Penn College Baseball, Softball Seasons to Open
Baseball and softball openers loom for Pennsylvania College of Technology with early-season games scheduled in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, while seasons ended last week for the men’s and women’s basketball teams with two Wildcat players earning all-North Eastern Athletic Conference honors for the first time.
The Wildcats are set to begin their season on Saturday when they face Mary Washington University. Games south of the border continue through March 10. Penn College’s first home game is set for March 22 against Wilkes University. The Wildcats are coming off an 18-18 season, 7-7 in the NEAC regular season, after which they went on to win the conference championship.
“I’m really excited about this year’s team. The squad has worked harder, been more focused and overall has been more enthusiastic for the start of the season than any team that I have ever had here,” coach Chris Howard said of his 10th edition.
“We have the majority of our position players returning, but are very young in the pitching staff. That doesn’t mean I’m not excited about our pitchers. We had a great year recruiting some high-quality arms and, with a year under some of the returning pitchers’ belts, I am excited to see how our pitching staff competes,” Howard said.
“We always have big expectations heading down to South Carolina. I’ve never looked at this trip as a warm-up for the rest of the season. I want to win every game we play down there. We are a younger team, but my expectations remain the same.
“I think the biggest question is, how our young pitchers will react to college baseball. Developing the younger arms as the season progresses will determine how successful we will be this year,” the coach said.
Penn College has been picked to finish fourth this year among eight teams in a preseason poll of the conference’s coaches.
“As for being picked fourth in the preseason poll, I fully expected that ranking. We were a .500 team last year that got hot at the right time. Having said that, winning championships does something to you. Some realize that there isn’t a better feeling than winning a championship and nothing less will do; others get complacent and have the attitude, I already have one. This team is laser-focused and has one thing on its mind – defend the crown!” added Howard, whose teams in nine years have gone 212-115.
Penn State Abington topped the preseason coaches’ poll, followed by Penn State Berks, SUNY Poly, Penn College, Cazenovia College, Keuka College, Lancaster Bible College and Gallaudet University.
For the first time in more than a decade, Penn College is under a new head coach as Jackie Klahold assumes the top spot. The Wildcats open Sunday, March 6, against LaRoche College in Myrtle Beach, where play will continue through March 10 before they return north. The team then will have a three-week layoff before resuming its season.
A strong finish at the end of last season gave Penn College a 10-10 NEAC record and it just missed making the playoffs while finishing 12-24 overall.
Klahold comes to Penn College after three years as the head coach at SUNY Canton, where her teams averaged double-digits in wins during each of those years.
The keys as she begins to build her program are “having a strong pitching staff and a real solid defense (and) having those timely hits.
“We have such a very young team, we only have two seniors this year, so we’re really focusing on working through the process of everything that we do when it comes to hitting, fielding, throwing, pitching, catching – just everything we do. And the girls have really done a great job of coming together and buying into what we’re trying to implement here – having a competitive culture in softball,” Klahold said.
“Our goals in those eight games (in South Carolina) are to compete in every game, because we’re going to be working through some different lineups. … We want to put the best lineup out there we possibly can and compete in every game. If we’re able to come out of there at least .500, which I think is possible, I think we can have a good start to our season,” the coach said.
Penn College has been tabbed to finish ninth among 12 teams in a preseason poll of NEAC coaches and Klahold agrees that because of the team’s youth she might have voted the same way, but she expects her players will compete and earn respect in each game they play.
Penn State Berks topped the coaches’ poll, followed by Keuka College, Wilson College, Penn State Abington, SUNY Cobleskill, Lancaster Bible College, SUNY Poly, Cazenovia College, Penn College, St. Elizabeth, Morrisville State College and Gallaudet University.
“The scary part is, hey, we’re going to have a lot of young players, but then realizing that, for the next three, four years, we’re going to continue to bring in highly talented student-athletes who are going to fit into this program and really want to build a tradition,” Klahold said.
In their season finale under first-year coach Ryan Callahan, the Wildcats lost at Baptist Bible College, 98-72, on Monday to finish 3-15 in the NEAC and 3-21 overall. Kevin Laurence-El, of Milton, led the Penn College offense with 22 points while Marquis Delgado, of Mansfield, scored 16; Laquinn Thompson, of York, scored 15; and Thomas Ross, of Williamsport, tallied 13.
On Thursday, it was announced that Laurence-El, a senior, was named to the All-NEAC Third Team.
Laurence-El led the Wildcats in scoring with 18.3 points per game, which ranked him eighth in the conference in scoring average. A forward, he finished the season with 439 points and averaged 4.8 rebounds per game. He scored 20-plus points in eight contests and notched five double-doubles. Laurence-El scored a season-high 27 points twice.
Closing out their season Monday at Lancaster Bible College, the Wildcats dropped a 91-65 decision to end 3-17 in the conference and 3-19 overall as Matt Wilt ended his sixth and final season as coach. Alicia Ross, of Williamsport, and Danielle Mowery, of Shamokin, each scored 18 points for Penn College while Jamie Steer, of South Williamsport, chipped in with 16 and Niesha Williams, of Loyalsock Township, added 11.
Three days later, Ross was named to the All-NEAC Third Team.
Ross led the team in scoring with 21.3 points per game, which ranked second in the NEAC. She was third on the team in rebounds per game with 3.8, first in assists at 3.8 per contest and steals with 2.9 per game. Ross led the conference in minutes per game at 37.4, ranked fourth in steals and sixth in assists. Her season was highlighted when she recorded the program's first triple-double in a 41-point, 12-assist and 10-rebound performance against Wilson. She scored 20-plus points in 15 games.
Sports Clinic Held on Campus
On Saturday, Penn College's athletic department hosted its second annual Girls and Women in Sports Day Clinic. Sixteen student-athletes from softball, soccer, volleyball and basketball instructed more than 35 local elementary-aged girls in their respective sports. Each girl had the opportunity to participate in all four sports.
Final overall record: 3-21
Final NEAC record: 3-15
Monday, Feb. 22 – at Lancaster Bible College (NEAC), L, 98-72
(End of season)
Final overall record: 3-19
Final NEAC record: 3-17
Monday, Feb. 22 – at Lancaster Bible College, L, 91-65
(End of season)
Saturday, March 5 – vs. Mary Washington at Myrtle Beach, S.C., 3 p.m.
Sunday, March 6 – vs. Mount Aloysius College at Myrtle Beach, S.C., 3 p.m.
Sunday, March 6 – vs. Penn State Allegheny at Myrtle Beach, S.C., 6 p.m.
Monday, March 7 – vs. Lehman College at Myrtle Beach, S.C., 11 a.m.
Sunday, March 6 – vs. La Roche College at Myrtle Beach, S.C., 9:30 a.m.
Sunday, March 6 – vs. Penn State Berks at Myrtle Beach, S.C., 11:30 a.m.
Monday, March 7 – vs. Anna Maria College at Myrtle, Beach, S.C., 1:30 p.m.
Monday, March 7 – vs. Gwynedd Mercy University at Myrtle Beach, S.C., 5:30 p.m.
Feb. 26-28 – at Lancaster Indoor Nationals