Penn College Softball Team Red-Hot Entering Playoffs
“One of my thoughts is that ‘It’s about time the girls started swinging their bats.’ The girls knew they had to get it done if they were going to make the playoffs,” Harris said Wednesday.
“They’re on a hot streak. They’re coming to the plate feeling confident, secure. We’re looking for that to continue through. … From A to Z, all of the girls are contributing, and they’ve been playing very good ball defensively. We are peaking at the right time and these girls know it, they know what they’ve got going for them.
“They believe in themselves and, from here on out, there’s nothing else we, as coaches, can do. They have to carry this momentum on themselves. It’s showtime,” Harris said.
Seeded second thanks to their late-season win streak, the Wildcats (11-4 in the PSUAC and 15-12 overall) are scheduled to open play at 4 p.m. Friday against the winner of an earlier game between No. 3 Penn State Fayette (12-6, 13-11) and No. 6 Penn State Brandywine (9-8, 12-15). Also entered are top-seeded Penn State Mont Alto (15-3, 16-8), No. 4 Penn State Greater Allegheny (12-6, 14-8) and No. 5 Penn State Hazleton (12-6, 22-12). Action continues Saturday. All games are being played on Penn State’s main campus at University Park.
When on the field, the Wildcats have been competitive; just getting there was the problem.
“We came back from South Carolina, had that beautiful preseason down there and came back ready to go, but rain delay after rain delay after rain delay,” Harris lamented. In fact, after their final game in Myrtle Beach on March 13, the Wildcats never played again until April 3 and after that, between March 22 and April 17, they had games on just three of 12 scheduled playing dates.
“Once we finally started getting some games in … they started getting things done and the bats came alive and, right now, they’re just incredible,” Harris said. “Our pitching has always been there, it has kept us in the games and we just needed to hit.”
Freshman pitcher Arika Stopper, of Williamsport, is among the PSUAC statistical leaders as she is No. 3 in ERA (2.59) and strikeouts (77) and tied for fourth with seven wins. Harris is also counting on pitchers Brianne Brewer, of Jersey Shore; Kim Walter, of Beavertown; and Delaney Blubaugh, of Waynesboro, in the playoffs.
Leading the Penn College offense have been Rachael Sheaffer, of Hampstead, Md., who is hitting .490 with a .583 slugging percentage; Blubaugh and Jessica Gmerek, of Bellefonte, who both are hitting .364; Katie Kratzer, of Selinsgrove, hitting .358; and Karey Wolfe, of Milton, hitting .321.
“We’ve always known that we had this kind of team coming into this year. We had speed, power, pitching, catching and depth. This is probably one of the most rounded teams I’ve ever had. I’m very hopeful the girls will go into this (postseason) with a positive attitude and the momentum will just go right on through the whole thing,” Harris added.