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Super spring sports season continues for Penn College

On the heels of North Eastern Athletic Conference playoff runs by the men’s golf team and men’s and women’s tennis teams, Pennsylvania College of Technology baseball, softball and men’s lacrosse squads all punched their postseason tickets over the past week.

Although playing a conference-only schedule due to the COVID-19 pandemic, action will continue on Wednesday for the men’s lacrosse team, which is competing in its first season ever, and on Sunday for baseball and softball.

Men’s Lacrosse
First up will be the men’s lacrosse team, and coach Jordan Williams couldn’t be prouder of what his squad has done; especially considering it also is his first head coaching position.

“‘Special’ sums it up. Guys getting first goals, points, saves, everything. Seeing the happiness they have for each other’s successes has really stood out,” he said. “The guys are bought into what we are building, and you can feel that every time we are together.”

Closing out the regular season at Hilbert College on Saturday, the Wildcats won, 17-3, to improve to 4-1 in the NEAC with their fourth straight win and clinched the No. 2 tournament seed, enabling them to host a semifinal on Wednesday with Hilbert again the opponent at a time to be determined, according to Williams.

“Wednesday is a rematch with a very skilled, well-coached and disciplined team. It is hard to beat a team twice, especially within a few days. They have athletes all over the field who can take control of the game if we don’t contain them. We match up well with their strengths and, if we can stick to our game plan, I am confident we will be in a position to find success when the final whistle blows. We are focused on laying another brick Monday and Tuesday, with the hope we are ready to go Wednesday,” Williams said.

In Wednesday’s other semifinal, top-seeded Morrisville State College will host No. 4 seed Medaille College. Wednesday’s winners will advance to the conference championship on Saturday.

Commenting on his team’s success so far, he said, “I would say surprised in some ways but also seeing us practice I knew we had some talent all over the field if we could piece it together. What has been most surprising is how fast they have put things together for a new program.”

The strides made by his first-year collegiate players have not gone unnoticed.

“Our overall game and lacrosse IQ have grown so much since we started playing. It is one of those things that comes by doing it, so the more experience we get, the bigger the strides. Guys seem more comfortable with each other and their strengths on the field, so that will be huge for us moving forward,” Williams said. “We have a great group of young men who are buying into each other and what we are building. There is leadership up and down our roster.”

The key in the playoffs, the coach said, will be “staying healthy and showing up to compete for the full 60 (minutes). We have yet to put together a complete game, but the goal is to be playing your best lacrosse at the end of the year rather than the beginning; which our trajectory is going in that direction.”

Some teams have a few standouts, but Williams is quick to spread praise around his entire squad.

“Everyone. It sounds cliche, but without every guy on this roster, we couldn’t do anything. Some young men who might not be getting on the stat sheet as much but have embraced their roles for us are John Montague, of Newtown, Connecticut; Graham Purdy, of Hillsborough, New Jersey; Charlie Suchanec, of State College; Josh Cantolina, of Morrisdale; Tom Leahan, of Collegeville; Gio Ferrari, of Harveys Lake; Mike Stank, of York Haven; and Joe Ciaccia, of Hershey. We talk a lot about being good teammates and I believe we have that,” Williams said.

Among the team’s statistical leaders have been Quinn Caviola, of Ridgefield, Connecticut, who scored six goals and had one assist on Saturday against Hilbert; Stephen Lepore, of Palmyra, who scored four goals and had three assists against Hilbert; Daniel Jackson, of Phoenixville, who had one goal, three assists and four points against Hilbert; and goalie Andrew Gobbi, of Haymarket, Virginia, who made 13 saves in Saturday’s win as Penn College led in shots, 47-29, and shots on goal, 32-16.

Earlier last week, Jackson was named the NEAC Offensive Player of the Week after his seven-goal, three-assist performance in an 18-12 win over Wells College on April 24.

Looking ahead to the playoffs, Williams said, “We are excited for the opportunity to compete for a NEAC championship moving forward and we are grateful to even be playing right now!

“We are fortunate enough that we were able to play all of our regular season games so we have a better understanding of both possible opponents. If we earn the opportunity to play for the conference championship on Saturday, we will be well-prepared for whoever we see.”

NEAC standings through Sunday: Morrisville State College, 4-0; Penn College, 4-1; La Roche University, 1-1; Hilbert College, 1-2; Medaille College, 1-2; Wells College, 0-5.

On Tuesday at Penn State Abington, the Wildcats lost by scores of 11-5 and 10-4.

In the first game, Abington scored five runs in the first inning and three more in the second as Penn College starting pitcher Joel Verrico, of Montoursville, took the loss. Jacob Carles, of Bernville, and Tyler Rudolph, of Hemlock, New York, each had two hits and drove in two runs.

Carles added two more hits – one a double – and scored twice in the second game but the Wildcats stranded 10 base runners in the loss. Penn College starting pitcher Hunter Jordan, of Middleburg, dropped to 2-1 in taking the loss.

Needing at least a split to ensure a playoff berth and wrapping up their regular season at Penn State Berks on Wednesday, the Wildcats won both games, 11-5 and 7-4, to clinch a NEAC semifinal playoff spot and the No. 3 seed.

In the first game, Brittan Kittle, of Millville, had two hits, including a two-run home run in a five-run fifth inning, and scored twice while Rudolph had three doubles, plated two runs and also scored twice. On the mound, Justin Porter, of Fairless Hills, New York, earned his first win.

Kittle hit two more homers in the nightcap, drove in three more runs and scored another two runs and Carles also homered, finishing with two RBIs and two runs scored. Pitcher Ben Bretzman, of Bendersville, got the win in relief and Joe Fatzinger, of Topton, earned his third save.

“Our pitching has really been the workhorse of the team. After a shaky start in the first doubleheader against Harrisburg they have pitched great,” coach Chris Howard said.

“Bretzman has been throwing the ball really well for us this year. Porter and Cole Culver, of Titusville, have been solid for us on the mound. Freshman Chance Webb, of Hughesville, has really started to throw the ball well for us and Jordan has been rock-solid coming out of the (bull)pen,” Howard assessed of his pitchers.

“Our defense looked really young and inexperienced at the beginning but we are starting to get more comfortable with every game. The same could be said about our offense. … Every year it seems that about the 50 at-bat mark guys start to get more comfortable in the box and start having more quality at-bats,” the coach noted.

“The lack of nonconference games hurt us at the beginning. Having said that, I think we are playing our best baseball heading into the NEAC playoffs and that’s exactly how you want it to be when you plan your season,” Howard continued.

“Kittle has been everything we hoped he would be this year. I don’t think there’s any question that he is one of the top players in the Mid-Atlantic Region. Carles has been lights out for us at the plate. I like to call Kittle and Carles our version of ‘Thunder and Lightning,'” Howard said.

“I told the guys that, if we get to the postseason, we are going to be dangerous. Anything can happen in the postseason and we are ready!” Howard added.

With times yet to be announced, the conference semifinals will be a best-of-three series with nine-inning games starting Sunday with No. 3 seed Penn College traveling to No. 2 seed Penn State Abington and No. 4 seed Lancaster Bible College at No. 1 seed Penn State Harrisburg. In the event of any series splits on Sunday, a deciding game will be played the following day.

A similar format for the championship will be staged the following weekend with the highest seed hosting on May 15 and a deciding game played the following day, if needed.

The NEAC champ will earn an automatic spot in the NCAA Division III playoffs.

NEAC standings through Sunday: Penn State Harrisburg, 18-2; Penn State Abington, 14-2; Penn College, 9-11; Lancaster Bible Colleg,e 7-11; Wells College, 5-13; Penn State Berks, 3-17.

Due to some scheduling changes that included a canceled doubleheader against Morrisville State College, the Wildcats were idled for eight days before returning to action over the past weekend.

In those games, Penn College split at home on Saturday against Penn State Berks, losing 5-2 to snap a six-game winning streak and then winning 3-1. On Sunday at Penn State Harrisburg, the Wildcats again split, winning the first game, 5-1, then losing, 8-5. They will enter the playoffs as the No. 2 seed.

In Saturday’s first game, pitcher Kyla Benner, of Bethlehem, went the seven-inning distance and suffered her first loss against six wins. On offense for the Wildcats, Margaret Mangene, of Boalsburg, had two hits, including a double, and drove in two runs. Jordan Specht, of Frederick, Maryland, ended with three hits, also including a double.

In Saturday’s second game, pitcher Kassidy Svenson, of Auburn, improved to 5-1 on the season, getting offensive support from Specht and Mangene, who each had two hits and drove in a run. One of Mangene’s hits was a triple.

Before Saturday’s games, seniors Sarah Woodruff, of Port Jervis, New York; Shayla Bickel, of Shinglehouse; Svenson; Gillian Sinnott, of Sykesville, Maryland; Tori Siler, of Havre de Grace, Maryland; and Madison Shaffer, of Trout Run, were honored.

In Sunday’s first game, the Wildcats pounded out 13 hits to back the five-hit, five-strikeout pitching of Benner, who earned her seventh win against one loss. Pacing the offense were Olivia Hemstock, of Northford, Connecticut, with three hits, one RBI and one run scored, and Mangene, who doubled and drove in two runs.

In Sunday’s second game, Svenson was roughed up early, giving up seven hits and six runs in 1⅓ innings on the mound as she took her second loss. Mangene ended 2 for 4 with one RBI and one run scored.

The Wildcats’ regular season is scheduled to end Thursday with a twin bill at Wells College.

Commenting on her team’s season so far, coach Angela Hunley said, “Our bats have really come alive this spring and we have a very deep lineup that is full of speed. Kyla Benner and Kassidy Svenson have done a great job for us in the (pitching) circle and keep us competitive behind all the great run support we have been able to give them all season.”

Looking ahead, Hunley said, “I hope to be a big contender for a conference championship and if we go beyond that, I will look forward to my team getting to experience a trip to the NCAAs for the first time. We have the ability to play with anyone as long as we approach the game the same as we have all season.”

After sitting out last season because of COVID, it gave Hunley time to build an even stronger squad than she would have had entering her first season as the head coach.

“I was fortunate enough to be able to add a few key players to an already outstanding roster. This team has been hungry and willing to up their level from the moment I arrived,” she said, noting, “This team has been nothing short of phenomenal during a very difficult year in collegiate athletics. They have made the best of every situation and I look forward to seeing how they finish out the season!”

A playoff opponent and starting time will be announced this week.

NEAC standings through Sunday: Penn State Berks, 16-2; Penn College, 13-3; Penn State Harrisburg, 11-9; Penn State Abington, 7-7; Lancaster Bible College, 6-12; Morrisville State College, 1-9; Wells College, 0-12.

Seeded third, Penn College lost, 8-1, at second-seeded Lancaster Bible College Tuesday in a NEAC semifinal match to close out a 2-3 conference season.

Freshman Amber Leitzel, of Mifflinburg, at No. 4 singles, was the lone Penn College winner while freshman Georgia Macensky, of Wellsboro, at No. 3 singles; junior Marcie Harman, of Nescopeck, at No. 5 singles; senior Cassie Shook, of Westport, at No. 6 singles; and Leitzel/Macensky, at No. 2 doubles, had the most competitive matches in their losses.

“The ladies had their best season in years and that is something to be very proud of. I am very proud of every player because they all fought hard,” coach Jessica Bower said.

“They are already talking about next year and how they are going to work hard over the summer so that they can win more. That’s encouraging when the players are self-motivated to work hard in the offseason,” Bower said.

“This ladies’ team is young – four of the six are new. We will be a competitive force in the future,” Bower continued. “Both teams (Bower also coaches the men) have great personalities and can bounce back from this short and difficult season.”

After going 3-1 in their regular-season singles matches, Macensky, at No. 3, and Harman, at No. 6, were awarded NEAC second-team honors.

“Georgia and Marcie worked hard this season to earn those honors. Due to one of the top players being out due to COVID they actually had to move up a position, which is even more difficult to earn the win. I’m proud of the effort that they put forth to earn this honor,” Bower said.

On Thursday, it was announced that junior Tucker Phillippe-Johansson, of Mattituck, New York, was named the NEAC Player of the Year after going 4-0 at the No. 1 singles position during the regular season and ending 5-0 overall. He also was awarded NEAC first-team honors at No. 1 singles. In 2019, Phillippe-Johansson won the NEAC Rookie of the Year honor and was on the first team at No. 2 singles and No. 2 doubles.

Receiving NEAC second-team honors Thursday were Wildcat sophomore Daniel Gianelli, of Salisbury, Maryland, at No. 6 singles; and Gianelli/junior Tommy Cavanagh, of New Hope, at No. 3 doubles. During the regular season, Gianelli was 3-1 in singles and he and Cavanagh were 3-1 in doubles play.

“I don’t even know what to say about Tucker. He works so hard in the offseason and plays on his own in addition to our practices and matches. It’s not unusual to see him over at the Central PA Tennis Center in the evening before practice or on the weekends. He puts in a lot of time and it pays off,” Bower said.

“Two years ago, when he won first team (honors) for No. 2 singles, he said, ‘Next year, I’m going to be player of the year.’ That didn’t happen because there wasn’t a spring season last year (due to the pandemic), but he kept the momentum and the desire going and made it happen. He’s a junior and he has the talent and drive to do it again next year,” the coach said.

“Gianelle and Cavanagh are kind of the sleepers at the bottom of the lineup. They quietly move in and get the wins that we need. I’m very proud of all of them,” Bower added.

Thus far, there has been no formal celebration of last weekend’s NEAC championship run and accompanying individual accomplishments, in fact, work already has begun for the team’s trip May 11-14 to Wheeling, West Virginia, where it will represent the conference in the NCAA Division III Men’s Championships.

“We are making new goals for the NCAA and doing research into the course (Speidel Golf Club’s Arnold Palmer and Robert Trent Jones Sr. courses on the Oglebay Resort) ahead of our practice round,” coach Matt Haile said.

“The guys are balancing studying for finals and working on the areas of their games that they lost shots on over the weekend. These areas include approach shots, putting and chipping and figuring out when they miss a green long, with little green to work with, how to have confidence in hitting the shot but knowing the percentage of how often they can pull off the shot. There are many occasions where players think they can pull off the hero shot but statistically, it doesn’t happen often,” Haile pointed out.

Both par-71 courses, designed by Jones and Palmer, respectively, the “Jones” is 7,001 yards long and hosted the West Virginia LPGA Classic for 11 years while the newer “Palmer” is 6,725 yards long.

Practice rounds are scheduled Sunday and Monday, May 9-10, with competition over the following four days. The event is being hosted by Bethany College and the Presidents’ Athletic Conference.

Men’s Lacrosse
NEAC: 4-1
Saturday, May 1 – at Hilbert College, W, 17-3
Wednesday, May 5 — NEAC Semifinals, No. 3 seed Hilbert College at No. 2 seed Penn College, TBA; No. 4 seed Medaille College at No. 1 seed Morrisville State College, TBA
Saturday, May 8 – NEAC Championship, TBA

NEAC: 9-11
Monday, April 26 – at Penn State Abington (2), L, 11-5; L, 10-4
Wednesday, April 28 – at Penn State Berks (2), W, 11-5; W, 7-4
Sunday, May 9 — NEAC Semifinal 9-inning doubleheaders, No. 3 Penn College at No. 2 Penn State Abington, TBA; No. 4 Lancaster Bible College at No. 1 Penn State Harrisburg, TBA
Monday, May 10 — NEAC Semifinals, if needed, TBA
Saturday, May 15 — NEAC Championship doubleheader (best-of-three), TBA
Sunday, May 16 — NEAC Championship, if needed, TBA (winner qualifies for NCAA Division III tournament)

NEAC: 13-3
Saturday, May 1 – host Penn State Berks at Elm Park (2), L, 5-2; W, 3-1
Sunday, May 2 – at Penn State Harrisburg (2), W, 5-1; L, 8-5
Thursday, May 6 – at Wells College (2), 4 p.m.
Sunday, May 9 – NEAC Semifinals, TBA
Sunday, May 16 – NEAC Championship, TBA

Tuesday-Friday, May 11-14 – NCAA Division III Men’s Golf Championship at Speidel Golf Club’s Arnold Palmer and Robert Trent Jones Sr. courses on the Oglebay Resort in Wheeling, West Virginia

Men’s Tennis
NEAC finale: 1-4

Women’s Tennis
NEAC finale: 2-3
Tuesday, April 27 – NEAC Semifinals: No. 3 seed Penn College at No. 2 seed Lancaster Bible College, L, 8-1

For more information, visit the Wildcat Athletics website.

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

No. 15

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