SPRING VALLEY — The Princeton Tigers and Hall Red Devils ... Friday Night Lights ... gametime temperature hovering in the mid-40s. Sounds like a good night for football at Nesti Stadium. This time, though, it was two blocks down at Kirby Park in Spring Valley where the Bureau County rivals met on the ball diamond.
Two sophomore pitches warmed things up with a heated pitchers’ duel, matching goose eggs for five innings. In the end, Tiger soph Caleb Dickens benefited from just enough offense from his teammates to get the best of counterpart Austin Schmitt and the Red Devils 3-1 for his first varsity win.
“It felt good. They defense had me backed totally,” said Dickens, who went the distance, touched only for an unearned run in the seventh. “At the beginning of the season we weren’t so hot in the field but we’re getting better and better as we go so hopefully come regionals we get a lot better.
He fanned eight and scattered seven hits and two and made the night seem a lot warmer in the Tiger dugout.
“It’s not that cold when you win. It feels pretty warm right now,” PHS coach Tim Taylor said. “It was a pitcher’s game tonight. Good job by both pitchers. Caleb went the complete game and I’m really happy for him. ... As a sophomore, it’s a big win for him. He needed that boost.”
Schmitt was equally effective, giving the Red Devils another quality start, touched for just three hits and one run before departing after walking the leadoff man in the seventh.
The Tigers broke through for its first run in the sixth inning. DH Austin Schindel singled to center, Matt Hayes walked and both runners moved up on a wild pitch. Southern Foster put up the first run on the board with a sac fly to right field, scoring Schindel.
In the seventh, the Tigers utilized some small ball. Sam Schlesinger led off with a walk and Dickens gave himself up with a bunt. Schmitt fielded the ball cleanly, but sailed his throw past down the right field line. Schlesinger scored and Dickens raced to third.
Isaiah Taylor then got the squeeze sign from his dad, and laid down a beauty, scoring Dickens from third and beating the throw to first, making it 3-0. Tim Taylor said the Tigers preparedness for Hall’s bunting game helped their own.
“We thought they would bunt more than they did, because they bunted a lot last time. We were prepared for the bunt and I think sometimes preparing for the bunt helps you play the bunt,” he said.
Hall coach Tom Keegan said the Tigers turned the tables on his Red Devils.
“They kind of did to us what we’ve been doing to other teams. Just getting guys on, playing some small ball and seeing if the other team will make some mistakes,” he said. “Tonight we made them and offensively we didn’t have enough to overcome that.”
Brett Fanning got a Red Devil rally going with a leadoff hit in the bottom of the seventh. The Red Devils (16-7) pushed one run across with the help of two Tiger errors, but Dickens retired Miguel Villareal with a runner on second to end the game.
Dickens said it was nice to beat the Red Devils, especially after losing a big lead in the seventh inning against Hall earlier this month at PHS.
“That’s two years in a row that’s happened. So it feels good to squeeze this one past them and get them at their home,” said Dickens, who liked the night game atmosphere better than the daytime.
• Notes: The Tigers play in Peoria today at O’Brien Field, facing Fieldcrest following the 1 p.m. Peoria Chiefs game. Each team sold 200 tickets for the Chiefs game to earn the right to take the field themselves. The Tigers played at O’Brien two years ago against Dunlap. ... Monday will be Senior Night for PHS when it meets Alleman at Prather Field.