Spring sports ended, Penn College coaches react

Published 03.15.2020

Wildcat Weekly

A week that began with high hopes for Pennsylvania College of Technology baseball and softball teams in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, came to an abrupt end with Thursday’s announcement that the remainder of their seasons – and all of the college’s spring sports including all scheduled action in the North Eastern Athletic Conference – have been canceled for the rest of the academic year. 

A release from the NEAC Presidents’ Council stated, in part: 

As with any decision, the North Eastern Athletic Conference holds the health and well-being of our student-athletes at the forefront of everything that we do. Given the uncertainty of COVID-19, we also have a responsibility to exhibit careful consideration of all those that interact with our programs, our campuses and our greater communities. Therefore, the NEAC Presidents Council has made the difficult decision to cancel all conference activities and championships for the remainder of the 2019-20 academic year, effective immediately.

We recognize this is a disappointing decision for our student-athletes. That is the competitive spirit that we value every day. In the wake of this decision and the rapidly evolving state of this situation, the NEAC will be working with our member institutions in the coming days, weeks, and months to navigate through unchartered territory for our members and answer any questions that may arise. The one thing that is certain is that we will all get through this together. 

On Friday, according to the NCAA website, “the Division III Administrative Council announced that they will waive all requirements for sports sponsorship and will grant extra eligibility for student-athletes who play spring sports.” 

Prior to the season-ending announcement, the baseball team closed out its week with three straight wins to even its record at 5-5 while the softball squad finished 5-4 – with both teams showing great potential of what could have been, but became victims of the coronavirus outbreak. 

Sunday against Bethany College, the Wildcats split – winning 8-4 and losing 7-3. In the win, Brittan Kittle, of Millville, homered and doubled, driving in four runs and scoring twice, to back the eight-strikeout pitching performance of Nathan Holt, of Shippensburg. In the defeat, Penn College managed just five singles and committed four errors. Wildcats starting pitcher Joe Fatzinger, of Topton, took the loss. 

Facing Hood College on Monday, Penn College lost, 15-2. Kittle had three of the Wildcats’ seven hits. Starter Justin Porter, of Fairless Hills, was the losing pitcher. 

Tuesday’s games resulted in another split – a 9-1 win over Lehman College and an 11-7 loss to The Catholic University of America. Against Lehman, after scoring single runs in each of the first three innings – including a home run by Kittle in the third – the Wildcats erupted for four runs in the fifth frame. Jacob Carles, of Bernville, ended the game with three hits, two runs batted in and two runs scored. Ian Yon, of Altoona, went seven innings, striking out six, for the mound win. Against Catholic University, Penn College fell behind 8-0 after three innings as starting pitcher Luis Rodriguez, of Bronx, New York, took the loss. Kittle continued his torrid hitting, however, going 4 for 5 with a home run, double and four RBIs. 

Our freshmen are getting more comfortable as they get more games under their belt, Penn College coach Chris Howard said after Tuesday’s gamesWeve been getting solid pitching performances all week and we are starting to see a lot of good swings from our hitters. I like our defense and Im excited to see where we take this season. 

In a doubleheader sweep Wednesday against Albertus Magnus College, Penn College won, 3-2 and 5-3. Wildcats pitcher Holt was outstanding in the first game as he went the seven-inning distance, striking out 10walking none and allowing just four hits while improving to 2-0. Three Penn College players had two hits each during the contest. In the second game, four Wildcats had extra-base hits, including Kittle, who homered, and Fatzinger evened his pitching record at 1-1 with an eight-strikeout performance. 

Wrapping up the week Thursday, Penn College topped Penn State Schuylkill, 9-5, with Kittle belting a two-run homer and three other Wildcats getting two hits each. Starting pitcher Porter went 5 1/3 innings and fanned five while walking none to even his record at 1-1. 

Statistically, Kittle, a senior, led the team with a .567 batting average and Carles, a sophomore, was second with a .364 mark. Kittle also led with 17 hits, seven extra-base hits including a team-high five home runs 13 runs batted in and a 1.133 slugging percentage. As a team, the Wildcats batted .288 and their opponents .269. On the mound, Holt, a junior, was 2-0 with a team-best 23 strikeouts and only one walk allowed. 

Reacting Friday to the cancellation of the rest of the season, Howard said: 

“I was very excited about the way the team was coming togetherChemistry is something you always hope for but don’t always get. This team has chemistry!

“I think for the most part everyone is still trying to wrap their head around everything that has happened over the last 24 hours. You could see the trend and we just hoped it wouldn’t actually happen. 

“I feel awful for these men who work so hard academically and athletically to play this game at this level but I feel the worst for the seniors. 

“We have learned that everyone will be granted this year of eligibility back, but some of our seniors won’t be back regardless. 

“This is a unique situation and we all understand that the health and safety of everyone is of the utmost importance but it still doesn’t lessen the hurt we all feel, players and coaches.” 

In their season openers Monday, the Wildcats lost to Immaculata University, 7-1, and Franciscan University, 3-1. Against Immaculata, Penn College had just five hits, but two of them were triples – by Olivia Hemstock, of Northford, Connecticut, and Ivvy Morder, of Mechanicsburg. Morgan Heritage, of New Castle, Delaware, went the six-inning distance on the mound for the Wildcats, striking out eight. Against Franciscan, the lone Penn College run came on a homer by Kyla Benner, of Bethlehem, in the bottom of the seventh inning. Pitcher Mikayla Aldenderfer, of Williamsport, took the loss. 

Tuesday saw a nice turnaround with a pair of wins – 11-3 over Norwich University and 9-4 over the University of St. Joseph. Against Norwich, Maddie Hurst, of Mechanicsburg, went 3 for 4 with two doubles, two RBIs and three runs scored while Morder doubled during a four-run fifth inning and plated three runsHeritage started on the mound, evened her pitching record at 1-1. Against St. Joseph, Penn College erupted for seven runs in the first inning with Benner and Hurst each delivering two-run hits — Hurst’s was a triple. Aldenderfer went five innings on the mound and picked up the win. 

Facing MacMurray College Wednesday, the Wildcats scored a 9-1 win. Hurst had two hits, drove in three runs and scored twice while Hemstock and Shalya Bickel, of Shinglehouse, each had three hits and scored twice. Heritage went five innings on the mound and picked up her second win. 

Penn College’s three-game win streak ended Thursday morning with a 6-2 loss to Fitchburg State College. Fitchburg jumped on starting pitcher Aldenderfer early, scoring all of its runs in the first two innings, before Benner came on in relief and shut it down the rest of the way. 

Later Thursday, Penn College’s Heritage and Brevard College starting pitcher Jordan Kielson matched zeros through seven innings before Brevard broke through in the top of the eighth and won, 3-0. Kielson limited the Wildcats to just one hit. Heritage struck out seven as her record fell to 2-2. 

Knowing it would be their last two games of the season, the Wildcats scored a pair of shutout wins Friday – 10-0 over Cazenovia College and 9-0 over Dean College. Against Cazenovia, Hurst led the offense with three hits, including a double, and drove in two runs while Heritage went six innings on the hill, allowing just five hits and striking out six. Against Dean, five Penn College players had extra-base hits with Morder driving in two runs. Heritage got the pitching win in this game, too, going three innings and fanning six, while Aldenderfer finished the last two innings and struck out three. 

Statistically, freshman Jaylynn Cochran, of Cogan Station, led Penn College in hitting with a .440 batting average followed by Morder, a freshman, at .417. Freshman Hurst topped the team with 12 runs scored. Morder and Hurst both had five extra-base hits and Morder led with eight RBIs. Morder also was tops with a .667 slugging percentage. Pitching-wise, Heritage, a junior, completed a 4-2 campaign with 33 strikeouts and 13 walks. As a team, Penn College batted .297 and their opponents .264. 

Commenting on the season and its unexpected outcome, first-year coach Angie Hunley remarked: 

We played a very high level of softball over spring break. Going 5-4 on the week doesn’t speak to how well this team played. The fantastic performances from the pitching staff, the great at-bats from everyone in the lineup, and solid defense put us right where we wanted to be to enter conference play. 

I am very pleased with the numbers we put up this week! Morgan Heritage recorded four of the five wins in the circle with 33 Ks and a 1.8 ERA. She also hit the milestone of her 300th career K during her last game. We stole 21 bases and put up 36 runs in nine games! We also posted a .926 fielding percentage. 

Due to the season ending so abruptly, this has been the hardest season in my coaching career. I am very proud of the way my team handled themselves on and off the field. It’s heartbreaking to receive that kind of news and to have to relay it to your student-athletes. However, we were very blessed to have been told prior to our last day in the field. This allowed us to offer support and some closure to our team, especially our senior class.

Now, our athletes will return to campus only to grab their personal belongings and head home until classes resume. We have been told there will be no more opportunities for practice or anything. So I will continue to support our athletes through the rest of the semester, and start preparing to hit the recruiting trail as soon as possible.

The NCAA has granted another year of eligibility to all spring athletes. However, many will not use that year due to financial reasons, graduate-school plans and job placements. These are non-scholarship athletes and many will not be able to withstand the hardship of an additional year of tuition. 

Although his team had just one event under its belt, first-year coach Dustin Bartron saw a lot of potential, saying: 

We had potential to have the national champion bowhunter male team along with three of the top-five individual male bowhunters in the countryWe have the potential to have the compound male national champion as well (freshman Zach Fisher, of Lebanon). I look forward to seeing his growth and progress over the summer with next year being a (United States Archery Team) USAT University Games year. Also, I think (in) male recurve we had potential for a top five individual. Our male recurve team had potential to finish in the top 10 overall. 

“We have grown a lot this year. As we fared well at indoor nationals, sickness definitely played a part as the archers’ performance was not a good representation of the talent and skill that is on the team.

“Everyone is pretty bummed out about the season being cut short. It is very understandable why it is being done and we hope everyone stays healthy. It is unfortunate for everyone but our hearts go out to the graduating seniors that have put in years of dedication and hard work to have it cut short by something out of everyone’s control.

“Most of the large archery organizations have all canceled any competitions for the next few months. There will be no competing on the collegiate or individual levels. It will come down to personal dedication and willingness of each archer to continue to work hard and take personal time to practice and grow in the sport during this time.” 

Men’s/women’s tennis
After her teams posted identical 1-4 fall seasons and dropped their spring openers in February, Jessica Bower was looking to build her programs during her first full season as the head coach after serving in an interim capacity a year ago. 

“We are working on becoming stronger,” Bower said of her women before the season-ending announcement“This will be a building year. We will be working on winning individual matches and progress to winning the match as a team. We will on consistency and strengthening our minds and bodies to be more of a force.” 

 Bower’s men’s team was coming off a great finish a year ago when now-sophomore Tucker Phillippe-Johansson, of Mattituck, New York, was named All-NEAC first team and took Rookie of the Year honors while junior Joe Morrin, of Morrisville, and senior Blake Whitmire, of Shickshinny, were All-NEAC second-team members. Also returning this spring was veteran senior Luke Whitenight, of Berwick. 

With a mix of young and seasoned players, I was hoping to see a lot of mentoring from the more experienced players. They could help to groom the younger players so that going throughout the season we could set ourselves in a position to be competitive in the NEAC,” Bower said. 

The coach continued, “We were working on strength and conditioning and progressing to working on strategy. We didnt pull out many wins in the fall and I was hoping to turn that around for the spring season. 

We are all pretty bummed about no spring season, especially the seniors. Its not just us, its everyone (all sports). It is what it is and well just keep playing (individually) and get back at it in the fall. Distance sometimes makes the heart grow fonder so in the fall we will be extra excited to be back at it. 

I expect to have some good recruits coming in for the fall. I am very excited about where we could be one year from now with a full roster and some great talent. 

The college’s golf team had yet to take the links this spring after a promising fall and coach Matt Haile’s response to the cancellation was: 

I echo what most are saying in these unprecedented times. Our players were certainly disappointed, as was I. We were really looking forward to our spring schedule and hosting our NEAC Championships at the end of April.  

Our seniors were really bummed to not have the opportunity to finish their collegiate playing careers on home turf. We talked often at the end of the fall season about the hard work needed in the offseason to bounce back and make a run at a championship in the spring and they were all really excited about this opportunity.  

I heard from several players about how they were really looking forward to this upcoming season and how much they are bummed that it’s not going to happen.  

As a former student-athlete, I feel for them and understand the disappointment they are all feeling. It is challenging to be a student-athlete and juggle the academics and athletics at the same time and to see the work they’ve put in to get better and compete at a high level and to not be able to do that, it’s disheartening. It’s like they did it all for nothing. 

I continue to tell them that this experience will only make them stronger as they navigate through their journey of life. We are presented with challenges all the time and this is surely one of them we have all been faced with. I hope that they all continue to be healthy and safe and we navigate through these tough times together and come out on top for the future of our program. 

Final overall: 5-5 
NEAC: 0-0 
Spring Break Tournament at Myrtle Beach, S.C. 
Sunday, March 8 – vs. Bethany College (2), W, 8-4; L, 7-3 
Monday, March 9 – vs. Hood College, L, 15-2 
Tuesday, March 10 – vs. Lehman College, W, 9-1; vs. The Catholic University of America, L, 11-7 
Wednesday, March 11 – vs. Albertus Magnus College (2), W, 3-2; W, 5-3 
Thursday, March 12 – vs. Penn State Schuylkill, W, 9-5 
Remainder of season canceled, coronavirus 
Final overall: 5-4 
NEAC: 0-0 
Spring Break Tournament at Myrtle Beach, S.C. 
Monday, March 9 – vs. Immaculata University, L, 7-1 
Monday, March 9 – vs. Franciscan University, L, 3-1 
Tuesday, March 10 – vs. Norwich University, W, 11-3 
Tuesday, March 10 – vs. University of St. Joseph, W, 9-4 
Wednesday, March 11 – vs. MacMurray College, W, 9-1 
Thursday, March 12 – vs. Fitchburg State College, L, 6-2 
Thursday, March 12 – vs. Brevard College, L, 3-0 in 8 innings 
Friday, March 13 – vs. Cazenovia College, W, 10-0 
Friday, March 13 – vs. Dean College, W, 9-0 
Remainder of season canceled, coronavirus

Remainder of season canceled, coronavirus

Women’s Tennis 
Final overall: 1-5 (1-4 fall season) 
NEAC: 0-0 
Remainder of season canceled, coronavirus

Men’s Tennis 
Final overall: 1-5 (1-4 fall season) 
NEAC: 0-0 
Remainder of season canceled, coronavirus

Spring season canceled, coronavirus 

For more about NEAC, visit the conference website.

For more information, visit the Wildcat Athletics website.

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