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Wildcats Seeded Fourth in NEAC Baseball Playoffs

Despite its No. 4 seed and the fact that it opens North Eastern Athletic Conference playoff action against top-seeded SUNY Poly, Pennsylvania College of Technology baseball coach Chris Howard believes his team has what it takes to win.

Penn College, 7-7 in the NEAC and 15-18 overall, most recently lost at SUNY Poly (11-3, 16-14) on Saturday by scores of 5-2 and 6-2. They will clash again in Gansevoort, New York, at noon Friday as the double-elimination tournament begins. Also in the field are second-seeded Penn State Abington (11-3, 18-19) and third-seeded defending champion Penn State Berks (9-5, 18-15-1), who play at 3 p.m. Friday. Action continues Saturday and concludes Sunday.

“(The season) started out a little slow. We didn’t get the wins that we had hoped for (in March in Myrtle Beach), but we still played well enough for me to know we had a pretty good team coming into the rest of the season,” Howard said.

But then Mother Nature got into the act and forced the postponement of a slew of games due to cold and wet conditions.

“It’s really hard to get things put together when you are sitting for so long,” Howard lamented.

“Team-wise, pitching and defense I knew were going to be good, and nothing changed during the season. … That really got us to where we are now. I have been a little surprised of our inability on offense to score as many runs as I thought we could. It’s been a struggle, really, every game to push runs across the plate,” the ninth-year coach continued. “If we can find a way to put those three things together we can have a pretty good tournament.

“It’s going to be interesting to see how we come out. I don’t think we have played our best game yet. Hopefully, we can get some things rolling on Friday and really make this a great tournament. … I fully expect our pitching and defense to be the same as it has all season, but, if we win this thing, our bats are going to have to do their job as well.”

Starting on the mound for Penn College on Friday will be junior Ryan Hostrander, of Williamsport. Hostrander is 4-2 with a 2.72 earned run average. He has struck out a team-high 60 batters and walked just 16. Pitching in the second game will be senior Tyler Cooklin, of Rippey, Iowa (2-3, 4.42). After those two, it will be freshman Aaron Palmer, of Hanover (2-1, 1.87) with the others to be determined.

The Wildcats own a .270 team batting average while their opponents have hit .248. Leading the way individually is senior catcher Zach Weil, of Kutztown, who is hitting .327 with five home runs and 30 runs batted in. Next is freshman Noah Esposito, of Williamsport, at .311.

“We’re excited. … The guys are happy that we have another chance go out and finish what we started,” Howard added as his team enters the playoffs for the 13th season in a row.

The tournament schedule:

Friday
Game 1: Noon – No. 1 Seed SUNY Poly vs. No. 4 Seed Penn College
Game 2: 3 p.m. – No. 2 Seed PS Abington vs. No. 3 Seed PS Berks

Saturday
Game 3: 9 a.m. — Winner of Game 1 vs. Winner of Game 2
Game 4: Noon — Loser of Game 1 vs. Loser of Game 2
Game 5: 3 p.m. — Winner of Game 4 vs. Loser of Game 3

Sunday
Game 6: 10 a.m. — Winner of Game 3 vs. Winner of Game 5
Game 7 (if necessary): 1 p.m. – Loser of Game 6 (if first loss) vs. Winner of Game 6