The Princeton Tigers lost all three of their games at the annual Tiger Classic baseball tournament held at Solheim Field on Friday and Saturday. The Tigers lost to North Branch 6-0 on Friday night then lost to St. Michael 14-4 and to Brainerd 13-8 on Saturday.
The Vikings set the tone early on Friday by scoring two runs in the opening inning. Travis Anderson rocketed the first pitch from Tigers’ starter Brennen Godeen into right field for a double and stole third base. On the stolen base, Anderson got a running lead against Godeen, who stepped off the rubber and threw to third base on time, but off-line. After a lineout and a walk, first baseman Jake Schmitz smashed a grounder under the glove of Tiger shortstop Jordan Bachmeyer to plate a pair of Vikings.
Princeton’s hitters were markedly more aggressive on Friday night after Thursday’s loss to Foley. Zack Ludwig led off the bottom of the first by rapping a single to left field on the first pitch out of the hand of Vikings’ starter Michael Naggatz, Dalton Mattson grounded into a fielder’s choice on the game’s second pitch and Jake Anderson grounded out on the third pitch from Naggatz for the second out. In all, the Vikings’ starter only needed 5 pitches to retire the Tigers.
The aggressive approach did not translate into offensive success, however. The Tigers were shut out in a three-hit performance from Naggatz, who needed only 59 pitches to go the distance for the 6-0 victory.
“I’m glad the guys responded to my message of not being complacent and not being aggressive enough,” Tigers’ head coach Jesse Zimmer said. “Today we were actually a little overaggressive but I’d take that any day over what we did (against Foley Thursday). But eventually we will find that healthy medium.”
The loss meant the Tigers would play against St. Michael on Saturday morning in miserable conditions. Game time temperatures were in the low 40s with a frozen drizzle intermittently soaking the players and fans alike, all while winds gusted up to 20 mph.
The first inning was once again a bugaboo for PHS in game one on Saturday. The Knights jumped out to a 3-0 lead on starting pitcher Dalton Mattson, thanks to a long ball by the Knights’ Tyler Dallum to deep left field and a pair of Princeton miscues in the infield.
The Tigers have been plagued by brief defensive lapses in their last few games. “If it’s not one thing, it’s another thing. I think we are finding ways to compound our mistakes right now,” Zimmer said after the game. “We just need to clean up some of these repetitive mistakes we’ve been making.”
The Tigers were able to get a run back in the bottom of the first on an Anderson double to deep center that plated Ludwig and made the score 3-1 after one.
After Mattson set the Knights down 1-2-3 in the top of the second the Tiger offense was able to tie the game in the bottom of the inning. Thomas Klaphake smashed a majestic drive off the fence in center field for a one out double to lead off the inning and scored on a bloop single. Ludwig added the second run of the inning when he scampered home on a fielder’s choice.
The Knights took the lead for good in the top of the third when Dallum hit his second long ball of the game and Jeff Hackenmueller followed a few batters later with a three-run homer to make the score 7-3. It was all downhill from there for Princeton as St. Michael went on to add seven more unanswered runs to take a 14-3 lead into the bottom of the fifth inning.
The Tigers registered their third run of the game in the bottom of the fifth inning when catcher Riley Miller reached on an error and eventually scored on a wild pitch to make the score 14-4. PHS was unable to get another run across in the inning and the game was halted due to the mercy rule.
It looked like a new team on the diamond early in game two against Brainerd. PHS was aggressive at the plate and played great defense through four innings. The only problem was the fact the game lasted seven innings.
Klaphake led off the bottom of the second inning and showed some speed in beating out an infield single to short. A throwing error put Dan Voce on first and advanced Klaphake to third, but Klaphake was thrown out at the plate on Mitch Hager’s fielder’s choice grounder.
Shortstop Jordan Bachmeyer walked to load the bases and set the stage for Ludwig’s bases-clearing drive to deep center field. Ludwig reached second with a double, then took third after a botched Brainerd rundown. He scored on a wild pitch to give the Tigers a four-run lead after two innings of play.
Klaphake and Voce each scored in the bottom of the third inning to give the Tigers a 6-0 lead heading into the top of the fifth. That’s when the wheels fell off for Princeton.
Ludwig hit Dalton Tibbetts with a pitch to start the inning, induced a fielder’s choice, gave up a single to Logan McElfresh then walked Connor Gessel to load the bases. Brainerd leadoff hitter Blake Thiesse followed with a 2-RBI double to left field making the score 4-2. The Wildcats would get four more runs in the inning to tie the game 6-6 after five innings.
The Tigers went down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the fifth on a trio of strikeouts by Wildcats’ pitcher TJ Graumann, and neither team scored in the sixth inning.
Brainerd blew the game open in the top of the seventh by scoring seven runs. The Wildcats stroked two singles, three doubles and a pair of home runs in the game’s final inning to take a 13-6 lead on their way to the eventual 13-8 win.
After the three losses, the Tigers are 3-7 on the season, but head coach Zimmer does not think the team needs to panic. “There’s no time to panic. We just need to execute plays a little better and get those bats going,” Zimmer said.
“We have to keep our heads up and try to get a fresh start next week. Things aren’t going our way right now to say the least,” Zimmer said.