Pride, Determination Keys as College Claims First Softball Title
A season of firsts for the Pennsylvania College of Technology women's softball team came to an incredible finish Saturday.
Despite the fact that 13 of his 17 players were freshmen, the most he's had on any of his six teams, coach Roger Harris thought his team was going to be good this season, but he had no idea how good.
After dropping their first two games of the year to always-powerful Northampton County Community College, the Wildcats won nine of their next 10 before a rematch against Northampton. They fell in the first contest, but showed what they really were made of in the second game by beating Northampton and ending its 94-game win streak.
The roll continued.
Penn College won nine of its next 10 games to qualify as the second seed in the Penn State University Athletic Conference Final Four playoffs. Coming back through the loser's bracket in the double-elimination tournament at University Park after splitting games Friday, the Wildcats posted three consecutive victories Saturday to close out a 23-6 campaign and give the college its first-ever softball championship.
"I figured I was going to have a great, fantastic season with a bunch of first-year girls "¦ but, realistically did I expect a championship? No," Harris said. "I knew we were capable. I knew we weren't intimidated. But I never expected them to go this far."
Penn College opened the playoffs Friday with a 4-3, eight-inning win over Penn State Mont Alto. Renee Craig (freshman/Millville) picked up the win on the mound and helped her own cause by going 3-for-3 at the plate, while Lauren Fuller (freshman/South Williamsport) went 2-for-4. The winning run came when Fuller scored on a bunt single by Samantha Mills (freshman/Harrisburg) and a Mont Alto error on an overthrow at first.
In its second game Friday, Penn College was edged by Penn State Beaver, 7-6, putting it one loss from elimination. Fuller went 2-for-4 in that game and Lisa Miller (freshman/Cogan Station) was 3-for-4.
In a "do or die" situation Saturday, Harris said that a meeting he had with his players and one they had among themselves Friday night set the course.
"I told them that I believed in them no matter what happened. No matter what happened, we were proud of them," Harris said of the first meeting.
"That night, I later found out, they had their own meeting and they made up their minds that they were taking the championship no matter what," Harris said.
On Saturday morning, the Wildcats scored in the first and fifth innings against Penn State Hazleton and held on behind the seven-strikeout pitching of Craig for a 2-1 win and a rematch against Penn State Beaver.
Needing two wins to claim the title, Penn College came out hot in the first game, scoring nine runs in the top of the first inning to essentially salt that game away. Mills finished 4-for-4 with four runs batted in, while Miller went 2-for-3 with two RBI and three runs scored. Fuller also scored three runs in the 13-5 game that was stopped after five innings.
That forced an "if" game against Penn State Beaver for the championship, and the momentum continued in the Wildcats' favor, resulting in a 6-3 win. In that game, Mills had a two-run double, Miller went 2-for-3 and both Michelle McNett (freshman/Canton) and Melissa Berrier (freshman/Mifflin) went 2-for-4. Kristin Bernard (freshman/Hastings) fanned six and was the winning pitcher.
"The girls brought tears to my eyes. I had a group of girls who were so dedicated to each other, had a love and passion for the game and never gave up, they never gave up," Harris said. "They were always willing to sacrifice for the good of the team. I get tears just thinking about it.
"As a coach, I can coach the game of softball. I can teach them what to do on the ball field, but to coach that kind of spirit that comes from the heart. That's something I can't coach. They had pride and did it for each other. They were determined to bring home the first championship, and they did it," Harris added.
"They broke Northampton's 94-game winning streak, they took a championship, they're all first-year girls but four; what can I expect next year from them?" Harris said, a smile creasing his face.
While eager to find out, the team will first take time to savor what it has accomplished this spring.