Penn College archers set for nationals

Published 05.13.2022

Wildcat Weekly

As baseball equipment is being put away after a season that included a third-place finish in the United East Conference last week, Pennsylvania College of Technology archers are set to step into action later this week at the USA Archery Collegiate Target Nationals at the Easton Archery Center of Excellence in Chula Vista, California.

After nearly two years without any competitive collegiate action due to the COVID-19 pandemic, coach Dustin Bartron described this season as one of growth.

“The team is showing potential to finish this year strong and provide a strong foundation for the incoming archers next year,” Bartron said, noting that the losses of graduating team members Noah Burke, of Tionesta; Brandon Fisher, of McClure; and Dyson Renn, of Hellam, are expected to be offset with “several strong commits both male and female for the fall.”

Competing Friday through Sunday at nationals will be the men’s fixed pins team of Renn, Fisher and Jansen Balmer, of Ephrata; and the men’s compound team of Burke, Alex Edwards, of Kutztown, and Jonathon Vough, of Athens. They also will compete in their respective disciplines as individuals.

At the East Region Championships last month, the fixed pins team of Renn, Balmer and Atley Cooper, of Honey Brook, placed first, while the men’s compound team of Burke, Edwards and Fisher finished second. Individually, Renn was second in men’s fixed pins and he and Burke were named to the All-East Team.

“Realistically, the competition at this tournament will be the highest level we have seen. We shall be in the top five in both team events barring any catastrophe,” Bartron said.

“Individually, I expect Renn to podium (top-three finish) in fixed pins and get named to the 2022 All-America team. Burke should be in the top 10 in men’s compound. Edwards and Vough are working very hard and are showing potential to finish strong. Edwards has a little better match play, which could get him a strong finish at the end of the tournament,” Bartron said.

Facing top-seeded Penn State Harrisburg in a first-round game last Monday, the Wildcats lost, 18-4. For Harrisburg, Dallas Hite hit three home runs — two of them grand slams — and ended with 10 RBIs to pace the Lions’ offense, while four pitchers combined on a six-hitter with starter Zack Gettys going five innings, striking out 11 and improving to 9-1. Brian Robison, of Quakertown, homered in the third inning for Penn College and Tyler Rudolph, of Hemlock, New York, had a two-run single in the sixth. Robison and Rudolph each finished with two hits. Wildcats’ starting pitcher Chance Webb, of Hughesville, went three innings and dropped to 5-2 with the loss.

Monday’s second game saw second-seeded Penn State Abington rip third-seeded Lancaster Bible College, 18-6, setting up Tuesday morning’s elimination game between Penn College and Lancaster Bible.

In that game, Penn College led 10-2 after the top of the third inning before LB closed to within 11-10 after seven. The Wildcats then scored once in the eighth and four times in the ninth for a 16-10 victory to extend their season. Six of Penn College’s runs came as the result of the long ball as Jake Wagner, of Palmyra, had a three-run home run in the third; Tristan Current, of Reinholds, stroked a solo shot in the eighth; and Connor Burke, of St. Clair, added a two-run homer in the ninth. Rudolph had a two-run single in the first frame. On the mound, Ben Bretzman, of Bendersville, went six innings to improve to 4-4, while Samuel Zeigler, of Palmyra, and Joel Verrico, of Montoursville, combined for three innings of hitless relief to secure the “W.” Verrico earned his first save with 2 1/3-innings of work.

Squaring off Tuesday afternoon in a rematch against Penn State Harrisburg — following the Lions’ 9-6 loss to Penn State Abington earlier in the day — Penn College’s season ended at 21-18 overall and 14-10 in all conference games on a 13-4 loss. Hite contributed a three-run home run for Harrisburg and Rudolph did the same for the Wildcats. Burke went 4 for 5 at the plate for Penn College. Zac Weaver, of Pottstown, the first of six Penn College pitchers used in the game, went 3 1/3 innings and dropped to 2-3 with the loss.

Penn State Harrisburg came back through the losers bracket and finished 4-1 to win the championship and a trip to the NCAA Division III Tournament. Abington ended 2-2, Penn College 1-2 and Lancaster Bible College 0-2.

“In double-elimination tournaments, it is super important to try and do your best to get to the end through the winners bracket. I know Harrisburg came back but that is absolutely an anomaly,” Wildcats coach Chris Howard said. “They’re a good team, and one thing they had that a lot of teams don’t is a really deep pitching staff. That’s what you need if you want to go far. At our level and at this time of year you need a lot of pitching, especially at tournaments like this — double elimination over a three-day period.

“Honestly, we’ve been piecemealing together our (pitching) staff all year. At the beginning, we lost Justin Porter, of Fairless Hills, to Tommy John surgery. He was our No. 1 guy and that was a big blow. And Cole Culver, of Titusville, our other starter, had some elbow issues so we started our year without two of our four main starters.”

To help compensate, Howard moved Sam Zeigler, of Palmyra, from the outfield into the pitching rotation and he responded with a team-best 5-1 record and team-low 3.12 earned run average.

At the end of the day, however, lack of pitching depth took its toll and “we just ran out of steam. Ran out of gas in our pitching staff,” Howard said. “But,” he added, “they battled. They threw their hearts out there. Not that we didn’t have enough quality arms out there, they were tired and we just didn’t have anything left in the tank.”

In addition to getting at least 20 wins for the eighth time in 16 seasons under Howard and reaching postseason play for the fifth year in a row, the Wildcats handed their coach his 300th career win (his record now stands at 320-224).

“I thought we played really well all year. Up until the first game that Abington played Harrisburg in the tournament we were the only team to give Harrisburg its only two losses in the conference, which gave a lot of confidence to our team,” Howard said.

Statistically, Jacob Carles, of Bernville, led the team with a .407 batting average, 59 hits and 15 (of 16) stolen bases; Wagner led with 51 runs scored; Cameron Dick, of Dillsburg, was tops with 18 doubles, 42 runs batted in and in slugging percentage (.604); Shane Price, of Kersey, led with six home runs; and Carles, Dick and Nate Gustkey, of Philipsburg, each had two triples. On the mound, Bretzman was the strikeout leader with 57.

“Next year is a year that I’ve been looking at that could be one of best we have to really make a run at the championship,” Howard said, pointing out that a new baseball/softball complex being built next to the campus and scheduled to be ready by next spring will go a long way toward helping make that a reality.

“Playing at Bowman Field is fantastic, but we really don’t have a field to practice on during the spring. I think that is going to be a huge factor in our development as a team and program,” the coach said. “It’s turf, so a lot of games that were questionable at Bowman will get played. A lot of good things are going to come.”

Other than that, other keys going forward will be getting stronger and staying healthy.

“The biggest jump I see is from the freshman to sophomore year and that’s usually because of strength training, guys getting bigger, stronger and faster. And, we have to be healthy. With who we have coming back next year, I’m excited about what lies ahead,” Howard said.

Looking back at her team’s season that ended a week ago, coach Angela Stackhouse noted, “We had a very accomplished season and it is incredible to look back and see everything we achieved this spring:

  • Conference (tournament) runners-up

  • Regular-season champion

  • Five all-conference team selections

  • Senior pitcher Kyla Benner, of Bethlehem, being named conference Pitcher of the Year, (earning) three-time Pitcher of the Week honors, Penn College Female Athlete of the Year, and tossing two perfect games

  • Freshman pitcher MacKenzie Weaver, of Montoursville, being named Penn College Female Newcomer of the Year and tossing a no-hitter.”

  • The season also included program records for most wins in a season (28) and consecutive wins (15) as it finished 28-9 overall and 24-4 in all United East games.

As the regular season champs, the Wildcats were seeded No. 1 and hosted the conference tournament, but late-week rain caused the format to be changed from double- to single-elimination with all games on one day.

“The weather and the change to the format of the tournament definitely had an impact on the championship. Going to single-elimination allowed for any team to have the ability to win at any given time. Given the depth of my bullpen, it was disappointing not to have the ability to stay in it after one loss. Overall, we had a good day at the plate and saw great pitching from ace, Benner. This will keep us hungry to compete for it again next year and looking for another opportunity at the regional level,” Stackhouse said.

Commenting on the team’s all-conference players, Stackhouse said, “It was an honor to have five athletes named all-conference. We had an incredibly talented and well-rounded team. I truly feel several others also deserved to be recognized at that level and it was difficult to not see them be recognized as well.”

In addition to Benner and Weaver, senior Olivia Hemstock, of Northford, Connecticut, also was named to the United East first team, while junior Ivvy Morder and junior Maddie Hurst, both of Mechanicsburg, were named to the second team.

Hemstock led the team in hitting with a .474 average and 38 runs batted in; junior Jordan Specht, of Frederick, Maryland, led with 50 hits, 15 doubles and a .667 slugging percentage; and Hurst was tops with 48 runs scored, three triples and 33 (of 36) steals. Specht and freshman Hailey DeBrody, of Cogan Station, each hit one home run.

On the mound, Weaver had a 1.85 earned run average, 117 strikeouts and ended 14-3, while Benner had a 1.88 ERA, 143 strikeouts and finished 14-5.

“The future of the program remains bright. We have plenty of young talent looking to fill some big shoes and I believe they are ready to do so,” said Stackhouse, whose teams have gone 52-18 in three seasons. “This team has learned what it takes to compete for championships and I am sure they will be hungry for another opportunity!!”

Final overall: 21-18
Final UE: 14-10 (13-8 regular season)
(United East Tournament at Penn State Harrisburg)
Monday, May 9 — Penn College vs. Penn State Harrisburg, L, 18-4
Monday, May 9 — Penn State Abington vs. Lancaster Bible College, Abington won, 18-6
Tuesday, May 10 — Penn College vs. Lancaster Bible College, W, 16-10
Tuesday, May 10 — Penn State Harrisburg vs. Penn State Abington, Abington won, 9-6
Tuesday, May 10 — Penn College vs. Penn State Harrisburg, L, 13-4
Wednesday, May 11 — Penn State Abington vs. Penn State Harrisburg, Harrisburg won, 23-6
Wednesday, May 11 — Penn State Abington vs. Penn State Harrisburg, Harrisburg won, 10-7

Friday-Sunday, May 19-22 — USA Archery Collegiate Target Nationals at the Easton Archery Center of Excellence, Chula Vista, Calif.

For more about the United East, visit the conference website.

For additional information, visit the Wildcat Athletics website.

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