A season ago, the Princeton Tigers went 24-20 overall, with a 13-7 mark in Ivy League play, and captured the Ivy League Championship, placing them into the Lafayette Regional alongside host Louisiana-Lafayette, Arizona, and Sam Houston State.
A big reason for that level of success was the two-headed monster in the rotation of Chad Powers, who was the Ivy League Pitcher of the Year a season ago, and Keelan Smithers, who earned Second Team All-Ivy League honors.
Heading into the 2017 season, Powers and Smithers are back on campus, and that means that the Tigers are once again going to be the favorites for the Ivy League crown.
Powers took a big leap from his freshman to his sophomore season. As a freshman in 2015, he pitched in nine games, all of which were starts. He went 1-6 with a 6.55 ERA. Opponents hit .321 against him and nearly half (25 of 60) of the hits he gave up were for extra bases.
In 2016, he was a completely different pitcher. He started and appeared in 11 games, going 6-4 with a 2.45 ERA. In 77 innings of work, he struck out 45, walked just 17, and allowed opponents to hit just .211 against him.
Smithers has enjoyed a similar trajectory. In his freshman campaign two seasons ago, he went 1-8 with a 5.18 ERA in nine starts, and allowed opponents to hit .313 against him. As a sophomore, in eight starts, he 4-1 with a 3.46 ERA. He also dropped the batting average against him all the way down to .258.
There are plenty of other reasons for optimism around the Princeton program, including the return of bullpen arm Chad Giglio and top hitters Jesper Horsted and Nick Hernandez, but the return of Powers and Smithers has to be the biggest.