PRINCETON—Princeton Community High School’s baseball team kept visiting Washington’s defense on its collective toes Tuesday afternoon at Gil Hodges Field.
However, not enough of those batted balls had “eyes” in a 4-2 Big 8 Conference loss on Jackie Young Day, The Lady Tigers’ basketball instant legend threw out the ceremonial first pitch before the Hatchets and Tigers did battle.
“Like I told the kids tonight, our MO is to put the ball in play against these guys and you should come out all right,” PCHS coach Jesse Simmons said. “We hit so many balls hard tonight, but Washington came out and made some great plays.”
Conversely, when the Tigers (10-4, 0-2 in league play) couldn’t turn the plays late, the visiting Hatchets (7-6, 2-3) broke a 2-2 tie with a pair of unearned seventh-inning runs.
It wasn’t so much that Princeton couldn’t solve Washington starter Kaden Pfender, who failed to record a strikeout. Rather, the Tigers managed to get base runners on board at every turn, only to see Pfender avoid trouble for five innings.
In the meantime, the Hatchets built a 2-0 lead against Tigers’ hurler Lane Rumple. During the second inning, Washington catcher Zach Scheid crushed his fourth home run, a titanic blast that carried beyond the wall in left-center.
“It was a 2-0 fastball,” Simmons said of Scheid’s blast. “(Rumple’s) a senior. He knows he made a mistake.”
A Tigers’ double play managed to bail Rumple (2-2) out during the fourth, but a bases-loaded walk afforded Washington a second run during the visitors’ fifth inning.
Princeton got a run back during the home half of the fifth, but was capable of doing much more damage. Nathan Watkins reached on a two-base throwing error before moving up to third base as ninth-place hitter Nathan Beasley singled to left field.
Heath Rumple then drove i a run with a groundout to third base, but Beasley rounded second two wide and was trapped off the bag for a double play.
Shawn Gibson walked, but the threat ended as he was thrown out trying to steal second,
PCHS managed to draw even in the last of the sixth when Kyle Stuckey singled with one out, moved up when Washington second baseman Colten Garland couldn’t catch a throw on a potential double-play ball, then later raced home on Trever Boyle’s groundout.
Princeton eventually left runners stranded in scoring position when Watkins — after just missing a home run that carried just wide of the left-field foul pole — bunted into a pop-up.
Washington then took the lead on a three-base throwing error by Tigers’ third baseman Cordell Gooch, and Garland’s bloop single past a drawn-in Tigers’ infield.
Another Hatchets soft line drive fell for an insurance run.
“You can’t fault Gooch there,” Simmons said. “That was a do-or-die play.”
Princeton, which didn’t strike out once against Pfender, did so in the seventh against reliever Jake Bedwell. Bedwell, considered to be Washington’s staff ace, earned the save while allowing Heath Rumple to single and eventually reach third base at the finish.
Pfender (3-1) walked one, struck out no one and allowed two earned runs on four hits in his six innings. He received two outstanding defensive plays, both on balls hit by Gooch. First, left fielder Marcus Thorne snared Gooch’s second-inning line drive off the grass-top, then Garland smothered a hard-hit ground ball up the middle.
“It was just one of those games, like a bad day at the office,” Simmons said. “We struck out six times the other day and scored 12 runs. (Tuesday) we strike out once and can’t push a run across. We hit balls hard and they have little clunkers that drive in runs. Live and learn, I guess.”
Simmons said he expects his squad to perhaps run into Washington again during the sectional tournament.
“We’ll get to see them later on,” Simmons said. “Plus, we saw Bedwell, Washington’s best pitcher, in the seventh. That should help us later on.”
Princeton stays in Big 8 league play Wednesday, heading across the Wabash River for a makeup contest at Mount Carmel. The teams were rained out of Monday’s date.
PCHS recognizes its senior players Saturday when the Tigers meet Evansville Reitz, with the varsity game beginning at approximately 12:30 p.m.