Penn College Baseball Team Has 'Unfinished Business'
Being first is never easy, but the task coach Chris Howard faces with his Pennsylvania College of Technology baseball team is more difficult than for most.
Howard met his players on Monday when college classes began. There was a short workout Tuesday Ââ between rain showers â and full workouts Wednesday and Thursday. Then, on Saturday, the Wildcats become the college's first fall sports team to open their season when they step into action with a 1 p.m. doubleheader against Westmoreland Community College at Logue Field.
Obviously, there wasn't a lot of time to prepare, but, to Howard's delight, the start of his second season as coach isn't as bad as he thought it was going to be.
"I thought we were going to lose quite a few players, but with the four years of eligibility a lot of guys decided to come back," Howard said. "The entire infield is back.
"I thought that we were going to have to plug a lot of holes, but the starting team (from last year) is coming back. That is a nice dilemma to have," Howard continued.
"I'm kind of excited. We went from thinking we were going to be depleted to, I like our chances now."
Probable starters Saturday include infield anchors James Woodring (senior/Waynesboro) at second base, his twin brother Phillip (junior/Waynesboro) at shortstop, Cody Lytle (junior/Warrior Run) at third base and Brian Johnson (sophomore/Montoursville) at first base. James Craft (junior/York) will be the catcher, and outfielders will come from among Levi Bailey (sophomore/Harrisburg), Devon Liquori (junior/Hawley), Joe Vassallo (junior/Windsor, Conn.), Alex Eastman (sophomore/Elk Lake), Justin Crowther (sophomore/Bear, Del.) and Justin Trefsger (sophomore/Ashland).
Among the team's returning pitchers are Mark Shaffer (junior/Southwestern), Christian Worth (junior/Williamsport), Dan Preston (junior/Montrose) and Trefsger.
Although he's got an idea who will be where, Howard won't have his final lineup or roster established for a few games.
"We have quite a few guys who came out, and, just from watching one day, there's some talent out there. "¦ It looks like we have so many talented guys that I'd like to keep around as many as I possibly can," Howard said.
"Without question, our defense is a huge strength. I'd put them up against Division I schools. I really would. I feel that good about our defense on the infield," the coach continued.
"Hitting-wise, we're going to score runs. There were times where we got a little complacent last year, and thought, if we just threw our gloves out there and showed up, we were just going to beat people. This year, I'm going to stress that we've got to bring our 'A' game every time we walk out on the field.
"We're Penn College . We have a great reputation of having a great baseball program and people want to beat our team probably more than other schools. We have to be ready for that, and I know we will," Howard said.
"We've got some good pitching. I've always said, throw strikes, let our defense do the work, and we're going to score some runs. Our pitching staff is not going to have to worry about holding other teams to one, two or three runs," Howard said.
This weekend, Howard said, probably every pitcher on the staff will see action.
"The good thing is, a lot of these guys have thrown over the summer; so it's not as big a concern as it might be if it was the wintertime off and coming back in cold weather," the coach said.
Last fall, the Wildcats won 13 games and lost seven, winning the Penn State University Athletic Conference Mid-Season Classic in the process. In the spring, they went 9-4 and finished fourth in the conference playoffs, something that Howard hopes to improve on this season.
"The theme for this year is 'unfinished business.' We didn't get it done last year and we've got some unfinished business to take care of this year. I tell everybody I want one of those jackets they got a couple of years ago (when Penn College won the PSUAC championship)," Howard added.
(Complete rosters and season schedules are available on the college's Athletics Web site. )