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Penn College Baseball Team Seeks Return to Top

Pennsylvania College of Technology baseball coach Chris Howard knows his team has its work cut out when it opens Penn State University Athletic Conference championship playoff action Thursday.

The second-seeded Wildcats (23-10 overall and 14-4 in the conference) face third-seeded Penn StateGreater Allegheny (27-13, 14-4) at 1:30 p.m. at Pullman Park in Butler. Top-seeded Penn State Beaver (22-15, 16-2) faces Penn State Mont Alto (14-9, 12-6) at 7 that night. Action in the double-elimination tournament continues Friday with games at 11 a.m. and 1:30 and 4 p.m. The championship is scheduled for noon Saturday with an “if” game at 2:30. Greater Allegheny is the defending champ. Beaver has won 23 titles. Penn College won championships in 2006, 2008 and 2009.

“Every year, the conference gets tougher. The quality of play from top to bottom gets better and this is no different. We’ve got four quality teams in this tournament and we’re definitely going to have to play at our very best to win the thing,” Howard said.

When Penn College and Greater Allegheny met April 13, Greater Allegheny won the opener, 4-2, and the Wildcats took the nightcap, 6-0, behind Josh Longsderff’s perfect game. Greater Allegheny comes into the game with the conference’s best offense (160 runs scored) and Penn College has allowed the fewest number of runs among the contenders (41).

“Their offense has been fantastic all year. I really like the way we are pitching. I’d like to cut down on our walks, but the great thing about our staff this year is, when they got into trouble, they got themselves out of it,” Howard said. “The way we’re playing defensively and the way our pitchers have been throwing the ball, I like our chances.

“The offense is really starting to come around. Some guys who haven’t been hitting so well are starting to jell at the same time. It’s going to be fun. The guys are excited. We’re a senior-heavy team with a lot of good players. It’s their last shot at a championship, so they are motivated. They’ve got one thing they want to do and that is win a championship,” the coach continued.

Longsderff, of Columbia, will open against Greater Allegheny. He goes into the game with a 0.90 earned run average and 2-0 record. For the season, he has 19 strikeouts and just three walks. Harrison Myers, of Lebanon (3.93 ERA), will get the pitching call in Penn College’s second game and Brian Santangelo, of Middletown, Conn. (1.79 ERA), will start the third game. After that, if needed, Howard said, “we have everybody ready to go.”

Penn College split againstPenn StateBeaver on April 1, winning 6-4 and losing 3-2, and beat Mont Alto twice March 29 by scores of 3-2 and 7-2.

Skylar Gingrich, of Lititz, has had the hottest bat for the Wildcats in recent games. In Tuesday’s split with Penn State Brandywine, the senior went 6 for 8 with three home runs to boost his batting average to a conference-best .479. He also leads the PSUAC with eight home runs and 51 runs batted in.

“He’s been swinging the bat as well as anybody I’ve had in my six years here,” Howard said of Gingrich. “Garrett (Hornung, of Emporium, .402 BA with 27 RBI and 40 runs scored) has been on fire, but, since the Greater Allegheny doubleheader, Skylar has really locked in. He’s hitting every pitch and, what’s even better, is we’re getting players on base in front of him. He’s very pumped up for this postseason.”

The conference champ earns an automatic berth into the United States Collegiate Athletic Association playoffs May 7-11 in Springfield, Ill., although at-large bids also will be extended.

“Hopefully, we don’t have to worry about at-large, but it is out there if needed. We just need to have a good conference tournament, the nationals will take care of themselves,” Howard said.

“What it boils down to is pitching and defense. That’s usually what prevails when it comes to championship baseball,” Howard added. “It’s good to be heading back to the tournament and hopefully we can come back with the hardware this time.”

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