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Baseball team headed to playoffs; softball squad ends second

While the Pennsylvania College of Technology softball team celebrates its record-setting season and second-place finish in the North Eastern Athletic Conference, the college’s baseball team is set to make a championship run starting at 3 p.m. Tuesday when it hosts Wells College at Bowman Field.

The fourth-seeded Wildcats completed a 14-21 overall and 11-6 NEAC regular season over the weekend and are 5-0 lifetime against fifth-seeded Wells, which brings records of 16-20 overall and 9-9 conference into the game.

Third-seeded defending champ Penn State Berks (22-13, 13-5) and sixth-seeded SUNY Cobleskill (16-21, 9-9) square off on Tuesday in the other play-in game with the winners joining top-seeded Keuka College (25-14, 15-3) and second-seeded Penn State Abington (21-15, 14-3) in the double-elimination Final Four from Friday through Sunday. During the regular season, Penn College split with Keuka and Penn State Abington, lost three games to Berks and didn’t play Cobleskill.

“Berks was a series that stuck in everybody’s craw. I certainly felt like we were a better team than what we played that series. … The Berks series was a turning point in our season. It gave everybody a little wakeup call on starting to play a little better baseball. That series hurt our ego more than anything,” coach Chris Howard said.

In nonconference action last Tuesday at home with Juniata College, Penn College lost by scores of 6-0 and 6-5. In the first game, the Wildcats scratched out six hits – two by Colton Riley, of Danville – but stranded 13 base runners. Wildcats’ starting pitcher Braden Smith, of Elliottsburg, dropped to 0-3 with the loss. In the second game, Penn College led 4-3 after six innings before Juniata pushed across three runs in the seventh to pull out the sweep. Wildcat starting pitcher Cody Nelson, of South Williamsport, struck out eight and allowed only two earned runs, but was victimized by four Penn College errors. Richard Lennon, of Morgantown, led the Wildcats’ offense with three hits.

In a Saturday NEAC twin bill moved to New York state for more favorable weather against SUNY Poly, Penn College won 6-1 in eight innings and 5-4 in nine innings. In the first game, a double, three singles and a bases-loaded walk resulted in five runs in the top of the eighth that snapped a 1-1 tie and produced the win. Starting pitcher Nathan Holt, of Shippensburg, went the distance, striking out eight, to improve to 5-4 on the season. In the second game, RBI singles by Alex Flicker, of Topton, and Lennon in the top of the ninth lifted Penn College. Lennon finished the game 4 for 4 hitting with two runs scored and helped make a winner of starting pitcher Devon Sanders, of Bloomsburg (3-4). Alex Gilbert, of Yardley, pitched one inning in relief and earned a save.

Wrapping up its series and regular season on Sunday against SUNY Poly, Penn College had a five-run eighth inning to break out on top, 6-2, before Poly came back to tie it in the bottom of the frame. Then, in the top of the ninth, Jacob Carles, of Bernville, scored on a passed ball for a 7-6 Penn College victory and sent his team into the playoffs with a six-game NEAC win streak (including three games against Gallaudet University a week ago.) Cole Hofmann, of Newtown, went 3 for 4 hitting and drove in two runs while Riley had two hits and scored twice to help make a winner of starting pitcher Nelson, who is 4-3 overall.

“It’s been a pretty up-and-down year. We’ve had games where we’ve been hitting the ball well, then we’ve had games we’re pitching well and the defense has not been up to par. Then the last couple of weeks we really put it all together,” Howard said. “We’ve been getting some really quality starting pitching all season, so it’s nice that the bats and the defense have finally caught up to it.

“It’s been a season unlike I’ve ever experienced. We say we’re starting to put it together and something happens. … But credit to the guys. They’ve stuck with it. They’ve never stopped and these last couple of weeks when you really had to put the wins together and make a push for the playoffs they came through.”

This marks the 12th time in Howard’s 13 years as head coach that the Wildcats have reached the postseason.

“I think we have to make sure we’re playing consistent. We have to come up with the timely hits when we need them,” Howard said of the playoff keys. “I’ve been very happy with the starting pitching and, honestly, the bullpen is starting to come around. And defensively, we’re starting to tie it together. It’s just a matter of staying focused and going out there and never letting up.”

The Wildcats are coming off back-to-back second-place finishes.

“When we met back in August, that’s something that we wanted to turn around. It’s great to be in the championship but you want to win them, too. That’s been a driving force for us the whole year,” Howard said.

Early last week, Holt, a sophomore, was named the NEAC Pitcher of the Week for the second time this season after posting a 2-0 record with a 1.20 ERA the previous week. Holt threw two complete games against Gallaudet University and Penn State Abington while striking out eight in each game. The Wildcats’ right-hander scattered 12 hits and allowed two earned runs in 15 innings of work.

Holt is expected to start on the mound Tuesday, Howard said, with Sanders, Nelson, Brad Walter of Williamsport and Trevor Dolan of New Bloomfield being called on later in the week, if needed.

In North Eastern Athletic Conference action this week (records through Sunday)Host Wells College (16-20 overall, 9-9), 3 p.m. Tuesday at Bowman Field.

Last meeting vs. Wells CollegeWon 13-0 on March 13.

NEAC standings through SundayKeuka College 15-3, Penn State Abington 14-3, Penn State Berks 13-5, Penn College 11-6, Wells College 9-9, SUNY Cobleskill 9-9, Lancaster Bible College 8-10, SUNY Poly 7-11, Gallaudet University 2-16, Cazenovia College 1-17.

Statistically speaking in the NEAC Top 10 as of SundaySanders is No. 1 with a 2.40 ERA; Holt is No. 3 with 56 strikeouts, No. 4 with a 2.97 ERA; Carles and Kittle are tied for No. 7 with five home runs each; Flicker and Kittle are tied for No. 8 with 32 RBIs each; Gilbert is tied for No. 3 with two saves; and Dolan is tied for No. 9 with one save.

“They fought well. They did a tremendous job,” coach Jackie Klahold said after her team went 3-2 in the NEAC playoffs and finished second to perennial powerhouse Penn State Berks.

The Wildcats closed out their season 24-15 overall –setting a new Penn College single-season win record – and were 16-7 in all NEAC games, 13-5 during the regular season.

“(In March, I said), ‘they didn’t need to be great, they just needed to continue to get better’ and they just have been playing very good ball the past two to three weeks. I’m very proud of them,” Klahold, whose overall record after four seasons is 76-70, said.

“(The players) talked about, at the beginning of the season, having that ‘magical season’ and that’s kind of what we’ve been using, to a degree, besides our ‘win every inning,’ (as motivation.) They wanted to have that and they had the opportunity to have that,” the coach continued. “At times throughout the season, it was very up and down and they didn’t know if they really believed it. But they started buying in the last (several) weeks of the season. They definitely came together and they trusted each other and made a good run.”

On Tuesday, a four-run first inning was all the offense that was needed in a 5-2 home win over Penn State Abington that lifted the Wildcats into the weekend NEAC Final Four. The team’s 22nd victory of the season also set a new single-season win record in the college’s NCAA era that began in 2015. Taylor Brooks, of Cogan Station, drove in two of the first-inning runs – she finished with a two-hit day – and pitcher Morgan Heritage, of New Castle, Delaware, silenced Abington’s bats with a five-hit, nine-strikeout performance. Taylor Krow, of Mechanicsburg, ended the game with three hits and two runs scored.

Facing SUNY Cobleskill on Friday in its first game of the double-elimination Final Four, Heritage continued her late-season pitching domination and the Penn College bats continued to burn in a 7-1 win, the team’s 12th in its last 13 games. Heritage allowed no earned runs, struck out eight and walked none. On offense, the Wildcats put together a four-run second inning and three-run sixth. Kylie Shreiner, of East Petersburg, and Maddie Wenk, of Biglerville, each drove in two runs, with Wenk’s hit a triple that ignited the second-inning outburst. The team’s 23rd win tied the college’s all-time win record that came in 2007 when it finished 23-6 overall and won the Penn State University Athletic Conference title — Penn College’s first-ever championship — with a 22-3 mark.

Next up on Friday for Penn College was defending conference champion Penn State Berks, and Berks’ starting pitcher Jess Rozick held the upper hand, limiting the Wildcats to three hits in a 3-1 loss. Kassidy Svenson, of Auburn, took the mound loss for Penn College. The Wildcats’ lone run was scored in the seventh inning after Shreiner led off with a double and scored on a one-out double by Brooks. That put Penn College into a must-win situation Saturday morning against SUNY Cobleskill.

Squaring off against SUNY Cobleskill on Saturday for the second time in 24 hours in the losers-bracket final, Heritage again was in great form as she fired a one-hit shutout, striking out eight, in a 4-0 victory. Brooks went 2 for 3 and drove in the first two Penn College runs with a single in the first inning and a single in the Wildcats’ three-run fifth inning. Shreiner led Penn College’s 12-hit attack with three hits. Heritage, who ended the season 11-7 overall, has been on fire since April 18 with eight wins and no losses in 55⅓ innings of work, allowing three earned runs for a 0.49 ERA, giving up 25 hits and striking out 77.

“It’s just phenomenal. She was definitely in the right frame of mind, and she was ready to go whenever needed,” Klahold said of her pitching ace.

“We were picked (in a preseason coaches’ poll) to finish third and going into the game against Cobleskill (Saturday morning), we said we didn’t want to be where we were picked (to finish). We didn’t want to meet those expectations, we wanted to exceed those expectations,” Klahold noted.

With little more than a breather between games on Saturday, the Wildcats went right back into action against conference unbeaten Berks, hoping to force an “if” game for the championship. But once again, Berks prevailed, 3-2, to clinch the title. Berks scored two runs in the second inning and one in the third and limited the Wildcats to single runs in the third and fifth frames. Svenson (6-4) took the mound loss.

“(Berks) is the top dog in the conference … and for us to sit here and have a better game with them, and give them some competition, it really, for us, was about believing. … Yeah, we had some missed opportunities (Saturday), but that was a heck of a ballgame. We didn’t have any errors. We played clean. Our pitchers came in and did the job that they were supposed to do. We just came up a little short,” Klahold said.

Last Monday, senior Shreiner and sophomore Heritage received NEAC weekly softball honors. Shreiner was honored as the NEAC Softball Player of the Week after batting .483 in eight conference games the previous week. The Wildcats’ catcher helped her team go 7-1 with 14 hits, including a game-winning grand slam against Wells. She had six-extra base hits, seven runs, 15 RBIs and a stolen base. She also completed the week with a .500 on-base percentage and a .759 slugging percentage. Heritage was recognized as the NEAC Softball Pitcher of the Week with a 0.25 ERA and 42 strikeouts in seven appearances. She went 4-0 on the week while allowing one earned run and 11 hits in 27⅔ innings pitched. Heritage tossed complete-game shutouts against Lancaster Bible College and Penn State Abington to help the Wildcats clinch the No. 2 seed in the South Division.

And on Thursday, Shreiner, Heritage, Krow and Brooks were named to the NEAC softball all-conference team – Shreiner and Heritage to the first team, Krow to the second team and Brooks to the third team. All are seniors, except Heritage who is a sophomore. Shreiner is a first-time selection to the All-NEAC squad while Krow made her fourth all-conference team, Brooks got her third nod and Heritage her second selection.

“The program started with those four, four-year seniors (Wenk, Brooks, Krow and Liz Asher, of East Stroudsburg) who just finished out their careers. When they got here, we literally had eight players in the fall of their freshman year. To see what this program has built over the past four years, they started something really, really good that they should be very proud of and that everyone who is coming into this program should be proud to take part in,” Klahold said.

“(Assistant coach Jeff Tomb) and I were talking a few days ago about how excited we are for this postseason and how excited we are for next year and our incoming class because they’re a phenomenal group of student-athletes. We’re going to be young next year, but we’re extremely excited about it,” the coach added.

Statistically speaking in the NEAC Top 10: Shreiner was No. 1 with 41 RBIs; Heritage was No. 1 with 136 strikeouts, No. 3 with a 2.01 ERA, No. 4 with 11 wins; Brooks was No. 3 with 33 RBIs; Svenson was No. 9 with a 3.19 ERA; Kyla Benner, of Bethlehem, was tied for No. 2 with one save.

Wildcat award-winners (from left): Cronan, Wikane, Runner, Sanders, Carles, Krow and Otis.
Wildcat award-winners (from left): Cronan, Wikane, Runner, Sanders, Carles, Krow and Otis.

Seven student-athletes honored
On Wednesday, Penn College honored seven student-athletes with four awards at the third annual athletics banquet.

Dylan Otis, of Wyalusing (wrestling), and Krow (softball) were named the Male and Female Athletes of the Year in a category that included Brittan Kittle, of Millville (baseball); Josh Velez, of Lewistown (men’s cross-country); and Taylor Gonzales, of Lititz (women’s soccer).

Otis finished the season with a 33-10 record, was first in wins, second in falls and finished fourth at the NCAA Northeast Regionals. Krow, who earned the same award last year, was an All-NEAC first team selection last season and second team honoree this year.

Carles (baseball) and Kaelan Cronan, of Leesport (women’s soccer), were named the Male and Female Newcomers of the Year in a category the included Jonah Isaacson, of Muncy (men’s cross-country); Colton Wartman, of Ellicott City, Maryland (men’s soccer); Dylan Gettys, of Etters (wrestling); and Rosey Thomas, of Port Allegany (women’s cross-country).

As of Wednesday, Carles was leading the baseball team in nearly every offensive category, including batting average (.376), runs (36), hits (44), RBI (20) and home runs (5). Cronan tied a program record with 15 goals last season and finished with 35 points en route to an All-NEAC first team honor.

Thomas Runner, of Elkridge, Maryland (men’s cross-country), and Emily Wikane, of Bel Air, Maryland (softball), were named the Male and Female Scholar Athletes of the Year, in a category that included Otis and Rylee Butler, of Milesburg (archery).

Runner, who earned the honor for a second time, boasts a 3.89 GPA, is a three-year member of the college’s Student Athletic Advisory Committee, and is involved in various community service initiatives. Wikane has a 3.81 GPA, is a multiple-time dean’s list selection and serves as a resident assistant, which includes spearheading several community events and acting as a mentor and leader in the residence halls.

Sanders (baseball), was given the inaugural PAW Award (Personification of A Wildcat), which goes to a student who has “characteristics and attributes that everyone can see but no one can define.” Sanders is a four-year member of Student Athletic Advisory Committee, a leader on the baseball squad and an integral part of various athletics-driven initiatives and community service events.

Overall: 14-21
NEAC: 11-6
Tuesday, April 30 – host Juniata College (2) at Bowman Field, L, 6-0; L, 6-5
Saturday, May 4 – host SUNY Poly (NEAC), W, 6-1 in eight innings; W, 5-4 in nine innings
Sunday, May 5 – host SUNY Poly (NEAC), W, 7-6
Tuesday, May 7 – host Wells College in NEAC playoff at Bowman Field, 3 p.m.
Friday, May 10 – NEAC Championship Tournament, TBA

Final overall: 24-15
Final NEAC: 16-7 (13-5 regular season)
Tuesday, April 30 – host Penn State Abington in NEAC playoff at Elm Park, W, 5-2
NEAC Final Four at Penn State Berks
Friday, May 3 – vs. SUNY Cobleskill, W, 7-1
Friday, May 3 – vs. Penn State Berks, L, 3-1
Saturday, May 4 – vs. SUNY Cobleskill, W, 4-0
Saturday, May 4 – vs. Penn State Berks, L, 3-2

Thursday-Sunday, May 16-19 – U.S. National Outdoor Collegiate Championships at Darree Fields Park, Dublin, Ohio.

For more about NEAC, visit the conference website.

For more information, visit the Wildcat Athletics website.

No. 39


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