FOR PETE’S SAKE: Peter Hare makes contact in a recent game for the Princeton Post 218 American Legion baseball team. Last Sunday, recent Princeton High grad Hare had three hits and two RBIs to help Princeton defeat Trenton Post 93/182 9-2. On Monday, Post 218 defeated Trenton again, prevailing 9-5 to improve to 7-10 and stay alive in the race for a spot in the upcoming Legion State District Tournament. Princeton was slated to end regular season play by hosting Allentown on July 12. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
By Bill Alden
Peter Hare was dragging a bit when he arrived at Smoyer Park last Sunday to play catcher for the Princeton Post 218 American Legion baseball team as it hosted Trenton Post 93/182.
“Waking up this morning I was tired,” said Hare, who had reason to be fatigued as Post 218 had a marathon Saturday, falling 16-3 to Broad St. Park Post 313 and then losing 13-6 to Bordentown Post 26. “I think everyone else was too.”
With Post 218 trailing Trenton 1-0 heading into the second inning on Sunday, Hare helped key a rally in improbable fashion, laying down a bunt with two runners aboard that was misplayed and found himself standing on third with two runs in.
“I joked that I was going to hit for the cycle,” said Hare, reflecting on the sequence which gave Princeton a 2-1 lead.
Hare kept hitting, smacking a two-run double in the bottom of the third to put Post 218 up 5-2 and added two singles as Princeton pulled away to a 9-2 victory.
“I think it was two strikes and their right fielder was playing closer to the line,” said Hare, reflecting on his double. “I knew if I got it to right center there was some room so I just flared it out there and then he sort of bobbled it and I took second.”
On Monday, Princeton took it to Trenton again, topping Post 93/182 9-5 to improve to 7-10 and stay alive in the race for a spot in the upcoming Legion State District Tournament.
“We are right on the edge of making districts,” said Hare. “We are not sure whether they are going to take six or seven teams. We need the wins in the last couple of games.”
After going through up-and-down final campaign for PHS this spring, Hare is enjoying his late surge for Post 218.
“I was struggling to hit in the high school season,” said Hare. “So having this one last season to finish strong, it is good.”
Post 218 manager Benito Gonzalez acknowledged that his club didn’t get off to a strong start on Sunday.
“We were not happy with them after the first inning,” said Gonzalez. “I think sometimes you go into game and you assume a result. You can’t do that to anybody because everybody has the potential to win and be good. It is not something you want. Thankfully from second inning on, we really righted the ship.”
Hare’s bunt play in the second helped get Princeton going in the right direction.
“I was definitely thinking that if we get first or second with nobody out we want to scratch a couple across,” said Gonzalez. “I am not the biggest bunter but when it is first and second nobody out towards the bottom of the lineup, give it a shot. He also gave himself a shot to be safe at first so he had a really nice play.”
Post 218 has been getting some nice work overall from Hare down the stretch.
“Peter did great, he has had a couple of games like that this summer,” said Gonzalez. “It has been really helpful. He has been working behind the plate, which isn’t easy. He got a little banged up today.”
On the mound, Jon Tao did great for Post 218, pitching a complete game with seven strikeouts.
“Jon did really well; in the first inning, it was sluggish for everybody and it is very easy after something like that to let it get to you mentally and affect you,” said Gonzalez of the rising PHS senior.
“But he came out the rest of the game and pumped strikes. He threw 60 strikes out of 99 pitches, it was a great ratio. He was really aggressive with his fastball today. He only ended up walking two people. I was really, really happy with him.”
Gonzalez has been pleased with the way the Post 218 has been hitting this season.
“Offensively this summer I have been pretty happy with what we have done,” said Gonzalez, who got two hits apiece from Alex Winters and James Petrone in the win in Sunday. “We have had plenty of games where we have scored six, seven, or eight plus runs before. A lot of different people have done it.”
Leadoff hitter Winters, a rising PHS junior, also came through in the win on Monday, pounding out three hits with six RBIs.
“Alex is absolutely on fire,” said Gonzalez. “I have coached him since he was in sixth grade and he was the only sixth grader that I had on the middle school team. I noticed he is an athlete and a good player. I think next year he is going to be really good.”
With Princeton slated to end regular season play by hosting Allentown on July 12, Gonzalez is hoping his team can scratch out a spot in the state playoffs.
“We are already in a position where we are letting other people control our fate a little bit,” said Gonzalez, whose team entered the last day of the season in a three-way tie for sixth place in the Mercer County American Legion League with the possibility of six or seven MCALL teams advancing to district play.
“What we need to do is bank wins, no matter who it is against. The people we have here now are the people who have made a commitment and have really taken that seriously so I appreciate their efforts. I really appreciate the collective effort we are getting down the stretch, it has been seven or eight games in a row.”
In dealing with that grueling stretch drive, Post 218 has displayed resilience.
“We had a couple of bad losses yesterday and it is easy for a team to roll over and say I don’t want to do this or I don’t feel good or lose confidence,” said Gonzalez. “The one thing I can give this group is they haven’t let a loss affect what they do the next day. That is really commendable, I really appreciate that.”
Hare, for his part, is looking to keep rolling to the final out, whenever it comes.
“A lot of us are going to college next year,” said Hare, who is taking a gap year before he starts at Rutgers in 2023. “This is probably the last season for most of us, so we want to finish well.”