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Deficit Too Much in Final Game of ICS

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Senior Jason Brooks     By Rick Bender
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PRINCETON, N.J. — Dartmouth played from behind all afternoon and could never quite overcome the deficit as Princeton won the decisive third game of the Ivy Championship Series by an 8-5 score at Clarke Field on Sunday afternoon. Big Green senior Jason Brooks had three hits with two homers in what turned out to be the final game of his career, but the Tigers (23-22) rapped out 14 hits and scored in each of the five frames they put the lead-off batter on base. Dartmouth (30-12), the two-time defending Ivy League champion, concludes its season having established a new school record for victories in a season.

As in the first two games, the Tigers got on the board first. Matt Bowman singled sharply to left to lead off the game for Princeton, stole second and scored on Sam Mulroy’s two-out line single to center. In the second inning, Alex Flink and Steve Harrington opened the second inning with back-to-back doubles to make it 2-0, but freshman left-hander Mitch Horacek left the bases loaded to keep the game close.

Dartmouth touched Tiger hurler Kevin Link for a run in the third after he hit junior Joe Sclafani with a pitch with one out. Senior Sam Bean singled him to third and sophomore Chris O’Dowd just beat the relay on a double-play grounder, allowing Sclafani to cross the plate.

Consecutive singles to start the Princeton third got things rolling for the Tigers again. A sacrifice bunt by Flink preceded a Harrington two-run double, ending Horacek’s afternoon. Fellow rookie Mike Dodakian came on to pitch and escaped further damage.

Big Green freshman Jeff Keller walked with one out in the fourth, took third on a David Turnbull single and beat the throw to the plate on Jake Carlson’s fly to center, cutting into the deficit to two runs at 4-2. But Princeton scored for the fourth straight inning as John Mishu led off with a single, stole second, took third on a grounder and scored on Mulroy’s deep fly to center.

O’Dowd and Brooks belted back-to-back home runs in the Dartmouth fifth to knock Link from the mound and get the Green back within one. In the bottom half, Dodakian finally kept the Tigers from scoring by retiring the side in order.

Princeton reliever A.J. Goetz returned the favor by tossing a perfect sixth, and Tom Boggiano reached third when his bunt single was thrown wildly to first to lead off the Tiger half. Big Green head coach Bob Whalen summoned senior closer Ryan Smith from the bullpen, who got the first out on a called third strike. Mishu lofted a sacrifice fly for the second out, but the third was elusive as Mike Ford walked, Mulroy doubled and Jonathan York lined a two-run single for an 8-4 advantage.

When Brooks strode to the plate in the eighth, the Tigers still had a four-run lead. But the clean-up hitter laid into a Goetz 2-1 offering and cranked it well over the center-field fence for his second home run of the day and fourth of the season. Dartmouth put runners on first and third with two outs later in the frame, but Goetz got a grounder to end the threat.

In the ninth, Sclafani lined a lead-off single to right, but the Big Green could not get any more off Goetz as he finished out the game with three fly ball outs to improve his record to 3-1 on the season. The right-hander allowed just one run on four hits in 4.2 innings of relief, striking out two without walking a single batter.

Horacek (3-2) got stuck with the loss, yielding four runs on eight hits in 2.1 innings. Smith, who had either gotten a win or a save in six previous career appearances against Princeton, equaled a career high with five strikeouts in his three innings of work.

The Dartmouth senior class — comprised of Bean, Colin Britton, Brooks, Jeff Onstott, Brandon Parks, Jake Pruner, Smith and Dan Ternowchek — finishes its run with a school-record 109 victories against just 66 losses for a .623 winning percentage and two Ivy League crowns.

This was the fourth consecutive appearance in the Ivy Championship Series for the Big Green, and seventh in the past 12 years. But Princeton has had Dartmouth’s number in the championship, defeating the Green each of their four meetings (2000, ’01, ’04 and ’11). The Tigers will now await their destination for the NCAA Regionals having earned the Ivy League’s automatic berth in the tournament. The field of 64 will be announced at the end of May.