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Penn College baseball, softball teams ready

More than a year after their last competitive NCAA Division III games, it would be an understatement to say that the Pennsylvania College of Technology baseball and softball teams are eager to get back into action.

Both squads are scheduled to open at home Saturday – baseball hosting Penn State Harrisburg in a 1 p.m. twin bill at Bowman Field and softball entertaining Morrisville State College at 1 p.m. in a doubleheader at Elm Park. For the baseball team, it will have been 379 days since it last played while the softball team has been idled for 378 days – both due to the COVID-19 pandemic that prematurely ended all spring sports a year ago.

And playing an all-North Eastern Athletic Conference schedule that includes 10 doubleheaders, the importance of every game can’t be overlooked.

Baseball
Going into last season, Chris Howard was poised to pick up his 300th career coaching win after averaging nearly 22 wins per season during his first 13 years.

That, however, never happened as the Wildcats closed out a 10-game season with a 5-5 record that included wins in their last three games. Howard enters this season with a 289-193 record.

“With the loss of last season due to COVID, we are a very freshman-heavy team with essentially two freshman classes,” Howard said.

“Senior catcher Brittan Kittle, of Millville, will be the anchor and leader who will be key in developing our young pitching staff while also providing offensive pop in the middle of the lineup. Junior Jacob Carles, of Bernville, a two-year starter in the outfield, also will provide upperclassman leadership and steady offensive and defensive play,” Howard said.

Kittle earned NEAC second-team honors in 2017 and was named to the first team in 2018 and 2019. In nine games a year ago, he had a .567 batting average, 1.133 slugging percentage with 17 hits, 13 runs batted in, five home runs and six runs scored.

Carles was named to the NEAC second team in 2019. In 10 games last season, he had a .364 batting average, .455 slugging percentage, 12 hits, eight RBIs, nine runs scored and three stolen bases.

Another Wildcat to watch, according to Howard, is sophomore right-handed pitcher Justin Porter, of Fairless Hills, who struck out 11, walked two and had a 5.40 earned run average in 13.1 innings of work over three games last year.

“I would really like to build off of our last few games from Myrtle Beach last year. I really feel like some of last year’s freshmen were starting to get comfortable as college players,” Howard said.

“It will be different and a bit of a challenge to jump right into conference play without the benefit of nonconference games to knock some of the rust off but we are simply going to have to rise to the challenge,” Howard continued. “I think the fact that we are finally able to play again will help us in those first few games. One of the purposes of nonconference games is to help determine who your starters are going to be as you move into conference play. This year will be more of a “who’s hot is who’s in the lineup.”

Last season, the infield ended with sophomore Tyler Rudolph, of Hemlock, New York, at first base; junior Brayden Lippert, of Carlisle, at second base; sophomore Keegan Nytz, of Allentown, at shortstop; and sophomore Cameron Dick, of Dillsburg, at third base. “They are all solid players but we also have some really nice depth all the way around the infield this year,” said Howard, who is assisted by Jared Grove.

Senior Ethan Ketterman, of Biglerville, is coming back this year after shoulder surgery, according to the coach, and another player who is making quite an impression is junior Brian Robison, of Quakertown, who can play all over the infield.

“Freshman Reese Kauffman, of York Haven, is someone who will make an impact for us this year with his bat, as well as junior Connor Burke, of St. Clair, who is just a solid hitter and a nice offensive weapon to have,” Howard said, adding, “freshmen Ian Gagliano, of Hughesville, and Alex Jaworski, of Taylor, have been getting stronger every day and have some really nice hands playing at shortstop and second base, respectively. Sophomore Shane Price, of Kersey, can play third and catch, and he ended last year hot with three home runs in Myrtle as the designated hitter.

“We have a solid outfield with Carles; sophomore Jake Wagner, of Palmyra; sophomore Kolt Smith, of Millville; junior Sam Zeigler, of Palmyra; and junior Christian Perna, of Frenchtown, New Jersey. You can interchange any of those guys in any position and they will perform.

“We have several players that can be used in the DH spot this year with Price, Kauffman, Burke, Ketterman and freshman Dom Harding, of South Williamsport. All of them swing the bat really well which will give us several choices.”

Catching will be anchored by Kittle with depth coming from Harding, Price and freshman Drake Mankey, of Williamsport.

“Pitching will always be the key and we are happy with the staff that we are developing,” Howard said, pointing to Porter; Ben Bretzman, of Bendersville; Cole Culver, of Titusville; Joe Fatzinger, of Topton; Andrew Snyder, of Whitehall; and Evan Nagy, of Loyalsock Township, who are “second-year players (COVID freshmen) we are looking to develop into the heart of our staff.”

Seniors Luis Rodriguez, of Bronx, New York; Max Conrad, of Hagerstown, Maryland; and Hunter Jordan, of Middleburg, “will be key to our success on the hill this year. Not just by how they perform on the mound but how they help along the rest of the young staff,” Howard said.

Freshmen pitchers who have impressed the staff so far are Chance Webb, of Hughesville, and Joel Verrico, of Montoursville. Howard also said he looks for freshman Jason Cute, of Glenside, to develop into a starter as his career progresses.

Based on the preseason outlook of NEAC coaches, perennial title contenders Penn State Berks and 2019 champion Penn State Abington, along with conference “newcomer” Penn State Harrisburg, should be among the elite. Penn State Harrisburg was a member of the NEAC from 2007-13, then left for the Colonial Athletic Conference.

“I’m not so concerned about getting off to a hot start. I think it is much more important to improve every day, every game, and make sure that our last 10-12 games we are playing the best baseball we can. Our goal every year is to make the conference playoffs and win a conference championship. This year will be no different,” Howard said.

Softball
Due to its abrupt end, Angie Hunley termed last year as “the hardest season in my coaching career.” And it was her first at Penn College after a dozen years as an assistant at Mansfield University. So, in a sense, her new beginning that ended with a 5-4 record, including shutout wins in its final two games, is set to begin again.

“After graduating pitching powerhouse Morgan Heritage (New Castle, Delaware), the team will rely on its strong defense, speed and hitting lineup to lead the way in 2021,” Hunley said.

“Returning seven starters from last year’s roster, the Wildcats will be an experienced squad looking to be in the hunt for a playoff berth,” the coach continued, adding, “with the addition of a few key rookies, the team is looking forward to a strong return to NEAC play after its 2019 championship tournament runner-up campaign.

“Losing Morgan Heritage in the pitcher’s circle is difficult. She pitched the majority of the team’s innings her entire career. We will be relying on our pitching staff to step up and get it done for us.”

Key returning players are sophomore shortstop Maddie Hurst, of Mechanicsburg, and sophomore catcher Ivvy Morder. Both are sophomores from Mechanicsburg. In nine games last year, Morder hit .417 with eight RBIs and five runs scored and Hurst hit .344 with nine RBIs and 12 runs scored.

Other returning starters are junior Liv Hemstock, of Northford, Connecticut; junior Shayla Bickel, of Shinglehouse; sophomore Madison Shaffer, of Trout Run; sophomore Jaylynn Cochran, of Cogan Station; and junior Gillian Sinnott, of Sykesville, Maryland.

Based on the preseason outlook of NEAC coaches, 2019 champion Penn State Berks, Penn State Abington and Penn State Harrisburg also should be among the top teams. PS Harrisburg returns to the conference after a six-year stint in the Colonial Athletic Conference.

“With the shortened season, every game becomes crucial. We have to be ready to go … to battle for a playoff berth,” said Hunley, who is assisted by Taylor Chidester.

“We are hungry and excited to get back on the field!” Hunley added.

Men’s/Women’s Tennis
This week, the start of the season was pushed back to April 10 and a revised schedule (see below) was announced.

SCHEDULES/RECORDS/RESULTS
Baseball
Saturday, March 27 – host Penn State Harrisburg at Bowman Field (2), 1 p.m.
Wednesday, March 31 – at Wells College (2), 1 p.m.
Saturday, April 3 – at Penn State Abington (2), 1 p.m.
Wednesday, April 7 – at Lancaster Bible College (2), noon
Saturday, April 10 – host Penn State Berks (2) at Bowman Field, Noon
Thursday, April 15 – at Penn State Harrisburg (2), 1 p.m.
Saturday, April 17 – host Wells College at Bowman Field (2), 1 p.m.
Wednesday, April 21 – host Penn State Abington at Bowman Field (2), 1 p.m.
Saturday, April 24 – host Lancaster Bible College at Bowman Field (2), 1 p.m.
Wednesday, April 28 – at Penn State Berks (2), 1 p.m.
Saturday, May 1 – NEAC Playoffs, TBA
Saturday, May 8 – NEAC Semifinals, TBA
Saturday, May 15 – NEAC Championship, TBA

Softball
Saturday, March 27 – host Morrisville State College at Elm Park (2), 1 p.m.
Saturday, April 3 – host Penn State Harrisburg at Elm Park (2), 1 p.m.
Wednesday, April 7 – at Penn State Berks (2), 3 p.m.
Saturday, April 10 – host Lancaster Bible College at Elm Park (2), 1 p.m.
Wednesday, April 14 – host Wells College at Elm Park (2), 4 p.m.
Saturday, April 17 – at Penn State Abington (2), 1 p.m.
Saturday, April 24 – at Morrisville State College (2), 1 p.m.
Thursday, April 29 – at Penn State Harrisburg (2), 3 p.m.
Saturday, May 1 – host Penn State Berks (2), 5 p.m.
Thursday, May 6 – at Wells College (2), 4 p.m.
Saturday, May 8 – NEAC Semifinals, TBA
Saturday, May 15 – NEAC Championship, TBA

Men’s Lacrosse
Saturday, April 3 – host Morrisville State College, 1 p.m.
Sunday, April 11 – at La Roche University, 1 p.m.
Saturday, April 17 – host Medaille College, 1 p.m.
Saturday, April 24 – at Wells College, 1 p.m.
Saturday, May 1 – at Hilbert College, 2 p.m.
Wednesday, May 5 – NEAC Playoffs, TBA
Saturday, May 8 – NEAC Championship, TBA

Golf
Wednesday, April 7 – vs. Lycoming College at Williamsport Country Club, TBA
Wednesday, April 14 – NEAC Preview at Harrisburg’s Dauphin Highlands Golf Course, TBA
Saturday-Sunday, April 24-25 – NEAC Championship at Harrisburg’s Dauphin Highlands Golf Course, TBA

Men’s Tennis
Saturday, April 10 – at Lancaster Bible College, 1 p.m.
Sunday, April 11 – host Penn State Harrisburg, 1 p.m.
Saturday, April 17 – at Penn State Berks, 3 p.m.
Tuesday, April 20 – host Penn State Abington, 2 p.m.
Saturday, April 24 – NEAC Playoffs, TBA
Tuesday, April 27 – NEAC Semifinals, TBA
Saturday, May 1 – NEAC Championship, TBA

Women’s Tennis
Saturday, April 10 – at Lancaster Bible College, 1 p.m.
Sunday, April 11 – host Penn State Harrisburg, 1 p.m.
Saturday, April 17 – at Penn State Berks, 3 p.m.
Tuesday, April 20 – host Penn State Abington, 2 p.m.
Saturday, April 24 – NEAC Playoffs, TBA
Tuesday, April 27 – NEAC Semifinals, TBA
Saturday, May 1 – NEAC Championship, TBA

For more information, visit the Wildcat Athletics website.

For more about NEAC, visit the conference website. (NOTE: All playoff schedules taken from that site).

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