May 12, 2004: Sports
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eyes on two
On the football field, the only time B. J. Szymanski ’05 feels completely relaxed is when he’s on the sideline in the fourth quarter and Princeton has a lead. But during the baseball season, the junior wide receiver/centerfielder is at ease most of the time, whether chasing down a fly ball on the warning track or smashing a line-drive home run over the shrubs behind the left field fence. “You can’t play baseball uptight,” he says, “so you don’t really have a choice.”
Szymanski and pitcher Ross Ohlendorf ’05 have had every reason to be uptight this year. Two of the most important contributors on a team looking to repeat as Ivy League champions, they endured the added pressure of being scrutinized by a gallery of professional scouts gathered in the bleachers near home plate. Both players have passed with flying colors. Ohlendorf improved his control while maintaining the sizzling fastball that made him a projected first-round pick in June’s amateur draft, and Baseball America named Szymanski the draft’s “fastest riser” in its college midseason report. The Tigers swept a four-game set at Columbia April 17—18 to take control of first place in the Ivy’s Lou Gehrig Division.
For Ohlendorf, a 6' 4", 230-pound right-handed power pitcher, attention from scouts is nothing new. As a high-schooler in Austin, Texas, up to 20 scouts showed up to watch him pitch, pointing their radar guns toward the plate as his fastball topped the 90-m.p.h. mark. But as a pitcher, Ohlendorf was unrefined, a basketball center turned baseball star. He was hesitant to make pitching his vocation. “I told [the scouts] I wanted to go to school,” he says. “At that point, I wouldn’t have been a really high pick. There’s no way it would have been worth passing up playing here.”
Since coming to Princeton, Ohlendorf has changed his pitching mechanics, learning to lift his left leg straight up in the windup for a more consistent delivery. He also replaced his curveball with a slider this year, adding more bite to his repertoire to strike out 54 batters in his first 42 2/3 innings pitched.
Like Ohlendorf, Szymanski did not chase the dream of pro baseball in high school. Football was his sport of choice at Princeton; he sat out his freshman baseball season to solidify his spot as a starting receiver during spring practice. When he returned to baseball, he hoped for a smooth transition. “I knew I could run and throw pretty well,” Szymanski says. “I just didn’t know if the swing was going to come back, and it came back surprisingly quickly.” He batted .330 with 17 extra-base hits in 2003.
This year, the switch-hitting Szymanski announced his arrival with a home run in his first at-bat, and through Princeton’s April 20 win over Monmouth, he was hitting .386 with six doubles, five triples, and five home runs. Depending on his draft position, Szymanski says it may be difficult to pass up a pro contract to play another year of college football and baseball. Three Princeton baseball stars have turned pro before graduation in the last four years, and all three returned to complete their coursework.
Szymanski and Ohlendorf are not Princeton’s only standouts. Second baseman Steve Young ’04 ranks second on the team with a .382 batting average, and catcher Tim Lahey ’04 became the first Tiger in history to hit three home runs in a game, at Columbia April 17. On the mound, Gavin Fabian ’07 has shown uncanny control, walking just two batters in his first 50 innings pitched. Starter Erik Stiller ’06 (3.95 earned-run average) and reliever Brian Kappel ’05 (five saves) have helped to rebuild the pitching staff. Most of the pressure, though, has fallen on the two scouted stars, and according to coach Scott Bradley, Ohlendorf and Szymanski responded remarkably well. “They haven’t tried to do too much,” he says. “And because those guys have played well, scouts have had a chance to see Steve Young and Tim Lahey. There’s a very realistic chance that we’re going to have four guys from our team who are going to get drafted this year.”
Joe Scott ’87, left, shown here with John Thompson III ’88 at the N.C.A.A. Regional in Denver, took over as head coach of men’s basketball April 21, one day after Thompson was introduced as the new coach at Georgetown. Scott, a former assistant coach under Pete Carril and Bill Carmody, spent the last four seasons as the head coach at Air Force, where he led the 2003–04 Falcons to a 22–7 record and their first N.C.A.A. tournament appearance in 42 years.
Thompson’s last season at Princeton was also his best. The Tigers posted a 13–1 record in the Ivy League and made their second trip to the N.C.A.A. tournament in the coach’s four seasons. At Georgetown, he takes over a Big East program once led by his father, Hall of Fame coach John Thompson Jr., who guided the Hoyas to the N.C.A.A. championship in 1984.
After starting the year 7—0 with four wins over top-10 teams, women’s lacrosse coach Chris Sailer noticed her team slipping into a lull. A lackluster three-game stretch against unranked opponents prompted Sailer to refresh the Tigers’ championship philosophy. “We had some discussions, and I told them, ‘We’re not going to settle for getting a win – we’re going to try to become a great team,’” she says. “We have to play every game like it’s the national championship, and they’ve definitely taken that mentality.”
The Tigers, winners of the last two N.C.A.A. championships, looked revitalized against No. 14 Yale April 10, dropping the Bulldogs 14—3. Lindsey Biles ’05 scored four goals as Princeton avenged its only Ivy loss from 2003. On April 14, the team shrugged off the evening wind and rain to dominate Penn from start to finish, winning 10—3. Theresa Sherry ’04 scored four times as the Tigers set a new program record with their 21st consecutive win. Princeton stayed perfect with a 17—7 win over Harvard April 17 behind a career-high six goals from Sherry.
During their winning streak, the Tigers have outscored the opposition by more than seven goals per game, and the competition has been formidable, with half of the 22 opponents ranked in the nation’s top 15. Sailer says defense is key to the team’s recent dominance, with effective communication enabling the Tigers to double-team attackers on the perimeter and force turnovers. Mary Beth Hogan ’04, Katie Norbury ’04, and Lauren Vance ’06 form Princeton’s back line, and Sarah Kolodner ’05 has started every game in goal, allowing a national-best 5.87 goals per game.
On offense, the Tigers are aggressive and multifaceted. Sherry has lived up to her own high standards, despite defensive double-teams, moving into third place on the Tigers’ all-time goals list behind Crista Samaras ’99 and Lisa Rebane ’96. Biles has matched Sherry’s season totals of 38 goals and 10 assists. Midfielders Elizabeth Pillion ’05 and Kathleen Miller ’07 each have scored more than 20 goals, and a total of seven Tigers reached double digits before the Harvard game. “All seven of us, on any given day, can score five goals,” Sherry says. “That makes us dangerous. They can’t focus on any one person.”
MEN’S LACROSSE scored the game’s first seven goals at Harvard April 17 and never looked back, winning 13—4. Jason Doneger ’05 led the charge with four goals as Princeton improved to 3—0 in the Ivy. The Tigers also defeated Penn April 13 and Yale April 3. Ryan Boyle ’04 is on track to be the first player since Kevin Lowe ’94 to lead the team in scoring for four years.
In SOFTBALL, Erin Snyder ’06’s perfect game against Penn April 3 went into extra innings before Kristin Lueke ’05 knocked in the only run in a 1—0 Princeton win. Snyder leads the team with 125 strikeouts in 120 innings and a 1.51 earned-run average.
MEN’S and WOMEN’S GOLF ran away with first-place team finishes at the Ivy League Championships April 16—18, beating their nearest competitors by 17 and 13 strokes, respectively. Jason Gerken ’06 finished the last round with an even-par 72 at Metedeconk National Golf Club to win the men’s individual title; Avery Kiser ’05 won her third consecutive women’s crown, shooting 10 over par in three rounds at Trenton Country Club. She is the first three-time individual champion in Ivy history.
WOMEN’S WATER POLO beat George Washington 7—6 behind Elyse Colgan ’07’s four goals to win the College Water Polo Association’s southern division title April 18.
MEN’S VOLLEYBALL beat N.Y.U. April 7 and lost to No. 8 Penn State April 10 to finish the season 13—9, earning a home game in the first round of the Eastern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association playoffs.
In CREW, the women’s open eight improved their Ivy record to 5—0, beating Yale April 17. Harvard edged the men’s heavyweight eight on the Charles River April 17, handing the Tigers their first Ivy loss.
MEN’S TENNIS topped Dartmouth 4—3 April 17, improving to 3—2 in the Ivy. The Tigers’ losses came against Brown and 20th-ranked Harvard. WOMEN’S TENNIS beat Dartmouth 5—2 April 17.
MEN’S and WOMEN’S TRACK prepared for the Ivy Heptagonal Championships (May 8—9) with a series of spring events. On April 10, Dwaine Banton ’05 won the men’s 100- and 200-meters against Penn and Villanova, and Hassina Outtz ’04 dominated the women’s 400-meter hurdles against Penn and Yale.
May 17 marks the 65th anniversary of the FIRST TELEVISED SPORTING EVENT, the second game of a Princeton–Columbia baseball doubleheader broadcast on NBC. The Tigers won the game 2—1 in extra innings as Dan Carmichael ’41 pitched a six-hitter and scored the winning run in the 10th on an infield hit by Stan Pearson ’41.
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