PRINCETON — A change-up is being thrown in this year’s Princeton Tigress softball camp.
The ace pitcher is changing to shortstop because of an injury, and the starting short stop/leadoff hitter changed scenery and moved away. Throw in two freshmen pitchers along with a classmate and a sophomore newcomer, along with a senior transfer ... change is indeed in the air at PHS.
The Tigresses hope that change is, indeed, all good. It’s no surprise the theme on the back of their team shirts reads: “New Year, New Look, New Attitude.”
Senior Heidi James, who went 14-7 with a 2.37 last year, and has won 25 games in her career, has been sidetracked by a recurring hip injury in making her fourth season in the circle for the Tigresses. She is targeted to take over full time at shortstop, unable to continue pitching at this time, according to PHS coach Bob James, her father.
“The pitching part is not an option right now,” James said of his daughter’s injury. “I think she pitched only 12 or 13 innings last summer. We tried to get her going again this spring, and it would just recur. When she lands on her front leg, it puts pressure on her hip. Every time she does it, we go through a week of recovery.
“I told her as much as she loves pitching and gives it up, it’s not worth the pain and suffering to keep doing it. If we have other arms to get us through, and she can help us in another position, that will definitely helps us out, too.”
Filling the void of James’ absence in the circle will be a pair of freshman hurlers — one from the right side (Alisa Holmbeck) and one from the left side (Madison Menzel). The Tigress coach is not overly concerned about throwing the frosh into the varsity fire, which he said is not an unprecedented move at PHS.
“It’s a lot to ask of them, but (PHS alum) Taylor Williams and Heidi went through the same thing,” he said. “Taylor had Heidi behind her, and Taylor had Gwen Holmes in front of her. Those two kids did it their freshmen year. It’s tough; they’re definitely young. The thing I told them is to keep the ball on the good side of the fence, and we play good defense behind them. If they can hit their spot and change their speed, they should be OK.”
Coach James does bring back five regulars in addition to his daughter in senior center fielder Makenzey Wilson, senior third baseman/pitcher Katherine Pranka, junior second baseman Mollie Bates, sophomore catcher Abby Jaques and left fielder Danielle Hughes.
The strong-armed Jaques is the top returning hitter, batting .353 with 25 RBIs up on the big club as a freshman. Pranka drove in 24 runs, including two homers.
“We look forward to them all returning and doing the things they’ve done in the past,” James said.
Senior transfer Sydney Hall, who played ball in her home state of Michigan, will be a utility player and see some pitching for PHS. Other new faces in camp include freshmen utility player Julia Bauer and sophomore catcher/corner infielder Stephenny Farrell.
James said attitude and unity will be team strengths and hopes their defense follows suit.
“From what I’ve seen from freshmen through varsity is all positive. Two weeks so far, it’s been a joy all the time,” he said.
PHS lost junior shortstop Brooke Kamphuis, a table-setter, batting .526 with 31 stolen bases, who moved to North Carolina in January. James compared it to a graduation loss, like that of Jessica Martell (.440, 37 RBIs), in that you plug in someone new and “keep on trucking.”
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