Tamminen, PDS reach Prep B final

Panthers go for third win over Pennington today

By: Justin Feil
   Ten years ago, Princeton Day School won the Prep B state softball championship.
   Right around then, Hannah Tamminen was first putting on the catcher’s gear. She has a been a catcher ever since then. The PDS senior will be catching for the Panthers when the Prep B top seeds chase their title hopes against second-seeded Pennington 4:30 p.m. today.
   PDS and Pennington met twice during the regular season. In their first meeting, PDS prevailed, 1-0. In their second meeting just two weeks ago, the Panthers also won, this time by a 3-2 count.
   "I think we have the confidence after beating them twice," Tamminen said. "For the third time, we have the confidence. We’re excited and eager to play. I think since we have played them twice before we know their strengths and weakness and can use them to our advantage.
   "However it goes, we know we did a great job in our season. Even if we lose, we know overall it’s been one of the best seasons PDS softball has ever had."
   The Panthers advanced to the state final with a 10-0 win over No. 4 Wardlaw-Hartridge on Thursday, then improved to 13-3 with a 5-3 win over George school on Friday. PDS is trying to keep on a roll in today’s championship against a familiar opponent after facing Wardlaw for the first time this year.
   "We got kind of the scouting report from who they played Tuesday," said PDS head coach Holly Fewkes. "We bunted a lot. We moved around a lot. It was the same thing we talked about, coming out strong early on and scoring runs and setting the tone. We didn’t come out and score as early, but by the fourth, fifth and sixth, we blew it open.
   "Tuesday and Thursday, we did play our best and showed why we are No. 1 seed and showed why we deserve to win. Then Friday, we came back and we didn’t play as well. But I think that was all right. We got the jitters out and we’ll be ready to go play a good game Tuesday. It was good to play a game that kind of meant nothing and reassured we’re good too."
   Being good and winning are thing that Tamminen and the Panthers had had to adjust to this season. PDS returned much of its lineup from last year when it went 4-10.
   "When the whole season started," Tamminen said, "I thought it would be like the last few years. I didn’t expect we’d be nearly as successful as we have been. Coach Fewkes has really driven us. I came to PDS in 10th grade. The past two years hasn’t been so successful. When she took over, she took a new approach. She created a winning atmosphere and a really positive environment for us. When we lost, we learned from our mistakes and fixed them.
   "I wasn’t expecting us to be so successful," she added. "We haven’t really had any newer players. We don’t have any freshman. It’s mainly the same. I think we just clicked as a team. That shows in our outcomes and results."
   Tamminen, who attended Hopewell Valley High School as a freshman, has been a big reason for the solid season. She has contributed as a catcher and in the lineup and her own elevated confidence mirrors that of the team.
   "She has been getting clutch hits all season," Fewkes said. "Singles, doubles. Whenever she comes up, we know we can rely on her. Catching every single inning of every single game, that says a lot. She and Nicole (Auerbach, the PDS pitcher) work well together. They call their own game. It’s worked out nicely.
   "Her confidence has really improved through the years as far as throwing out base stealers, as far a throwing down to first and third. She has more confidence in her throw and in our fielders putting the tag on. At the plate, she’s seeing what she can do and has more confidence when she goes up there."
   That confidence started to develop exponentially this year, and it started early. Tamminen had a good feeling about the season before the official games even began.
   "We went to Florida and we played a ton of games and we didn’t do so badly," Tamminen said. "I think soon after Florida, we just started to really hit well and we fielded the balls really cleanly and Nicole’s pitching really improved. Everyone worked well together having we spent a week together. You got to know your teammates better and understand everyone’s strengths and weaknesses and we are able to play off that.
   "In Florida, we had a lot of people hit doubles, triples, and a couple hit home runs. We had great hitting, great pitching and great fielding. We worked hard. Everyone is just having fun. In the past it’s been something you’re not looking forward to because you know you’re not going to win and not going to play well. I’m so glad it’s my senior year and the last time I play high school softball has been so positive. I’m going to leave on a good note."
   Tamminen may play at Skidmore College next year, but first she’d like the chance to win a state title in her senior year. It’s something a lot of Panther players have been hoping for over the past decade.
   "This is what we’ve been playing for," Fewkes said. "For our team, who hasn’t been there for a while, just to get to this level is exciting. We’ve been in the A’s for a little while. To go back to the B’s where it’s more competitive and have this chance, is nice."
   PDS doesn’t expect anything today to be like it was in its quarterfinal and semifinal wins — both ended by the 10-run rule. Pennington is primed to give the Panthers all they can handle. In the first two meetings, PDS has come up with something that has put them over the edge.
   "Perseverance," Fewkes said. "Pennington is an awesome team. Maureen Wells is an awesome pitcher. We know we have our work cut out for us because we beat them twice. They’ll be looking to come in and avenge those losses.
   "This time, as it’s been, it’s striking early and first. The bonus for us is we have the last at bat. Either of those first two games could have gone either way. It just turned out our way."
   PDS would like one more matchup with Pennington to go their way. It would be quite an ending to the season, and a perfect way for Hannah Tamminen to end her Panther career. It’s something that’s been building since she started catching 10 years ago, the last time PDS was winning this much.
   "We’ve really grown over the last three years and this final year is the result of all that growth," Tamminen said. "We weren’t going to go into season being cocky because previous years, we’ve been the underdogs. It’s been fun with it. Coach is really motivating and supportive. Our team has really clicked. We’re proud of our season."