Monday, April 3, 2017

A Spring Sunday

TigerBlog was standing down the left field line at Clarke Field yesterday afternoon when he saw a rather interesting sight to his right.

There, on the stairs that lead up to the grass, was a young man who was trying to, of all things, stretch out a hammock between the two railings. TigerBlog objected to this not because it was unsafe or because he'd be blocking the only way to get from where he was up to the main spectator area.

Nope. It was because had he been successful, he would have been facing away from the field.

On the other hand, maybe that was the point. It was, after all, what really could be considered the first nice spring day of the year. Perhaps a nice nap in a hammock was the right way to be thinking.

It was a day to be outside, that's for sure. Unlike most of the previous four weeks or so, yesterday was pure springtime, with bright sunshine and a high of 62 in Princeton. 

For TigerBlog, the spring day meant women's lacrosse (against Delaware) and baseball (doubleheader against Brown).

For women's lacrosse, TigerBlog would be in the press box doing stats. Still, it wasn't hard to see that there were more people in the large crowd at Sherrerd Field who were wearing shorts and t-shirts than were wearing sweatshirts or coats - even if there was the still the last remnants of snow on the ground around the outside of the field.

Princeton and Delaware had split 12-10 games the last two years, each with a win on the other's home field. The game yesterday started out like it would be another tight one, but Princeton shifted it into another gear after halftime. End result: Princeton 16, Delaware 4.

Of course, it had been Delaware 3, Princeton 2 with 16 minutes left in the first half. Then it became the Olivia Hompe/Ellie DeGarmo show.

DeGarmo, a first-team All-America last year, made 10 saves and allowed four goals, including eight saves and two goals-against after the 3-2 Delaware lead.

Princeton, meanwhile, went on a massive run to take total control, led by Hompe, who would have a four-goal, four-assist, eight-point game. In the process, she moved into second place all-time at Princeton in career points with 225. The record of 270, held by 1999 grad Crista Samaras, is probably not going to be challenged, but getting to second is pretty impressive.

Hompe had a few amazing goals, the result of some tough catches in traffic and pretty finishes. From Day 1 she's just had a knack for finding the goal, something that is just innate for the best offensive players in any sport. 

Anyway, with that win tucked away, Princeton could look forward to a visit from Harvard this coming weekend. And TigerBlog could head off to the baseball field.

When TB last saw the baseball team play, it was in Louisiana, at the NCAA regional a year ago. This time it was the Ivy League openers against Brown, the start of what the Tigers hope will be a return to the postseason.

By the time TB got there yesterday, the Tigers had taken Game 1 3-2 in extra innings on a Connor Nolan single and then were up 3-1 in the second game, which became an 11-5 win.

Chad Powers was on the mound for Princeton, as he was in Game 1 of that NCAA regional, against host Louisiana-Lafayette. That night, pitching in front of a huge crowd that TB would best describe as the friendliest hostile fans he's ever seen, Powers had a great outing.

This time, Powers toughed it out into the seventh inning of the second game to pick up the win. He got some serious help from Nick Hernandez, who hit two home runs and drove in five and Asher Lee-Tyson, who drilled one off the scoreboard, just to the left of where TB was standing. This one went from the pitcher's hand to the scoreboard in a blink. See for yourself:

Princeton led 7-5 into the eighth, when some interesting things happened. First, there was a shot off the bat of Willy Homza with one out that looked all the world like it was gone, only to have Hernandez, the right fielder, go up and bring it back into the field, preventing the home run and holding Homza to a triple.

Hozma would stay at third, as after a ground out and walk, Ryan Smith came on in relief and got a huge strikeout to end the inning. Smith would win Game 1 and get a save in Game 2.

As for TB, he wandered up the steps at some point back towards the press box, where he saw the last two Princeton men's soccer coaches, Jim Barlow (the current head coach) and Bob Bradley, who left Princeton and has since seen the world, with stops as the U.S. men's national team coach (he won a group championship) and then Egypt, France, Norway and most recently as the first American ever to lead an English Premiere League team with a stop at Swansea.

Bradley, also the brother of Princeton baseball coach Scott Bradley, greeted TB with a hug. It was good to see him and Barlow together, as TB has a bunch of other times, as they talked about all things soccer and everything else.

TB has said this before, but Bob Bradley is the most cerebral coach he's ever met, and TB means that as the highest compliment. He's certainly a man who is not afraid to take on a challenge, and he still has others in front of him. It was good to see him back home, as it were, after all his travels.

As for the end of the game, TigerBlog started to walk away after Zack Belski singled in a run to make it 8-5. He was standing behind the left field fence, walking towards the parking lot, when Hernandez his his second. TB didn't have to look; the crowd reaction let him know the game was now out of reach.

Princeton will be back at it today, with two against Yale.

As for TB, he was pretty happy with his little perch down the left field line.

As he stood there, the baseball in front of him, the relief pitchers behind him, a failed attempt at setting up a hammock next to him, he could feel the sunshine on his neck.

On a day clear, warm day after so many weeks of neither of those things, it felt really good.

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