PRINCETON: All-star appearance latest step in Gross comeback


After missing most of the last three years with arm trouble

By Bob Nuse, Sports Editor
Ben Gross couldn’t have asked for anything more during his junior season at Princeton University.
After arm trouble limited Gross to just six inning on the mound as a senior at Princeton High School, he missed all of his freshman season and pitched just three inning as a sophomore at PU.
Gross was finally healthy as a junior and turned in quite a season for the Tigers. At Princeton this past season, Gross was 3-5 with a 4.20 earned run average. He led the Tigers with 48 strikeouts. Among the highlights to his season was throwing a two-hitter over five innings and striking out eight in a game at Duke in March. Gross had made two appearances in 2016 and did not allow a run in three innings.
“It was nice to not be on the bench for every single game of the season and just be watching the team,” Gross said earlier this week from North Carolina, where he is pitching in the Coastal Plain League. “I think I surpassed my goals going into the season. One of my goals in my first full season back was to kind of get my feet wet. I felt like I did more than that and had a pretty big role for the team.”
Gross emerged as one of the weekend starters for the Tigers, getting nine starts on the season as Princeton went 12-28-1 overall and 7-13 in the Ivy League. For a pitcher who had basically been sidelined for three straight years, it was quite a success story.
“I had shoulder surgery and missed my freshman year and then sophomore year came back and was sort of rehabbing,” said Gross,a Cranbury resident. “I got a few innings in that year and then this year I was full back.”
This summer Gross is pitching for the Holly Spring Salamanders in the Coastal Plain League. He was selected to play in the Coastal Plain League All-Star game, where he pitched a scoreless inning for the East team, striking out two batters in the inning. The East won the game, 2-1.
So far this summer, Gross is 2-2 with a 2.08 earned run average in six games this summer. In 17.1 innings he has allowed just nine hits and seven walks, while he has struck out 26 batters. All four of the earned runs he has surrendered this season came in his last outing. Prior to that, Gross had gone nearly 17 innings without allowing an earned run.
“I’m not really sure what my official role is,” Gross said. “I come out of the bullpen. I am usually the first guy out after the starter and eat up as many inning as I can until they go to the next guy. I like the roll I am in. It’s nice change from starting. The objective is to gain more experience and help get ready for next year. I am away from the stresses of school work and it is a great atmosphere to play in down here. I would put this up there as one of the better summer collegiate leagues.
“My coaches at Princeton suggested I play in a summer baseball league and our pitching coach (Mike Russo) coached here a few years ago. He knew the GM and let him know about me. It is a lot of fun.”
Gross hopes the added experience of this summer helps him next year at Princeton, where he will likely be looked at as one of the team’s top starters.
“It will be my last year, so it will be bittersweet,” Gross said. “I definitely have higher expectations for myself and the team next year. Last year was more of a get out there and see if I still have it and if I can stay healthy and see if success comes. Next year I have to go out and continue to improve and do what I can to help the team.”