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PSUAC Champ Penn College Softball Team Headed to Nationals

After going 3-0 over the weekend to win its first Penn State University Athletic Conference championship since 2007, the Pennsylvania College of Technology softball team now focuses its sights on a United States Collegiate Athletic Association National Championship. The national tourney will be played May 12-14 at Firestone Stadium in Akron, Ohio.

Softball
“It’s a great feeling. The girls wanted to earn their way to nationals and they did just that,” coach Roger Harris said Saturday after his second-seeded team’s 1-0 win over top-seeded Penn State Mont Alto that extended its winning streak to 12 games and gave it its title.

“Mont Alto had a very good pitcher, her strikeout rate is high, and knowing that we didn’t do well when we faced them during the (regular) season (1-0 and 2-0 losses), we knew that runs would be at a premium. Knowing that we had a very well-rounded team, we took advantage of some situations and put some girls off the bench in … and they gave us that production. We had the girls at the right place at the right time,” Harris said.

But first things, first.

Down to its last week of the regular season and still fighting for a playoff berth, Penn College swept Penn State Fayette on April 27 by scores of 10-2 in five innings and 10-1 in six innings. In the first game, Karey Wolfe, of Milton, and Rachael Shaeffer, of Hampstead, Md., both had two hits to back the four-hit, eight-strikeout pitching of Arika Stopper, of Williamsport. In the second game, Macie Lucas, of Reedsville, went 2 for 3, with a bases-loaded triple in the third inning, and Shaeffer added a bases-loaded single in the sixth.

Penn College made it eight PSUAC wins in a row on Monday with a sweep of Penn State New Kensington by scores of 7-1 and 11-1 in five innings as the Wildcats jumped from fifth place in the standings on Saturday into second. In the opener, Shaeffer went 3 for 4 with three RBIs and three runs scored while Katie Kratzer, of Lynch Station, Va., went 3 for 4 with two runs scored. In the nightcap, Shaeffer continued her torrid hitting by going 3 for 3 with four RBIs and two runs scored and Jessica Gmerek, of Bellefonte, went 3 for 3 with two RBIs and three runs scored.

On Tuesday at Penn State Brandywine, the Wildcats built an early 10-1 lead then had to battle back in the top of the seventh inning when a solo home run by Shaeffer provided the winning run in a wild 14-13 contest that gave Penn College its ninth straight win. Wolfe; Delaney Blubaugh, of Waynesboro; and Samantha Hill, of Montgomery, each finished with two hits and two runs batted in.

In its first-round game of the PSUAC Championships at University Park on Friday, Penn College continued to roll, cruising to a 10-1 win over sixth-seeded Penn State Brandywine. Leading 2-1 after four innings, the Wildcats erupted for five runs in the fifth inning and added three more in the sixth. Shaeffer and Wolfe each finished with three hits and drove in two runs while Gmerek had two hits and plated three runs to back the five-hit pitching of Stopper.

Later Friday, facing No. 1 seed Penn State Mont Alto, Penn College eked out a 2-1 win that put it into Saturday’s championship game. With the score tied 1-1 through six innings, Gmerek drew a leadoff walk in the top of the seventh and Hill doubled in what proved to be the game-winning run, scoring pinch runner Blubaugh. Starting pitcher Kim Walter, of Beavertown, went three innings, allowing one hit, and Stopper closed it out, getting the win and allowing just two hits the rest of the way as Penn College stretched its win streak to 11 in a row.

Facing Mont Alto again on Saturday, this time with the conference championship on the line, Brianne Brewer, of Jersey Shore, and Stopper combined on a two-hit shutout in a 1-0 win. Penn College scored its only run in the fourth inning when Shaeffer drew a one-out walk and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Lucas. Katelyn Wertz, of Bernville, entered the game as a pinch-runner for Shaeffer, and Gmerek, pinch-hitting for Blubaugh, doubled to score Wertz.

“We’re coming off a season where we peaked at the right time and we’re still peaking; the girls are still hot. As I remember, we’re seeded 10th (in the USCAA tourney), but going in as red-hot as we are the girls are ready. … We’re very hopeful going into nationals. We’re very confident and we’re going to let our presence known that we’re there,” Harris said.

“Defensively, these girls have played great. They were kind of ‘iffy’ going into Mont Alto knowing that its pitcher throws a lot of strikes, but, once they got in there and got the momentum going, they kept the momentum. When they saw their (own) pitchers were doing everything they could, the rest of the team stepped up and stood behind them.

“Going into the championship game we were very relaxed. … I can’t be any prouder of a group of girls and the run they’ve had the last 12 games. I’ve never had a team that had this kind of speed, power, momentum and enthusiasm. They did great,” added Harris, whose team is 18-12 overall and ended 14-4 in the conference.

Also during the week, it was announced that Stopper had been named the USCAA and PSUAC Softball Pitcher of the Week for the period ending April 27. Stopper recorded three of the team’s six wins on the week, allowing only two earned runs and 11 hits while striking out 28. All three wins were complete games.

Baseball
The Wildcats closed out their regular season April 27 with a twin-bill nonconference sweep of the King’s College Jayvees by scores of 8-6 and 10-5. In the first game, Zach Buterbaugh, of Conestoga, went 3 for 3 at the plate, including a double, with one RBI and three runs scored, while Jeremy Rall, of Williamsport, and James Simasek, of Landenberg, each drove in two runs. In the second game, Zach Weil, of Kutztown, drilled a three-run homer to give Penn College an early lead in the first inning and he finished 2 for 2 with four RBIs and a run scored. Also for the Wildcats, James Scully was 2 for 2 including a double, one RBI and one run scored.

Seeded third in the PSUAC Championships at Penn State Mont Alto, Penn College opened play on Friday with a 4-0 win over sixth-seeded Penn State Beaver as freshman pitcher Tyler Cooklin, of Rippey, Iowa, threw a four-hit shutout. Evan Vigna, of McAdoo, had two hits in the game, scored twice and drove in one run.

“Tyler Cooklin pitched one heck of a ballgame.  He was throwing strikes, keeping his defense in the game. It was fun to watch him throw that game. He really gave the guys a boost and we got some timely hits for some runs,” coach Chris Howard said.

That pitted Penn College against second-seeded Penn State Brandywine later Friday and, despite three hits from Cody Buterbaugh, of Conestoga, and two by his brother, Zach, the Wildcats were eliminated by a 4-3 score. Penn College stranded seven runners during the game. Senior Josh Longsderff, of Columbia, went the distance on the mound and took the loss despite allowing just five hits as Penn College ended its season 24-11 overall and 16-6 in the PSUAC.

“(Matt) Trotta, their starting pitcher, has done a good job against us all year. He’s one of those crafty lefties. He doesn’t throw hard but he mixes up his pitches and he had us off-balance most of the game until we got the bases loaded, down 4-1,” Howard said. The coach continued, “Zach Buterbaugh hit a double off the wall in left field and scored two and we tried to get that last run home. It was a close play at the plate. Obviously, I thought the call was incorrect but it didn’t go our way and we missed an opportunity to tie the game up. But the guys battled hard.

“I told the guys afterward, there was no reason to hang our head. It was a nice season. We had a lot of success, not just teamwise but a lot of personal success with the guys. We had a goal of winning the conference championship and competing and going for a national championship. When you fall short of your goals, it always hurts a little bit, and I’m sure it will for a while,” Howard said.

New Full-Time Women’s Soccer Coach Hired
During the week it was announced that John McNichol, a native of West Chester and a King’s College graduate, has been named Penn College’s new full-time women’s soccer coach.

PENN COLLEGE SCHEDULES/RECORDS
Baseball
Final overall record: 24-11
Final PSUAC record: 16-6
Sunday, April 27 – host King’s College Jayvees at Bowman Field, W, 8-6; W, 10-5
Friday, May 2  – vs. Penn State Beaver in PSUAC Championships at Penn State Mont Alto, W, 4-0
Friday, May 2 – vs. Penn State Brandywine in PSUAC Championships at Penn State Mont Alto, L, 4-3

Softball
Overall record: 18-12
Final PSUAC record: 14-4
Sunday, April 27 – host Penn State Fayette at Elm Park, W, 10-2 in 5 innings; W, 10-1 in 6 innings
Monday, April 28 – host Penn State New Kensington, W, 7-1; W, 11-1 in 5 innings
Tuesday, April 29 – at Penn State Brandywine, W, 14-13; 2 nd game canceled
Wednesday, April 30 – at Penn State Beaver (2), canceled
Friday, May 2 – vs. Penn State Brandywine in PSUAC Championships at University Park, W, 10-1
Friday, May 2 – vs. Penn State Mont Alto in PSUAC Championships at University Park, W, 2-1
Saturday, May 3 – vs. Penn State Mont Alto in PSUAC Championship finale at University Park, W, 1-0
Monday-Wednesday May 12-14 – USCAA National Championships at Firestone Stadium in Akron, Ohio, TBA

Archery
Friday-Sunday, May 16-18 – U.S. Intercollegiate Championships at Long Beach, Calif., TBA

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