Seasons End for Two Penn College Teams; Softball Still 'Alive'
Bittersweet. That describes the feeling first-year coach Jackie Klahold had a day after her team’s North Eastern Athletic Conference season ended with its final games being canceled due to rain on May 1.
“It’s hard because we exceeded our expectations (on the field), which is definitely a great thing, but the way that it ended, without being able to complete our last two games … there still could have been a viable chance that we could have made playoffs. … So, there’s no closure there and that’s the toughest part,” she said.
Through play April 30, the Wildcats were 10-8 in the North Eastern Athletic Conference, 17-18 overall, and, depending on the outcome of those scheduled May 1 games, still could have finished in the top three in their division and seen postseason action. But cancellations washed out that hope.
“As a coach, you look and reflect and (think), if it came down to this, unfortunately we didn’t take care of business earlier in the season when we started conference play – taking an extra game from (SUNY) Poly or taking an extra game from Keuka and finishing, or maybe splitting with Cazenovia. Unfortunately, you don’t want a season to come down to something like this. Unfortunately, when it happens, it just leaves that bittersweet taste in your mouth,” Klahold said.
But that sting was softened considerably on Thursday when the Wildcats were selected to compete in the United States Collegiate Athletic Association National Championships. Play in the 10-team tournament will be held May 16-19 at Firestone Stadium in Akron, Ohio. Their first-round opponent has yet to be determined.
“We knew that it was a possibility, because we had seen ourselves in the polls over the past few weeks. … It was very rewarding to be named as high as seventh,” Klahold said.
“This week, (the girls) were able to focus on their finals and academics, see the trainer and get prepped for practice next week. … We will be fine-tuning some of those fundamentals,” she said.
In previous trips to the USCAA nationals, Penn College finished eighth in 2011 and among the top five in 2014.
Also, it was announced last week that five Wildcats were rewarded with all-NEAC North Division honors: Freshmen Taylor Brooks, of Cogan Station, and Kelsey Gantz, of South Williamsport, were named to the first team, and freshman Taylor Krow, of Mechanicsburg; sophomore Amanda Kustanbauter, of Muncy; and freshman Elizabeth Asher, of East Stroudsburg, to the second team.
Brooks was a force both in the pitcher's circle and at the plate. She was 5-6 this season — including two shutouts — with a team-best 4.81 ERA. Her slash line ranked in the top 10 in conference with a .429 average (sixth), .475 on-base (eighth) and .696 slugging (seventh). Brooks ranked sixth in hits (24), eighth in triples (two), fourth in home runs (three) and eighth in total bases (39).
Gantz finished 10th in the conference with a .385 batting average. She totaled 24 hits in conference, with 11 runs scored and 12 runs batted in. She had 13 games with multiple hits, including 10 games in a row.
Krow batted .371 in conference play, with 23 hits, including four doubles and two triples. She scored 17 runs and batted in 10 from the leadoff spot. She finished the regular season with 13 games with multiple hits.
Asher hit .345 in NEAC games, with 20 hits, 17 RBI and five runs scored. She added a .371 on-base percentage, a .483 slugging percentage and had a .951 fielding percentage at third base.
Kustanbauter finished the season at 8-7 with a 5.29 ERA and picked up one save. She fired 10 complete games with one shutout and hit .343 in 23 at-bats.
“Clearly, the season didn’t go as we had hoped it would,” 10th-year coach Chris Howard said. “We had some problems scoring runs all year. I think our biggest problem, however, was our poor defensive play and that really kind of surprised me; I thought we were going to be a much stronger defensive team.
“We’re a very young pitching staff and, honestly, I was very happy with the progress of the way they played. … They actually surpassed what I had hoped for,” Howard continued.
Over the course of 36 games, Penn College batters hit .265 and their opponents .298. The Wildcats had a 5.14 pitching staff earned run average and their opponents a 4.99 ERA. Overall, the Wildcats were 13-23. They ended 4-8 in the NEAC.
Sophomore pitcher Aaron Palmer, of Hanover, owned a team-best 2.09 ERA and ended with a 4-2 record. Also among the leaders was freshman pitcher Cody Nelson, of South Williamsport, with a 3.48 ERA. Nelson finished with a 4-3 record and led the staff with 49 strikeouts.
Among the individual hitting leaders were freshman Cole Hofmann, of Newtown, who hit .336 with a team-high nine doubles and 22 runs batted in; senior Jeremy Rall, of Williamsport, hit .316; junior Dylan Scaringi, of Coatesville, led the team with 21 runs scored; sophomore Taylor Vandergrift, of Quakertown, was tops with five triples; and junior Cole Weachock, of Pottsville, led with two home runs; he also drove in 18 runs.
“The bright spot is we’re a very young team and we’ve got most everybody coming back next year. We’re going to rededicate ourselves to being a stronger team physically, a better conditioned team and just try and improve our overall physicality on the field,” Howard said.
“As much as this year didn’t go as planned, we do have a bright future and I’m excited to get started right away for next year … We’re going to take what we did this year and we’re going to learn from it. We’re going to be back next year stronger and ready to go,” the coach, whose career record at the college is 225-138, said.
Late in the week, it was announced that Palmer was named to the All-NEAC First Team and Hofmann All-NEAC Second Team. Palmer was a member of the second team a year ago.
In the North Atlantic Conference Men’s Championships that wrapped up May 1 at Birchwood Tennis Club in Clarks Summit, fourth-seeded senior Ben Leibig, of Lebanon, dropped his first match and won in the consolations to end third at No. 1 singles and earn Third-Team honors. Also for the Wildcats, senior Chris Morrin, of Morrisville, seeded third at No. 2 singles, went 0-2 and finished fourth, as did freshman Ethan Rosler, of Bloomsburg, who was seeded third at No. 3 singles.
“I was really impressed with all my players who qualified for the individual tournament. … I was very happy with everyone’s level of play over the weekend,” fifth-year coach Robert Kemrer said.
Final overall record: 13-23
Final NEAC record: 4-8
Sunday, May 1 – host Keuka College at Bowman Field (NEAC) (2), canceled
Overall record: 17-18
Final NEAC record: 10-8
Sunday, May 1 – at SUNY Cobleskill (NEAC) (2), canceled
Monday, May 16 – USCAA National Championships at Akron, Ohio, vs. an opponent to be determined, 10 a.m.
Friday-Sunday, May 20-22 — U.S. Outdoor Collegiate National Championships at Michigan State University.