PRINCETON – There’s nothing better, at least statistically, than a perfect record.
While the new Appalachian League season is still very young, the Princeton WhistlePigs have stood out from the other nine teams in the league with a 4-0 record as of Wednesday afternoon.
All the other nine entries in the new wooden-bat league have lost at least two of their games.
A hot start like that of the WhistlePigs generates confidence and a sense of inevitability in the clubhouse – just what a manager hopes for in a club comprised mostly of college freshmen and sophomores.
The WhistlePigs have accomplished such a start by winning close games. Their first two outings were two-run margins, 9-7 and 8-6. In their next two, the final scores were 6-3 and 7-4. Opponents have scored an average of five runs per game, but Princeton has been north of that on each game day.
It must be noted here that Tuesday’s game was halted in the second inning due to heavy rain In Princeton, and won’t be made up until July 10. Games scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday ended too late to be included in this report.
As might be expected, Princeton diamond-dwellers are among the Appalachian League leaders.
In stats of games completed by Wednesday night, the WhistlePigs’ Channing Young was tied for first in individual pitching. The 6-foot-4 Floridian had an earned run average of 0.00 after tossing four innings, allowing five hits but no runs.
Fellow pitcher Justin Showalter, a resident of Bridgewater, Va., who plays for James Madison University, was tied for fifth among Appy League pitchers. He had given up six hits and one earned run in four innings for a 2.25 ERA.
Both Young and Showalter had struck out four batters in Appy League play.
Princeton catcher Tre Morris was tied for eighth in the individual batting stats, which at this point in the year require a minimum of five at-bats. Morris, from Columbia, Mo., had gone 6 for 14 at the plate for an average of .429.
Nathan Holt has hit for a .308 average and drawn five walks to boot. Brady Day and Tommy Myint each have driven in four runs.
Tied for second among batters is Michael Eze of Bluefield, with a sizzling .500 average following an 11-for-22 start.
Princeton is scheduled to wrap up its second visit to Pulaski tonight. The WhistlePigs will host Danville on Saturday and Sunday.
The first two games against neighbor Bluefield are scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday at Hunnicutt Field. First pitch is set for 7 p.m. both nights.
A recap of the WhistlePigs’ first four games follows.
Princeton 9, Burlington 7: In their first ever game, on June 3 at H.P. Hunnicutt Field, the Pigs used a five-run eighth inning to crawl out of their burrow and chew up the Sock Puppets. Princeton faced a 4-0 deficit in the fifth inning, but scored five runs to take the lead in the eighth, with the help of RBI doubles by A.J. Jones, Holt and Day.
Princeton 8, Burlington 6: Brody Eglite picked up the well-deserved pitching win last Friday for the Pigs on the Hunnicutt turf. After Princeton scored four runs in the bottom of the sixth to claim the lead for good, Eglite pitched the next 2 2/3 innings, allowing no hits or runs and just one walk. Eli Wright tossed the ninth inning, giving up one hit.
Princeton 6, Pulaski 3: The Pigs never trailed in their Saturday night road game at Calfee Park. Princeton pitchers struck out 11 River Turtles while the Pigs offense banged out a dozen hits.
Myint scored the game’s first run in the third inning on Day’s RBI single. Back-to-back RBI hits by Morris and Tyshawn Barrett created a 6-1 lead in the seventh.
Princeton 7, Pulaski 4: Dylan Rogers hit his first Appy League home run, knocking the ball over the wall and the weird topography of right field, to wrap up the Pigs’ scoring in a seven-inning game on Sunday. Xander Rojahn pitched three innings of relief for Princeton, getting his first win, while Wright notched his first save with a scoreless final inning.
The WhistlePigs are slated to return to Pulaski tonight for another 7 p.m. game at Calfee Park, weather permitting. They return home this weekend to face off against the Danville Otterbots before facing off against Mercer County rival, the Bluefield Ridgerunners on Monday and Tuesday.
Tom Bone is a freelance reporter for the Bluefield Daily Telegraph and the Princeton Times.