PU baseball set for Ivy title series

Tigers win another Gehrig crown

By: Justin Feil
   Despite ideal weather conditions that attracted a large crowd, a seventh straight Gehrig Division title already in the bag and a festive environment just a block away, the Princeton University baseball team was not in a mood to party by the end of Sunday.
   The Tigers split with Cornell at Clarke Field, winning the opener of the doubleheader, 5-1, to clinch sole possession of the Gehrig crown before falling in 14 innings, 4-2, in the second game. That loss leaves them at 13-7 in Ivy play and in limbo about the site for the best-of-three Ivy League Championship that begins Saturday.
   Making matters worse, team captain Pat Boran, the program’s all-time leader in hits and runs, was reduced to pinch running duties by an injured wrist for which further examination was scheduled on Monday. The injury leaves in doubt Boran’s availability for the Ivy League Championship, regardless of where it will be played.
   "We’re all waiting to see what happens with Pat Boran," said PU head coach Scott Bradley, whose team is 22-20 overall. "We have a guy that might not be able to play. That’s our first and foremost concern."
   Princeton finds out Wednesday who it will face from the Rolfe Division. Harvard and Brown are tied atop the Rolfe standings, both also at 13-7, and will play a one-game playoff.
   With a Harvard win, the Tigers would play in Cambridge, Mass., next weekend. The Crimson own the tiebreaker because of their sweep Princeton at Clarke Field. Princeton split with Brown, and a Bears win Wednesday would mean the host would come from a tiebreaker that has yet to be determined.
   The Tigers came away from Sunday’s doubleheader happy to have sealed another Gehrig title, but disappointed that they couldn’t guarantee themselves home-field advantage.
   "I felt good, but there’s sort of a sour taste right now," said PU designated hitter Jon Miller, who was 3-for-3 in the first game and 3-for-5 in the second game to raise his season average to .303, third best on the team. "I got a little lucky in the first game and I was zoned in pretty good in the end of the second game."
   Miller’s third hit of the second game was nearly enough as the Tigers went for the sweep. The junior’s ground-rule double tied the second game in the ninth inning, 2-2, and sent the game into extra innings before Cornell won it with a pair of runs in the 14th. The teams also split their doubleheader at Cornell on Friday.
   Sunday, Princeton’s offense never got on track in the second game after Steve Young led the game off with a home run. But Tiger pitchers allowed just four earned runs in the 21 innings played Sunday to keep their team in it.
   "Our pitching has been phenomenal so far," Miller said. "Thomas Pauly was in there for I don’t know how long. He pitched his heart out. He gave us five or six chances to win the game, and we couldn’t do it."
   Pauly was the tough-luck loser after pitching the final seven innings in relief of David Boehle, who pitched the first seven innings and allowed just one run. In the first game, Ryan Quillian scattered seven hits and allowed just the one run for a complete-game victory, his third straight win. But Princeton could not complete the sweep and secure home-field advantage for the Ivy League Championship.
   "It would have been nice to get the home field," Bradley said. "They’re still Gehrig champs. Our first goal is to be able to play for the Ivy championship. Next week, we have that chance to play for the championship."
   Princeton has won the last two Ivy championships, topping Dartmouth in both years for the right to represent the Ivy League in the NCAA tournament. The Tigers won one of those titles with home-field advantage and one without that edge. Princeton lost the Ivy championship to Harvard three years ago.
   "Right now, it hurts," Miller said. "But we’ll come back and be ready to play. It’s seven or eight (Gehrig crowns) in a row. It feels pretty good. It feels good to be back in that position. Hopefully we’ll make it a habit every year."
   Miller is one of a host of new contributors for the Tigers, who graduated eight seniors last year. Miller has started all 42 games and leads the team with 11 doubles and is among the top five in most offensive categories for the Tigers. He is looking forward to the Ivy championships, a sort of second chance for the Tigers to take care of business in a one-on-one matchup with the Rolfe champion.
   "We don’t like depending on other people to lose," Miller said.
   The Tigers didn’t expect to have to worry about anyone but themselves going into Sunday. They were 11-5 in Ivy play after taking three out of four from Columbia, but then had to wait two weeks to finish the Ivy regular season schedule. Miller downplayed the delay and possible loss of momentum, though Princeton finished with a pair of split doubleheaders against Cornell.
   "I think it was nice to have a week where our guys could get rest," he said. "It gave guys a chance for their injuries to heal up. I think it came at the perfect time."
   Princeton plays at Pace in a make-up game 3 p.m. today before opening the Ivy League Championship. While today’s game won’t have the importance of the impending weekend series, the Tigers are looking at it as a chance to set the tone for the weekend, no matter where the games are played.
   And Princeton knows, win two this weekend, and the real celebration can begin.