New Penn College Baseball Coach Optimistic

Published 08.30.2006


If the rest of the season goes like its opener, the Pennsylvania College of Technology baseball team will have little to worry about.

"Actually, I didn't see anything bad," new coach Chris Howard said of his team's doubleheader split last Saturday at Westmoreland County Community College. "We came out hitting the ball well. Everybody went up there very aggressive hitting the ball and running things out. Defensively, everybody was flying to the ball. The pitchers did a great job, they were aggressive in the strike zone going after hitters. They went out and did a great job."

As he did throughout his professional baseball career, mostly in the Seattle Mariners organization, Howard is building his team around pitching and defense.

Pitching-wise, Howard is set on right-hander Jordan Staib (Williamsport) and left-hander Mark Shaffer (Hanover). Others working for spots in the starting rotation are sophomores Christian Worth (Williamsport), Dan Preston (Little Meadows) and Mike McCloskey (Springfield), all right-handers. Ricky Cowher (freshman/Williamsport) and Doug Sponseller (sophomore/Hanover) will be used as middle relievers early in the season while Alex Hague (freshman/Lansdale) and Justin Trefsger (Ashland) will be the closers.

"I use my pitchers. Everybody is going to throw," Howard said. "I like the way everybody throws. It's the type of pitching staff that I can break the game down into three or four innings at a time, if I need to; I think we have that many good arms."

Twin brothers James and Philip Woodring of Waynesboro anchor the infield at second base and shortstop, respectively. Eligibility-wise, James is a junior and Philip a sophomore.

Other starters are Ryan Stuart (junior/Emporium) at first base, Cody Lytle (sophomore/Watsontown) at third base, either Devon Liquori (sophomore/Hawley) or Domenic Notarfrancesco (freshman/Middletown) in right field, Chris McGinley (freshman/Coatesville) in center field and Tai Mitchell (Milton) in left field. James Craft (sophomore/York) is behind the plate and Doug Leitch (freshman/Spring Mills) is the designated hitter.

Commenting on the Woodrings and Craft, Howard said, "You try to build your team defensively up the middle and I'd put those guys up against anybody in this league."

Others on the squad, that went 32-11 overall last year (fall and spring seasons) and won the Penn State University Athletic Conference championship, are shortstop Levi Bailey (freshman/Harrisburg), outfielder Alex Eastman (freshman/Meshoppen), infielder-outfielder senior Mike Leone (senior/Philadelphia), catcher Courtney Shreiner (junior/St. Thomas) and outfielder Joe Vassallo (sophomore/Windsor, Conn.).

"We've got a good-hitting team. I like everybody's approach; they seem to be very disciplined up there, and they're aggressive, too. We're going to score a lot of runs this year," Howard said.

"If we can pitch the way I think we can pitch, and I would put this defense up against anybody, we're going to win a lot of games," Howard continued.

"It's going to be a fun year," the coach added. "The guys play hard and that's all that I ask. There's a chemistry on this team. I'm sure a lot of it is from last year, but the older guys are helping out the younger guys and that breeds success. I'm looking forward to it."

Complete rosters and season schedules are available on the college's Athletics Web site.