, Snyder had 17 strikeouts. TigerBlog remembers joking about how Roger Clemens and Randy Johnson were still in reach with the Major League Baseball record of 20 strikeouts in a game. Of course, they had nine innings to do it.

The first batter of the seventh inning popped up to Cristina Cobb-Adams at shortstop, but the next two were punchouts. The result comes out every year in the record book:

Strikeouts in a Seven-Inning Game
19, Erin Snyder, Princeton vs. Brown, April 10, 2006

That's not the all-time NCAA record, but it's pretty close. Michele Granger from Cal, who went on to pitch Team USA to a gold medal in the 1996 Olympics, got all 21 Creighton Blue Jays swinging in a game in 1991, and all-time NCAA career strikeout leader Monica Abbott from Tennessee, an Olympian in 2008, fanned 20 Liberty batters in 2004. But then there's Snyder, along with Abbott, Angela Tincher from Virginia Tech and Abbott's understudy, Megan Rhodes from Tennessee, with 19 Ks in a game. Tincher pitched in the Women's College World Series, like Abbott's Tennessee team, and also no-hit the U.S. Olympic softball team in an exhibition game. Not bad company.

Yale and Brown haven't been to '95 Field since that weekend. The next year was Princeton's regular return visit to the two schools, and in 2008, the Ivy League opted to make the softball schedule identical to baseball, sending Princeton to Connecticut and Rhode Island again.

There will be no Erin Snyder for Yale and Brown to face this weekend, but the Bulldogs and Bears will have to contend with Michelle Tolfa, who did a remarkable job against No. 4 Stanford last weekend, and a Princeton offense that leads the Ivy League with a .291 average.

Let the Ivy League season begin.


Anonymous said...

I just took a look at the roster of the softball team. Somewhat surprisingly, there are only thirteen players on the roster.

I must confess that I don't even know how many players are on the field at once. Is it nine or ten? Either way, having a grand total of thirteen players seems to leave very little room for pinch hitters, pinch runners, relief pitchers, injuries, unavoidable academic commitments, etc.

Congratulations to the softball team for doing so well over the years with such a small roster. Do other Ivy teams carry so few players?

Anonymous said...

Princeton's roster is small on a national level and is tied with Columbia for the smallest in the Ivy League. Cornell has the largest roster at 23 players, by comparison. Having fewer bodies on the bench didn't hurt the Tigers last season, however, as Princeton won the Ivy with 13 players.

There are nine players on the field at a time, just like baseball, and there is also a "DH" of sorts, called a designated player. The main difference is that the DP sometimes hits for someone other than the pitcher. For example, Princeton's Michelle Tolfa does not hit, but Jamie Lettire hits always and plays first base when not pitching. The substitution rules are more liberal than baseball as a player can return once when subbed out.

Anonymous said...

Additionally, the softball team can have 13 players because there aren't as many relief pitchers needed. For example, Michelle Tolfa threw in seven of the eight games on the spring trip. The windmill arm motion is not as taxing on the arm/shoulder as the overhand baseball motion, and pitching substitutions are less common than in baseball. A player can be put back into the game once if pulled out for a pinch runner (or pinch hitter), so the bench doesn't have to be as deep. As for injuries, the Tigers have been pretty lucky (knock on wood), but having a small roster does leave less room for replacements if someone does get hurt.