PRINCETON — Two seasons ago, Princeton baseball coach Tim Taylor brought up four sophomores to the Tigers varsity with an eye on the future. Their time has come.
With two seasons on varsity under their belt, seniors Caleb Dickens, Isaiah Taylor, J.J. Vaccaro and Logan Wilde are ready to lead the Tigers on the diamond this spring. They will be joined by classmate Tyler Marvin and juniors Zach Friel, Chris Brockman and Michael Camp and sophomores Jake Reinhardt and Jett Wedekind.
“We’ve got five seniors this year, that’s a huge plus,” Taylor said. “They’ve played a lot of games over the summer and you starting those games up, we’ve got some good experience on the field. Multiply that by the age they are, so it’s really starting to add up now. Hopefully, we’ll start the season the way we want it to this year.”
Of the 10 varsity players, Taylor counts seven who can pitch. The southpaw Isaiah Taylor heads the list, sporting a 5-0 record and an area-best 1.41 ERA his junior year. Dickens went 3-3 with a 3.28 ERA.
“I’m feeling good about our arms and being able to rest them,” Taylor said.
The two Ws, Wilde and Wedekind, will handle the catching duties with Wedekind also seeing time at first base. Around the horn, the Tigers will line up with the slick-fielding Vaccaro (.310) at second, Reinhardt and Marvin (.305) at short with Dickens (.195) returning at the hot corner.
Isaiah Taylor, who is the top leading hitter (.312), will anchor the outfield in center, flanked by either Friel, Camp, Brockman and Marvin. There are 15 players on the freshmen/sophomore team, which will be used to fill in on the varsity as needed, Tim Taylor said.
With a senior-led team with much varsity and summer experience, will this be the year the Tigers put everything together.
“You hope that every year,” Tim Taylor said. “I think we have the right attitude. They have fun, but they work hard while they’re doing it. The thing you have to work the hardest at is the mental side.
“Baseball like so many other sports, is probably 90 percent mental. So we’re going to work hard on that, make them mentally tough. And so yeah, if we do those things, it’s a good year for us to put a lot of things on the field.”
The Tigers will venture into the Three Rivers Conference for the first time, playing home and away series inside the South Division and one crossover against each team in the North.
“I look forward having that competition week in and week out, and I think it will be a lot of fun. The boys will have something to look for,” Taylor said.
Now, only if Mother Nature cooperates, having left another dusting of white powder on the playing fields around north-central Illinois Wednesday morning. The Tigers are scheduled to take the diamond for the first time March 20 at home vs. Rock Falls.
“Everybody’s going to be in the same shoes, seeing more live pitching,” said Taylor, noting the indoor batting cages. “I don’t think the pitchers are going to have as big advantage at the beginning of the season this year.”
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