Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Ivy Softball Champs

Tuesday Trivia: Who was the pitcher who threw a complete game to knock Princeton out the last time the Tiger softball team was in the NCAA tournament?

TigerBlog will get to that in a few minutes.

First, he wants to talk about the weather forecast he heard yesterday. It said that the rain was going to push out and that tomorrow - which is actually today - would be a beautiful sunny day around here.

The only problem is that it wasn't raining yesterday. And it's not supposed to be a beautiful sunny day today.

The whole thing made TB wonder if the forecast wasn't for a different day and it was actually replayed by mistake. It was curious.

Anyway, the weather was one of the main stories of the Ivy League softball championship series, which began Saturday and didn't end until yesterday.
Princeton, the South Division champ, was at Harvard, the North Division champ. It was best-of-three, with the winner to the NCAA tournament.

Because of the persistent rain that lasted, oh, seemingly forever in the Northeast, the start of the series had to be delayed.

As an aside, how exactly does BrotherBlog live in Seattle, where it's like it was around here the last 10 days for about nine months of the year?

Anyway, Princeton won Game 1. Harvard went up 7-1 in the sixth inning in Game 2. Then it got too dark to finish. Then it rained again, making Sunday a washout.

Well, not quite a washout.

Andrew Borders, TigerBlog's Office of Athletic Communications colleague and the softball contact, said he went to the battlefield at Concord Sunday. You know. Concord. April 19, 1775. The start of the American Revolution. Paul Revere. The Minutemen.

As for softball, though, there wasn't any.

Instead, it had to wait until today. Harvard, as the home team, was at home, as it were. Princeton was on an indefinite road trip.

TigerBlog has always thought that being on the road in the Ivy League can be a blessing, since it gives a team a chance to get away from everything on its own campus, bond as a team and focus on the task at hand. That's the situation Princeton was in during the weather delays.

When play was able to be restarted, Harvard quickly closed out Game 2, creating the make-or-break Game 3.

Princeton would only score in one inning of Game 3, though the Tigers made it count in a big way. Princeton put up eight runs in the second inning and then Shanna Christian made it stand up, as Princeton won 8-3. In true team fashion, Princeton had six different players drive in at least one run in the inning.

Christian, a senior from Colorado, was also the winner in Game 1. TigerBlog doesn't really know any of the softball players other than Kayla Bose, a senior who drove in two in the second inning and who works for the marketing staff on game days and at other events, and Riley Wilkinson, a freshman pitcher who played the piano while lacrosse player Sam Gravitte sang in one of the "Who's the Tiger" videos in the fall.

The win vaulted Princeton into the NCAA tournament. The Tigers will find out where and when they play this coming Sunday.

For Princeton, it was Ivy League championship No. 12 for the academic year of 2015-16. And it was a big one, for bragging rights at least.

Princeton had 11 Ivy titles prior to Game 3. Harvard had 10, after the women's track and field title Sunday. If Harvard had won the softball game, then Princeton and Harvard would have been tied. Instead, Princeton now is two up, with four championships still on the table - baseball (Princeton hosts Yale this weekend in a best-of-three) and three rowing.

For Princeton head coach Lisa Van Ackeren, it was the first Ivy title after three straight second-place division finishes. Van Ackeren, who TB is guessing isn't even 30 yet, is off to a pretty good start to a coaching career.

In a short time she has definitely become an important part of the Department of Athletics fabric. She - and her husband Brendan, who works for the Princeton Varsity Club - are fixtures at any number of Princeton sports, and she is the kind of person you love to have representing the department and University.

And that was before she won an Ivy title.

And so congratulations to the Tigers on winning the Ivy League softball championship.

What? The trivia question?

Oh yeah.

Princeton's last NCAA softball appearance was in 2008, when the Tigers played in a regional at UMass with the host team, Stanford and Lehigh. The Tigers were eliminated by Lehigh, who got a complete game and an RBI from Lisa Sweeney, who improved to 26-5 with the win.

And who is Lisa Sweeney?

Well, she's now Lisa Van Ackeren.

This time she'll be rooting for Princeton.

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