Princeton Falls To Sam Houston State In NCAA Elimination Game
Andrew Christie swung and drove a towering shot to left field. It was the top of the second of Princeton's NCAA Regional elimination game, the start delayed seven hours by rain.
As the ball climbed through the thick Louisiana air, Princeton's hopes rose with it.
About three hours later, the postgame press conference moderator introduced Danny Hoy and Billy Arendt as seniors who had played their last game for the Tigers. The finality of it, like the frustration when Christie's shot in the second landed in a glove pressed up against the wall, was unmistakable.
Princeton fell to Sam Houston State 7-2 Saturday night and was eliminated from the NCAA tournament with its second loss. Sam Houston State remained in the field, ready for another elimination game against the loser of Sunday's first game between host Louisiana-Lafayette and Arizona.
And just like that, Princeton's remarkable turnaround season was over. Still, not all finalities and frustrations, it appears, are equal.
The 2016 Princeton baseball team put together a dream season, one that saw the Tigers go from 7-32 overall and 4-16 in the Ivy League to an Ivy League championship and a spot in the NCAA tournament. It was one of the great turnarounds in college baseball this year and an incredible achievement for Princeton baseball.
"This is my seventh time at this," said Princeton coach Scott Bradley. "And this one was special. We say when we come to one of these that it's like golf. We wanted to be playing on Sunday."
That Princeton would play on Saturday seemed unlikely for much of the day.
The first day of the regional was delayed by thunderstorms, and it wasn't until after midnight that Princeton fell to the host Ragin' Cajuns 5-3. The Tigers and Bearkats took batting practice in advance of a scheduled 1 p.m. start, but massive storms descended on Lafayette, forcing several delays. Eventually, the rain stopped and the FieldTurf of Tigue Moore Field drained to allow the game to begin.
Christie almost put the Tigers up in the second with his drive that on a night with less humidity might have reached beyond the left field wall. Instead, it was Sam Houston who would score first, using its aggressive style of bunting, taking extra bases and the hit-and-run to score four times in the third.
Princeton trailed 5-0 into the fifth, when the Tigers scored twice, once on a Nick Hernandez RBI single and once when Joseph Flynn was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded (reminiscent of the Ivy League championship series win over Yale).
The Bearkats loaded the bases with nobody out in the bottom of the inning, but Luke Strieber got out of it with a great play to start a 1-2-3 double play and then a ground out to first. Princeton, though, could not score against reliever Greg Belton, who went 4 2/3 scoreless innings and struck out six.
Princeton did get 10 hits in the game, including two each from Jesper Horsted, Arendt, Hoy and Hernandez, the top four in the order.