PEORIA — The Princeton Tigers occupied the home dugout of the Peoria Chiefs Saturday at Peoria Chiefs Stadium and made themselves right at home, defeating the Fieldcrest Knights 4-1 in nonconference baseball action.
The Tigers (8-5) broke through with two runs in the first inning, and rode the pitching of senior ace Matt Hayes and reliever Nick Rolando to victory.
Hayes, who scattered five hits and three walks while fanning three over six innings, said it was fun to play at the home of the Chiefs once again, a Class A affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals.
“I think it’s real sweet, because you get the real feel of what the majors play on. You get the true hops on the infield. I think it’s a cool to experience that in my high school career,” Hayes said.
While the Knights have yet to win a game, PHS coach Tim Taylor knew it would be a challenge.
“Compliments to Fieldcrest for stepping up for the challenge, because they haven’t won a game yet, but they’ve been in every game. They were in this game as well,” he said. “Our boys knew they hadn’t won a game yet, so there’s always that chance of being the first win and we didn’t want to be that.
The Tigers wasted no time settling in early, scoring two in the first. J.J. Vaccaro and Isaiah Taylor opened the game with singles with Vaccaro moving up to third on a fly out to right field by Hayes. A groundout to short by Tyler Marvin brought in Vaccaro and a Nick Rolando’s RBI single plated Taylor.
Vaccaro reached safely on an error in the third, stole second, took third on a groundout and tagged up and scored on a sac fly to center by Hayes,
Three straight hits by the Tigers led to another run in the fourth. Rolando led off with a single, stole second and took third on a hit by Logan Wilde. Senior first baseman Austin Schindel followed with a line single to left to bring home Rolando for a 4-0 Tiger lead.
The Tigers helped themselves defensively, catching a Fieldcrest runner going to third base in the second inning and Wilde threw behind another runner for a pickoff at second in the fourth.
They also might have got a little help on an out call at the plate in the third inning. Wilde leaped high for a throw to home by second baseman Vaccaro and applied what appeared to be a late tag for the out, much to the dismay of Fieldcrest coach Mark Brown who struck up a chat with the plate umpire.
Fieldcrest cracked Hayes for one run in the sixth with two singles and a groundout. Tyler Marvin’s running catch in right field with two outs snuffed out the Knights’ rally.
Rolando pitched a scoreless seventh, allowing one hit, for the save.
Taylor and Rolando led the Tigers with two hits each. Vaccaro had two stolen bases and two runs scored.
“We hit the ball when we needed to, and Matt’s pitching was per norm. He was solid. He had a lot of first pitch strikes which put him in the driver’s seat,” Taylor said. “The defense has just been playing solid and we’re putting things together there.”
Tiger tales: The Tigers are now 2-0 against Fieldcrest at the Chiefs’ park, formerly known as O’Brien Field. They are 2-1 overall there, falling to Dunlap in 2010. PHS will return to action Thursday at Rock Island Alleman and host the Hall Red Devils Friday at Prather Field.