Second-seeded Pennsylvania College of Technology will take on third-seeded Penn State Brandywine at 4 p.m. Thursday at Medlar Field in State College in a first-round game of the Penn State University Athletic Conference baseball playoffs. Top-seeded PSU Greater Allegheny faces fourth-seeded Penn State Beaver at 7 that night.
Action in the double-elimination tournament continues with games at noon, 3 and 6 p.m. Friday and concludes Saturday with games at noon and, if necessary, 3 p.m.
The Wildcats (16-2 in the conference) split a doubleheader with Penn State Brandywine (11-8 going into a doubleheader Tuesday against Penn State Hazleton) on Sunday, winning 13-7 before losing 7-1, and coach Chris Howard said, “They’re a really good ballclub. They swung the bats well the two games we played them here. We’ve had tough games with them ever since I became the head coach here (seven years ago) and I don’t expect it to be any different on Thursday.
“I told the guys that, at tournament time, it is very intense. What it boils down to is who makes the least amount of mistakes. As long as we play the way we’ve been playing defensively all year, we’ll be fine. You’ve got to keep your intensity up and really pay attention to the small things,” the coach said.
Commenting on the regular season, in which Penn College is 19-13 overall going into a game Wednesday against Marywood University, Howard said, “I was pleased with the way our conference games went. The guys really took care of business and we won the close ones. … I thought our non-conference schedule was challenging and we were in (most) every game; in fact, we should have won a few of them. The guys play hard every inning and that’s all I can ask of them.”
Josh Longsderff, of Columbia, will pitch the first playoff game, with Matt Demilio, of Greensburg; Brian Santangelo, of Middletown, Conn.; and possibly Zachary Yetter, of Thompsontown; starting after that.
Two Wildcats are among the conference’s offensive leaders: Travis Hendershot, of Muncy, with 34 runs batted in, and Zach Weil, of Kutztown, with 31 RBIs. Brothers Cody and Zach Buterbaugh, of Conestoga, lead the team in batting average at .414 and .366, respectively, while Weil is hitting .341 and Hendershot .340. Zach Buterbaugh has scored 36 runs, Cody Buterbaugh has 27 RBIs and 10 stolen bases, and Hendershot has 12 doubles in addition to a team-high three home runs.
“Hendershot has been unbelievable this year. He gets into those grooves where he just squares up everything that is thrown up there. It seems like the Buterbaughs always are on base, but what really has helped us this year is the hitting of Weil in the No. 4 hole. We made some tweaks to his swing and he really has taken off this year. I’ve been happy with the way he’s played, not just offensively, but he’s done a heck of a job behind the plate, too,” Howard said.
“It’s time to get it done. That’s about all that can be said. It would be nice to bring back another conference title. It’s been too long,” added Howard, who guided his team to PSUAC titles in 2008 and 2009.
Penn State Greater Allegheny is 16-2 in the conference and Penn State Beaver 11-7.