PRINCETON — The pregame ceremonies on senior day carried some positive energy into the game on Monday afternoon as the Princeton Tigers jumped out to an early lead. However, the Rock Island Alleman Pioneers stole their storybook game with a final inning comeback and an 8-7 victory.
Though the final results of this game may be the epitome of what has been a challenging season, it did not overshadow the day’s festivities nor the contributions to the baseball program by the five seniors on the Princeton squad.
The senior mothers had an opportunity to participate in the game, donning their son’s blue jersey to throw out the first pitches. Each of the boys were then presented with a caricature which was drawn by the BCR’s own Greg Wallace and commissioned by the senior parents.
• Senior Kyle Arnett was the hard-luck loser Monday, coming in late in the game after most of the damage had already been done. Arnett has been a mainstay in the Tiger’s varsity pitching staff over the last two years, as he was for the fresh soph the two years prior to that. “I love baseball,” said Arnett. “It is my favorite sport. It’s always good to come out. During basketball season I always get the urge to go out and throw a baseball.” Kyle lists his first start in a conference game last year among his fondest memories. “I had to pitch since Michael [Murray] and David [Sailer] needed to get a rest because there were a lot of games that week. I was nervous but I did OK.”
• Jack Click, who did not begin his Tiger baseball career until his sophomore year, remembers frosh/soph coach Mike Fauth fondly. “The IVC game my sophomore year sticks out as that was the first time I got to start,” he says. Click is the owner of the “web-gem” of the year in 2012 (so designated by this reporter) when he laid out to make a diving catch in right field against Ottawa Marquette early in the season.
• Sam Schlesinger had a cup of coffee on the varsity his sophomore year, coming up for the playoff run. He was a member of the .350 club as a junior and has been a fixture in the outfield and second base this year. Among his highlights are a late inning pinch hit last year off St. Bede’s Alec Schwab and a sixth inning line drive against IVC this year to break up a perfect game.
• Southern Foster started the game at shortstop but had his night cut short due to a sore arm. Foster was up and down with the varsity team as a sophomore before securing a starting outfield spot as a junior. He has played outfield, shortstop, pitcher and a little bit of catcher during his career. He recalls a funny episode as a sophomore, “I was playing varsity and they got me with the quarter trick,” he said, “we were in a restaurant and I was hitting my head trying to get the quarter off that wasn’t there.” His on field highlight came last year when he slammed a homerun to tie the game against Rock Falls.
It is his defense that Trevor Ryan is most proud of this year. Ryan, whose sophomore and junior seasons were all but illuminated due to injury, returned this year and perfected the jump, catch and tag play at first base to get outs on errant throws. His hitting highlights were when he slammed a homerun in the final game of his freshman year and he got a hit in the final and only game he played in during his sophomore year.
• Uly VanCleave joined the Tiger program for his senior season as manager.
• On the field: The Tigers jumped out to a lead, scoring two in the first and four in the second. Among those who scored were senior Sam Schlesinger who led off the second frame with a walk and was later chased home on a bases-loaded double off the bat of Matt Hayes.
After falling to a 6-0 deficit in the first two innings, the Pioneers chipped away against Princeton with a run in the third, three in the fourth and two more in the sixth to pull to within 7-6. Then in the seventh, rather than utilize the old baseball adage “a bloop then a bop” the Pioneers reversed it with a bop then a bloop.
Alleman’s Dan Cutkomp led off the inning with a long homerun to right field to tie the score at seven. The Pioneer’s next hitter, Blake Newberg then walked, advanced to second and third on successive ground outs to second base, and then scored when the number nine hitter, Nate Thompson, blooped a single just out of reach of left fielder Austin Hellman.
• Next: The Tigers play a makeup game at home Thursday against Earlville before a break in the schedule and a doubleheader in Dunlap on May 5.