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Penn College Baseball Team Seeks National Championship

Coach Chris HowardLong ago in his baseball career, which included a stint in the major leagues, Pennsylvania College of Technology coach Chris Howard adopted a simple approach: one game at a time.

Last week, after his team already had received a bid to the United States Collegiate Athletic Association National Championships but before the Penn State University Athletic Conference playoffs began, Howard noted, “The guys are pumped up. It’s exciting to have a chance to win a national title, but first things first. Let’s win the conference and then we’ll worry about nationals. One step at a time.”

The Wildcats did just that, winning all three of their PSUAC playoff games and capturing their second consecutive conference championship. Now, their sights are focused on a new goal.

“It sounds like a cliche, but it is one game at a time. If you concentrate and are focused on what you are doing right now, then everything will take care of itself,” Howard said. “We’re on a quest to bring the title back to Penn College. If I didn’t think we had what it takes (to win), I would have told them, ‘No thanks for the bid. We’ll golf for the rest of the year.’

“I really do (think we can win it all). I like the team we’ve got. We’ve got a lot of senior leadership who know how to play baseball and know how I want the game to be played. I think we have a good mix of pitching and defense, and we’re solid on offense. But you never know until you get there and start playing,” the coach added. “It boils down to who is going to throw the ball the best and who is going to catch the ball the best. That’s how you win championships.”

Penn College, seeded third, begins play in the seven-team, three-day double-elimination USCAA National Championships at War Memorial Stadium in Hampton, Va., at noon Tuesday against No. 6 seed Briarcliffe College of Bethpage, N.Y. The Wildcats are 35-7 overall, including a 19-1 record this spring. They own an 11-game win streak going into the contest.

“The most important game is going to be the first one. Obviously, you can come back and run the table, but that first game is important because, if you go into the loser’s bracket, you end up having to play three games the first day. It’s important to get that first win under our belt. It sets the tone for the whole tournament,” Howard said.

Howard will stay with his starting rotation of Mark Shaffer (Hanover), Adam Thomke (South Williamsport) and Harrison Myers (Elizabethtown). Shaffer is 9-2, Thomke 7-0 and Myers 6-1 on the season. Ready in the wings will be Alex Gingerich (York) and Brian Penyak (Easton). “We have options that we can use,” Howard said.

The Wildcats’ probable batting order from top to bottom is Phil Woodring (Waynesboro), Garrett Hornung (Emporium), Thomke, Devon Liquori (Hawley), Tommy Hughes (Easton), Matt Mientus (Macungie), Justin Crowther (Bear, Del.), James Craft (York) and Dane Glick (Belleville).

“It’s going to be interesting because we don’t know what type of competition we’re going to play. I go on the assumption that they’re all going to be good,” Howard said. “It’s tough when you don’t have any advance scouting, so you’ve just got to go out and take care of your business. As long as we do what we’re capable of doing, we’ve got a good chance to win.”

Other teams in the fieldare No. 1 seed Apprentice School of Newport News, Va.; No. 2 seed St. Catharine College of St. Catharine, Ky.; No. 4 seed Columbia Union College of Takoma Park, Md.; No. 5 seed UC Clermont College of Batavia, Ohio; and No. 7 seed Penn State Greater Allegheny of McKeesport.

“With the week off, everybody is chomping at the bit. Everybody is ready to go,” Howard added.

Wildcats Among USCAA Statistical Leaders

Pennsylvania College of Technology’s baseball team not only goes into a national tournament for the first time ever, but it does so with some impressive credentials.

In the May 1 United States Collegiate Athletic Association Coaches’ Poll, the Wildcats were ranked third among 20 teams with 207 points. Through 35 of the team’s reported games, they were No. 1 in average runs scored per game (10.06), No. 1 in team batting average (.384), No. 1 in average hits per game (10.69), No. 3 in runs batted in (252), No. 5 in home runs (13) and No. 5 in pitching staff earned run average (3.90).

Several Wildcats players also are among the USCAA individual leaders. Among players with at least 90 at-bats, Phil Woodring (Waynesboro) is No. 1 in hitting with a .519 batting average, No. 1 in slugging percentage (1.115), No. 1 in on-base percentage (.675), No. 1 in runs scored (104), No. 1 in doubles with 26, No. 1 in triples with 12 and No. 6 in hits (54).

Hornung is No. 2 with a .482 batting average, No. 2 in runs scored (50), No. 2 in walks (24), No. 3 in on-base percentage (.575), No. 7 in hits (53) and No. 10 in slugging percentage (.655).

Devon Liquori (Hawley) is No. 3 in batting average (.475), No. 2 in home runs (9), No. 2 in runs batted in (62), No. 2 in hits (58), No. 2 in doubles (16), No. 3 in slugging percentage (.844), No. 6 in runs scored (41), No. 9 in on-base percentage (.522).

Dane Glick (Belleville) is No. 12 in runs scored (36) and tied for No. 14 in stolen bases (11).

Among USCAA pitchers, Adam Thomke (South Williamsport) is No. 9 in ERA (2.25) and Mark Shaffer (Hanover) No. 10 (2.45). Shaffer is fourth in innings pitched (62.33). Shaffer is sixth in strikeouts with 52. For the season, Shaffer owns a 9-2 record, Thomke is 7-0 and Harrison Myers (Elizabethtown) 6-1.