Monday, May 16, 2016

And Open Rowing And Baseball Make 14, Or 19, Or 21

If you thought the five straight walks Saturday made for a different kind of rally, that was nothing compared to what was to come.

The five straight walks came in Game 1 of the Ivy League baseball championship series. They were long forgotten by the bottom of the ninth of Game 3, when Princeton, shut out through eight innings, trailed by a run and were desperate for a baserunner.

That came in the form of a lead-off single.

And that was followed by:

* wild pitch
* walk
* hit batter
* hit batter
* strikeout
* wild pitch

Added all up, and it made it 2-1 Princeton, final. And that made Princeton the 2016 Ivy League champion.

The baseball title was the 14th of the year and the second yesterday. The 13th came from the women's open rowing team.

Princeton shocked top-ranked Brown to win the Ivy League women's open championship. The weather forced the schedule and location to be changed, to really, really early yesterday, with a 6 a.m. start.

You want to read a good story about it? Here is Craig Sachson's first two paragraphs from

They moved the Ivy League Championships from Mercer Lake to Lake Carnegie. They moved the Championships from the afternoon to the morning. 

And then Princeton made a move more dramatic than either of those.

That's pretty good, right?

The whole story is HERE.

Anyway, here are Princeton's 14 Ivy League champions for 2015-16:
field hockey, women's soccer, women's cross-country, women's volleyball, men's fencing, women's fencing, men's swimming and diving, men's indoor track and field, women's hockey, women's lacrosse, women's tennis, baseball, softball, women's open rowing.

Beyond that, Princeton had seven other teams finish in second place in the league.

And even beyond that, of the 33 Princeton teams who compete for an Ivy League title, an incredible 19 have won at least one championship in the last two years. Add in both water polo teams, and that's 21 of Princeton's 38 teams who have won at least one championship in the last two years.

That's nuts, by the way.

Think about it. That's 19 of 33 Ivy sports, or 57.6%. And 21 of 38, which is 55.2%.

That's in two years, people.

For all that, perhaps the most unlikely winner is the baseball team.

Princeton had 11 Ivy League championship teams in 2014-15, but the baseball team wasn't one of them. No, Princeton went 7-32 a year ago, finishing 4-16 in the Ivy League.

That was a distant, distant memory this weekend, when Princeton hosted Yale at Clarke Field in the ILCS. And a wild weekend it would be.

It started before it ever started, when the weather forecast changed the format. Instead of two games Saturday and an if-necessary game Sunday, it instead became one game Saturday and the rest on Sunday.

The crowd Saturday might have been the largest in the history of Clarke Field. Certainly TigerBlog doesn't remember a bigger one.

Princeton trailed 6-5 into the eighth inning before the aforementioned five straight walks made it 7-6 Princeton. Yale then answered with two in the top of the ninth to win 8-7.

All that meant was that Princeton had to win two yesterday. So what that the Tigers were 0-3 against Yale on the year heading in. So what.

Chad Powers went seven strong innings in Game 2, and Princeton scored four in the second inning, which would be more than necessary in the 6-2 win.

And so it was winner take all.

Yale struck first, getting a run after three batters in the top of the first. That, though, would be it off of Cameron Mingo, who went all nine, allowing eight hits while striking out five.

When he walked off the mound after his 117th pitch, he and his team were down 1-0. Down to their last three outs.

From the time Yale scored in the first inning until Mingo got out of the top of the ninth, there had been 71 plate appearances without a run.

Still, in baseball, it's about getting the last three outs, and that is never, ever easy with a championship on the line.

Also in baseball, it's all about the "first." First out. First strike. First man on. Those things all change the dynamic of an inning.

And so it was in the bottom of the ninth yesterday.

The first man up was Danny Hoy, who ran the count to 3-1 and then lashed a single to left. Then it became nuts.

A wild pitch moved Hoy to second. Then Danny Baer walked. That brought up Zack Belski, who had driven in eight runs in one game earlier this year. Do you bunt? Hit and run? Swing away?

Belski squared to bunt and was nailed on the hand. The home plate umpire at first said no, but then the four umps got together - as Belski was trying to show them his hand - and ruled yes, it was an HBP.

So now the bases were loaded, with nobody out. So now what? A fly ball ties the game. A hit wins it.

How about another hit by pitch, this time Joseph Flynn. Tied, 1-1. Bases still loaded. Still nobody out.

Next, though, came a strikeout, bringing Andrew Christie to the plate, still with the bases loaded now with one out. A double play gets out of the inning. A fly ball wins it.

And so does a wild pitch. Baer sprinted across the plate, to a huge hug from Christie and a huge dog-pile from the team.

It was a great moment. This was a team that went from last to first in one year and then won that championship in dramatic fashion. Princeton scrapped to this championship.

Next up will be the NCAA tournament. The selections are still two weeks away, which will give Princeton a chance to celebrate and reflect on what it has accomplished.

Eventually the celebration slowed down enough for the trophy presentation. And then there were the Tigers, holding the Ivy League trophy. To the victors go the trophies, and Princeton has clearly won a lot of them in the last two years.

This one, though, was a little different, and maybe a little more special.


Anonymous said...

How unusual that all 3 Yale outs in top of 8th were runners tagged out on the bases (one bunt and two caught stealing by C Christie)

D '82 said...

TB, the statistics that you cite about Princeton's 14 Ivy championships this academic year are impressive. Another perspective on that total is the following: For Tiger fans, this year included plenty of serious heartbreak. For example, the ever-so close loss at Harvard which cost a share of the men's basketball title, the two excruciating two-point losses to Penn which cost a share of the women's hoops crown, the significant deceleration of the football team during the Ivy schedule after a promising out-of-conference performance, the continuing malaise surrounding the men's lacrosse team despite what appears to be plenty of talent, et cetera.

Some guy once wrote, "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of Princeton success, it was the age of painful Tiger disappointment." So it was in 2015-16, when the men and women of Nassau won so many league championships that their gaudy total was exceeded only by one school in Ivy history, when Princeton took home 15 in 2010-11.

I can't think of another academic year with such contrasts. That such a bittersweet year could ultimately end with so many total championships is about as impactful a statement as could be made about the competitiveness of Princeton sports. Perhaps 2015-16 was an Ivy League Passover seder dinner and we had to eat the bitter herbs to remind us of pain during a time of celebration. After all, Dei Sub Numine Viget -- you know where The Big Fan In The Sky went to college.