During a successful season that has seen the Princeton softball team go unbeaten in conference play and string together enough wins to show competitors that they are a force to be reckoned with, the Bulldogs have become accustomed to doing whatever it takes to win ball games.
Be it getting the timely hit or getting out of a jam with gutsy pitching and solid defensive play, the Bulldogs rode into the fourth round of the state 1A playoffs confident they could continue on with their winning ways.
But on Tuesday night as Princeton hosted Rocky Point Trask with a spot in the eastern championship series on the line, for once the Bulldogs could not come through, falling to the Titans 2-0.
Trask starting pitcher A.J. Johnson showed composure beyond her years as the freshman earned the complete game victory in impressive style frustrating the Bulldog hitters, allowing just two hits.
“We’ve struggled with the bats the last month and it bit us today,” Princeton coach Terry Braswell said, sighting his team’s impatience at the plate as being the main reason for 13 fly ball outs. “But we would do just enough to win ballgames, it seemed like.
“Tonight, it just didn’t happen.”
Princeton starting pitcher Tori Paul matched Johnson pitch-for-pitch much of the night but Trask (20-1) got its break in the top of the fourth inning when freshman Taylor Rivenburgh’s double was followed up by a single to center from Kristina Collier.
With two outs and runners on second and third, Kaela McCoy sent a shot that just got through the right side of the Princeton infield, scoring both Collier and pinch runner Desire Brown.
“We had a lot of respect for them,” Trask coach Corrina Reece said of the Bulldogs. “They were a good team, it’s just we got the one break and that’s all the difference.”
Princeton momentarily thought it had cut the lead in half in the bottom of the fifth.
With two outs, Kasey Johnson lined a single to right field and then Carson Braswell reached on a Trask fielding error.
Charley Cox followed by lining a hard shot to center field where Titan outfielder Anna Broadmerkel made a diving attempt that was ultimately ruled an inning-ending catch.
Princeton (19-3) threatened again in the seventh as the Bulldogs managed to get the potential game-tying run to first base but couldn’t cash in as a double play ended Princeton’s season.
The Bulldogs stranded five runners for the game.
Pace recorded the only other hit for Princeton.
Paul went five strong innings allowing just four hits and the two unearned runs. Hailey Wood pitched two innings of hitless relief to help keep Princeton in the game.
As tough of a defeat as it was, the future looks bright for Princeton as the Bulldogs will return all but two seniors Dannielle Best and Julia Coats – for what promises to be another good run for Princeton softball next season.
“We’re still young and a 19-3 season isn’t bad,” Braswell said of his young team. “I’d love to be playing some more…but we’ll be back.”