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Penn College Baseball, Softball Teams Set for Division III Play

Someone once sang, “Nothing would be finer than to be in Carolina in the morning,” and Pennsylvania College of Technology baseball coach Chris Howard and softball coach Roger Harris couldn’t agree more.

Howard’s baseball team is scheduled to open its season Friday with a single game at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Virginia, before playing eight games over five days in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Harris’ softball squad is also headed to Myrtle Beach, where it will play nine games over five days. As the season progresses, both teams will compete for the first time as provisional members of NCAA Division III in the North Eastern Athletic Conference.

“Every year, the guys get tired of being indoors about this time, anyway, but now even more so just because it’s been such a brutal February,” Howard said. “Even though the weather is bad, it’s a pretty exciting time. The guys are starting to get the adrenaline going for that start.”

“We’re looking forward to a chance to get outside; it brings a whole different perspective. Working out inside, the ball takes different jumps off concrete than it does off the turf or dirt,” Harris said.

Baseball
The Wildcats are coming off a 24-11 season during which they tied the school single-season win record, set the year before, and finished among the top four teams in the Penn State University Athletic Conference. This season brings a new conference, however, and Howard, whose career record at Penn College in eight years is 194-97, is ready.

Key returning players are senior pitchers Tyler Cooklin, of Rippey, Iowa, and Matt Demilio, of Greensburg; sophomore pitchers Clay DeNoia, of Berwick; Kyle Fox, of Fleetwood, and Chris Glunk, of Jersey Shore; junior shortstop James Simasek, of Landenberg; sophomore first baseman Evan Vigna, of McAdoo; sophomore outfielders Dylan Scaringi, of Coatesville, and Cole Weachock, of Pottsville; senior outfielder James Scully III, of Middletown, Delaware; junior outfielder Rantz Mahaffey, of Linden; junior second baseman Jeremy Rall, of Williamsport; and senior catcher Zach Weil, of Kutztown.

Speaking of Weil, Howard said, “He’s going to be a pretty big key for us. It’s real important for him handling this pitching staff, and he does a good job for us hitting-wise.”

One of the newcomers that Howard is counting on is junior pitcher Ryan Hostrander, of Williamsport, a transfer from West Virginia.

“Our first year being an NCAA school and in a new conference, everybody is excited. We have new places to travel to, new teams to play,” Howard said.

“We’re out there. We’re practicing hard. We’ve been doing the things from September, when we first met, until now to get ourselves better. It’s going to help when we get out on the field. I’m excited about the team and I think we can do some good things, but we need to continue to improve every day,” the coach continued.

“We’ve added a really good class of incoming freshmen and first-year players and I think they’re really going to add to the nucleus of players we have back. … We have a good mix of guys who want to win and who want to get better and that’s what you really need to be successful. It’s one thing to want to go out there and win ballgames, but it’s a whole other thing to want to do the things you have to do to get better and win games and I have those type of guys,” Howard said.

Also helping with the team this season are assistant coach Ian Catherine and volunteer assistants Nick Kelley and Levon Whitmyer.

Looking ahead to his team’s time in South Carolina, Howard said, “I wanted to play a lot of teams. It’s a difficult schedule. We’ve got some really good teams and one (Bridgewater College) is ranked 21st in the country in Division III, so it’s going to be a test and we’re going to find out real quick what it’s like to be at the next level. But if you want to be the best, you’ve got to play the best.

“I want us to go out there and play hard, pick each other up and try and do things go get ourselves better every day. If we do that, by the time we get to conference play, I will feel pretty good about ourselves. … The guys are motivated and ready to go.”

Penn College plays its home games at Bowman Field.

Softball
With an all-sophomore and freshman team a year ago, Harris guided his squad to the PSUAC championship and a Top 5 finish in the United States Collegiate Athletic Association Small College World Series as the Wildcats went 20-13 overall during Harris’ 13th season. With the core of that team returning, Harris, whose career record is 165-150, is optimistic.

“We’re really excited about going into the year because we maintained a lot of our roster. We’re coming back with (sophomore pitcher) Arika Stopper, of Williamsport, who was a workhorse for us on the mound, and we have (sophomore) Jessica Gmerek, of Bellefonte, behind the plate and she did an incredible job with her bat.

“We have (sophomore) Macie Lucas, of Reedsville, at shortstop and (junior) Karey Wolfe, of Milton, at second base; (junior) Samantha Hill, of Montgomery, at third base; (junior) Nicole Lo Furno, of Glen Mills, in center field; (junior outfielder-pitcher) Katie Kratzer, of Lynch Station, Virginia, in left field; and (junior) Alexandra Brennan, of Saint Clair, in right field,” Harris noted. All are expected to start in the team’s opener along with freshman first baseman Samantha Starner, of Biglerville.

“With the returning players we’ve got and the new ones, we’re looking to have a good season going into Division III,” Harris said.

“We know we’re going to go up against some incredible teams. We’ve been working a lot on our bat speed … getting it up to where it needs to be. … We’re gearing for faster pitching. We’re gearing for faster girls. All things considered, I’m pretty excited about it; not over cocky going into it, but I have extreme confidence in the girls,” the coach said.

“The Myrtle Beach trip, for us, is a chance to find out what the new players can do, maybe shift a player here or there, switch the batting order around. It’s a great opportunity for the girls to give them bonding time together. That’s very, very important, I feel,” said Harris, who is assisted by Jeff Tomb and volunteer Paul Steppe.

“The girls rose to the occasion last year to make the playoffs and win states (PSUAC) and to get to the Small College World Series and I have no reason to doubt that with 90 or 95 percent of them coming back that we can’t at least make some kind of impression in our first year in Division III and the NEAC,” Harris added.

Penn College’s home games are played at Elm Park.

PENN COLLEGE SCHEDULES
Baseball
Friday, March 6 – at University of Mary Washington, 1 p.m.
Sunday, March 8 – vs. Johnson and Wales University at Myrtle Beach, S.C., 9 a.m.
Sunday, March 8 – vs. Albertus Magnus College at Myrtle Beach, S.C., 6 p.m.
Monday, March 9 – vs. Penn State Harrisburg (2) at Myrtle Beach, S.C., 10 a.m.
Tuesday, March 10 – vs. Albertus Magnus College at Myrtle Beach, S.C., 6 p.m.
Wednesday, March 11 – vs. Hood College at Myrtle Beach, S.C., 3 p.m.
Wednesday, March 11 – vs. Bridgewater College at Myrtle Beach, S.C., 6 p.m.
Thursday, March 12 – vs. Washington (Md.) College at Myrtle Beach, S.C., 9 a.m.
Wednesday, March 18 – host Wilkes University, 4 p.m.

Softball
Sunday, March 8 – vs. Penn State Harrisburg at Myrtle Beach, S.C., 9:30 a.m.
Sunday, March 8 – vs. Bridgewater College at Myrtle Beach, S.C., 11:30 a.m.
Monday, March 9 – vs. Iowa Wesleyan College at Myrtle Beach, S.C., 9:30 a.m.
Monday, March 9 – vs. Dickinson College at Myrtle Beach, S.C., 11:30 a.m.
Tuesday, March 10 – vs. Mount Aloysius College at Myrtle Beach, S.C., 9:30 a.m.
Tuesday, March 10 – vs. Delaware Valley College at Myrtle Beach, S.C., 11:30 a.m.
Thursday, March 12 – vs. SUNYIT at Myrtle Beach, S.C., 9:30 a.m.
Thursday, March 12 – vs. MacMurray College at Myrtle Beach, S.C., 11:30 a.m.
Friday, March 13 – vs. St. Joseph’s College at Myrtle Beach, S.C., 9:30 a.m.
Thursday, March 19 – host Lycoming College (2), 3 and 5 p.m.

Archery
Saturday-Sunday, March 13-15 – U.S. Indoor Nationals at Harrisonburg, Virginia

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