Princeton’s baseball season so far had mostly been about being just on the verge of being all the Bulldogs wanted it to be. Sure, there were enough wins and solid play to get Princeton into the 1A state playoffs again, but it was as a wild card team. That’s what happens when more than its share of close games goes against a team.
Wednesday night, Princeton spent the night close to Rocky Point Trask for six innings. Then came the seventh and the Bulldogs pounced on their one big scoring opportunity and downed the Titans 4-3 to advance to the second round of the playoffs.
Princeton (12-13) will meet Louisburg in the second round. Trask finishes its season at 10-14.
Down 3-2, the Bulldogs loaded the bases in the seventh on singles by Jonathan Croom and Matt Daughtry and a walk to Nick Phillips with one out. Princeton first baseman Tyler Ricks worked his way to a 3-2 count, then bounced a single through the middle of the Titans’ infield to score Croom and Phillips to put the Bulldogs ahead.
Daughtry then worked his way through the bottom of the seventh with a pair of groundouts and a strikeout to extend Princeton’s season.
“The thing you can always do in baseball when things aren’t going the way you want them to is work harder,” said Princeton coach Bruce Proctor. “That’s what these kids have done all season, stayed after it and that’s what they did loading the bases in the sixth and seventh innings.”
Princeton cut the lead to 3-2 in the sixth inning when a bases loaded walk to Jordan Craft forced home a run. The Bulldogs’ first run was manufactured in the second when Ricks walked, was sacrificed over and scored on Alex Harmon’s two-out single.
After Trask put up two runs in its first at bat, the Bulldogs worked through three scoreless frames before an error helped the Titans go for a suicide squeeze bunt by Dylan Kraft that pushed the lead out to two runs.
But after giving up three hits in the opening frame, Daughtry held Trask to three hits through the final six innings. He needed just 82 pitches to work the complete game victory. The right-hander struck out just four but recorded 14 ground ball outs.
His defense was solid as well, especially when they helped him turn a double play to get out of the Titan fourth. Daughtry made a leaping stab of a bouncer up through the middle, then threw to Phillips who turned the ball over to Ricks for the second out.
“We got a little better all night,” Proctor said. “That’s on defense, on the mound and at the plate. We didn’t let little things bother us. It was a good night for Princeton baseball.”