Monday, May 8, 2017

Two Plus Forty

TigerBlog walked up to the softball field Saturday and was immediately struck by two things.

First, almost everyone in attendance acted like it was 10-15 degrees warmer than it was, with shorts and t-shirts the norm on a day that was close but wasn't quite there. Second, every Princeton fan there acted like it was a late spring celebration more than playoff game.

The Princeton softball team took care of the second part. Nobody seemed to mind about the first part.

The occasion was the Ivy League championship series between Princeton and Harvard, a best-of-three event that called for two games Saturday and then an if-necessary game yesterday. It would not be necessary.

Princeton won the first game 1-0, scratching out a run in the bottom of the seventh on an infield hit, a walk, a fly out, a fielder's choice that didn't get an out and then the game-winning single by Allison Harvey.

There was one run in Game 1. There'd be two in the top of the first of Game 2 and 17 in all, as Princeton would win 13-4. The Tigers led 6-0 before Harvard made a run to get to 6-4. Princeton then put up seven runs in the final two innings, and that was that.

The result was a second-straight Ivy League championship for Princeton and another trip to the NCAA regionals.

At one point during Game 2, TigerBlog was standing next to his colleague Cody Chruschiel when the subject came to whether or not the two of them could make bat hit ball were they to stand in the batter's box. If, TB asked, Cody got to see 10 pitches, could he hit one in fair territory?

No, Cody said. TB would like to think he could, but Cody is probably right. TB isn't saying get a hit. He's saying simply put the bat on the ball (bunting wouldn't count).

Perhaps another way to put it would be to wonder how many pitches he'd have to see before he put one in play?

As for the Tigers, with the final out of Game 2 came the celebration that everyone came to see. The NCAA draw is this coming Sunday, followed by the regionals for the 64-team tournament the following weekend.

So that's two Ivy League titles for Lisa Van Ackeren, the Princeton head coach.

Here's another rite of spring at Princeton. Each spring, someone says Princeton won't win the Ivy League Heptagonal outdoor men's track and field championships. More often than not, Princeton wins anyway.

That was the case this weekend at Yale, where the Tigers rallied to win their latest Heps championship, this time scratching out their own win on the final event of Day 2 in the final event of Day 2. That, by the way, would be the last event of the two-day decathlon, which was the last event of the two-day meet.

Princeton would overtake Cornell thanks to the points from its three freshmen decathletes and win 156-149. Once again, Princeton got the crucial points when it needed them.

At some point, it must have dawned on men's track and field coach Fred Samara that this day was going to break his way. Maybe it was Saturday. Maybe it was yesterday.

At some point, though, he had to start to figure out that it was going to be close and then after that that his team would win.

This wasn't, after all, his first time at this. Or even, like Van Ackeren, his second. In fact, and TigerBlog means this as a total compliment, but Fred Samara has been winning Ivy League championships at Princeton since before Lisa Van Ackeren was born.

Hmmm. Reading that over, it might not exactly sound like a compliment. But it is.

Actually, it's more of testament than a compliment. It's a testament to the incredible career that Fred Samara has put together at Princeton - and continues to add onto each year.

You know how many Heps titles that is for him in his 40 years at Princeton?

That would be 40. That's 40 Ivy League championships, between cross country and indoor and outdoor track and field.

Forty? That's nuts.

As for the championships, the celebrations are always genuine, always emotional, always special.

There's a lot that goes into winning a championship. Hey, there's a lot to putting a team together before you ever have Practice No. 1.

There are countless hours and hours of preparation that go into competing and ultimately winning (technically they're countable by NCAA rules, but you get TigerBlog's point).

That's why each championship is unique and none will ever be taken for granted. And that's why celebrating them is always such a wonderful moment.

You can see it in the faces of the athletes.

Check out the softball players HERE after their win. You can see the highlights and the celebrations as they unfolded.

But look at their faces in the celebration picture. It's like they want to grab the moment and hold on forever.

And why not?

They earned it.

Whether you've won twice or 40 times, they're all amazing.

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