On paper, the Pennsylvania College of Technology baseball team is scheduled to open its season at 2 p.m. Wednesday hosting Baptist Bible College. One look out the window tells a different story, however.
“That’s just one of the hazards of being in Pennsylvania in February or early March,” coach Chris Howard said of the snow. “We have our fingers crossed for March 2, but I don’t know if that is going to happen. Our start might be March 6 when we play at Washington Adventist University (in Takoma Park, Md.). Either way, we’ll be ready.
“We started our practices earlier this year just because of the early start date. We wanted to get a good 40-game schedule in and we had to start the season when all of the other colleges do,” Howard continued. “You schedule the games and take your chances.”
“It’s tough to get a lot of things accomplished inside the Field House and, unfortunately, since the dome (Generations Sports Complex Dome) deflated, we couldn’t use that facility at all, but the guys have worked hard,” the coach said. “The guys are anxious to get outside and start playing.”
After a doubleheader in Maryland, the Wildcats travel to Myrtle Beach, S.C., where they’ll play four games over three days and should find the weather more to their liking. The long-range weather forecast there calls for temperatures in the upper 50s and 60s — with no snow.
Penn College has six key players returning from last year’s squad that went 12-11 and finished fourth in the Penn State University Athletic Conference. They are centerfielder Brett Braker (junior/Northampton), first baseman-pitcher Skylar Gingrich (junior/Lititz), second baseman Garrett Hornung (junior/Emporium), shortstop Tom Hughes (junior/Easton), right fielder Jared Johnson (senior/Wyalusing) and left fielder Ryan Weachock (sophomore/Pottsville).
Others expected to play key roles are first baseman-catcher Ethan Boyd (junior/Roaring Springs), pitcher Harrison Myers (junior/Lebanon), third baseman-pitcher Phil Carnevale (freshman/Carteret, N.J.), catcher Matt King (junior/Southampton), third baseman-pitcher Josh Longsderff (freshman/Columbia), infielder Tyler Rice (junior/Trumbull, Conn.) and pitchers James Funk (freshman/Washington Borough) and Brian Santangelo (freshman/Middletown, Conn.).
Also on the roster are Jarod Bull (freshman/Jacobus), Cody Buterbaugh (freshman/Conestoga), Christian Calle (freshman/Williamsport), Ryan Herrmann (sophomore/Silverdale), Branden Johnson (sophomore/Wyalusing) and Zachary Smith (freshman/Middletown).
Howard described Braker as “the best outfielder I’ve had in the five years I’ve been here.”
Key pitchers will be Myers, left-handed Funk, Gingerich and Santangelo.
“We’ve got a lot of good incoming freshmen who are really going to complement the older players and help us out. It’s a good combination,” Howard said.
Assessing his team’s offense, the coach said, “We have to do a better job all-around offensively than we did last year. It’s important that we get some big hits. Last year, we got guys on base and couldn’t seem to find that one big hit to sustain a rally. Guys need to concentrate on going up there and doing their job, whether it be advance the runner or getting the bat on the ball.”
“I’ve always felt that defense has been a strong point of ours,” Howard said, and he added, “I’ll put our outfield up against anybody that we play. They’re solid.”
Looking ahead, the coach said, “I think the returners were a little bit embarrassed about what happened last year. I’m pretty excited about the season, but you’ve got to go out on the field and play. Everything looks great when you’re practicing, but you’ve got to take it out on the field.
“The conference gets tougher every year “¦ Of the 10 teams, probably six are really good quality and the other four are on their way up “¦ Last year was a wake-up call for us. I think we’re probably in the middle of the pack right now and, as the year goes on and we work harder, we can move up to the top. It’s going to take a lot of work, but I know it’s something that we can do. We have the potential to be right there challenging for the championship,” said Howard, whose team won PSUAC titles in 2008 and 2009. “I’m as excited as I have ever been about what we have.”
The Wildcats will play their home games at Loyalsock Township High School’s field (1801 Loyalsock Drive) this season.