Entering Ivy League play in 2012, the softball team had a 3-16 record, worst in the conference, and carried an eight-game losing streak. After finishing tied for last in 2011 and 6-14 in Ivy play the previous season, the Tigers probably weren’t feared much by their upcoming opponents.
But Princeton opened conference play with a sweep of Dartmouth and took three of four games on a road trip the following week, ending an Ivy League weekend with a record above .500 for the first time in three seasons. Even after dropping three of four games to Penn on Saturday and Sunday, the Tigers are 6-6 in the conference and at least on the list of contenders – a major improvement over what their non-league performance predicted.
“Our preseason schedule is difficult, trying to play as great of competition as we can,” head coach Trina Salcido said. “We knew it was going to prepare us and help us to be sharper when we came into the Ivy League.”
If the season ended today, Cornell would meet Harvard in the Ivy League Championship Series for a third straight year; the Big Red is 10-2 in conference play and the Crimson 11-1. If anybody is going to crash that party, the most likely contender is Penn, sitting at 8-4 after its visit to Princeton. But the Tigers are still alive and may even control their own destiny entering the final weekend of the season, when they will play four games at Cornell April 28-29.
Princeton’s success has been fueled by an improved pitching staff: After finishing seventh in earned run average in league play last year, the Tigers have cut their ERA by nearly a run and a half, currently ranking third at 3.67. Much of the development has come from within, as Liza Kuhn ’13 and Alex Peyton ’13 have logged most of the key innings. Before losing twice this weekend, Kuhn had won four of her previous six starts, though her most impressive performance may have come in a loss at Brown, when she threw nine shutout innings and was one out away from a tenth before allowing a homer to the league’s best hitter, Stephanie Thompson, and eventually losing 2-1.