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Princeton’s Matt Hayes delivers a pitch during a game last season. After the Tigers had a wealth of underclassmen last season, this year’s squad is experienced and coming together. NewsTribune file photo
PRINCETON — So far this preseason the Princeton baseball team has been focused on improving itself.
The Tigers hope if they do so everything else will fall into place.
After a trying and tumultuous 2012 season in which the Tigers went 9-24, this year’s Princeton squad has been busy the first few weeks of the season refining its skills and coming together as one.
“Our main goal right now is just to come together, work as a team and get along,” senior captain Nick Rolando said. “Of course, we want to get better at baseball, but right now that’s our main goal.”
In an effort to build team unity and cohesiveness, third-year PHS coach Tim Taylor has held non-practice, team building events.
“Our main goal is to achieve a brotherhood and be one single unit,” senior Jason Bowler said. “I think we’re getting really close to that.”
The Tigers hope that doing so will return them to levels of past success that saw PHS play for three straight regional titles from 2009-11.
“We’ve really been focusing on ‘Practice with purpose,’” Bowler said. “You only have a small amount of time before games begin and we can’t be outside yet (because of the weather), so in the time we have we just want to make sure we’re doing the right things to get better and not wasting time.”
After last year’s PHS team was hit hard by graduation, this year’s Tigers return a solid core of varsity-tested players.
Back this season is first baseman Austin Schindel and second baseman J.J. Vaccaro. Rolando also returns but will move from catcher to shortstop with Logan Wilde replacing him behind the plate.
With Rolando moving to shortstop, Caleb Dickens will slide from short to third with Bowler backing him up. Jacob Estrada and Dylan Schaefer could also see time in the infield depending on who’s pitching.
In the outfield, senior Matt Hayes will play in right field with Isaiah Taylor in center and Tyler Marvin in left field.
As of now, Isaiah Taylor is expected to hit lead-off with Vaccaro batting second, Hayes third and Rolando cleanup. Schindel will bat fifth, Wilde sixth, Marvin seventh and Dickens eighth.
“We’re not a huge team or a big team,” Rolando said, “but we’ve got a lot of speed on this team, and I think that’ll help us out.”
The Tigers return virtually their entire pitching staff this season.
Hayes is back after he had a 2.54 ERA in 52.1 innings of work, while Isaiah Taylor also returns after he had a 2.35 ERA in 41.2 innings of work.
Also back and expected to pitch is Dickens, Vaccaro, and Rolando, in addition to Marvin.
“Our pitching has matured to that next level,” Tim Taylor said. “We had six guys who played 30-60 games last summer after the high school season, so now we have a full year of maturity behind those pitchers. That’s a huge addition to us.” The Tigers have already had five games canceled this season due to the weather and have spent part of just one practice outside.
“It’s going to be difficult early because everyone is going to have the question mark about their defense,” Tim Taylor said. “Everybody’s offense will probably be up a level because when you’re inside that’s the one thing you can work on consistently.”
Jared Bell can be reached at 220-6938, or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsJared.
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