It wasn't the kind of start he was hoping for, but Penn College baseball coach Chris Howard knew his ninth-seeded team faced an uphill fight before its first game Monday in the United States Collegiate Athletic Association Small College World Series.
"I told the guys this is for the national championship so it doesn't matter where you are (seeded) we'll be playing good teams every single time. Whether we're the No. 9 seed, the No. 1 seed whatever -- it's going to be a battle," Howard said before his Wildcats fell to No. 8 Selma, Ala., 8-4, in rain-delayed action Monday.
For Penn College, Garrett Hornung had two hits, including a triple, and scored a run while Zachary Smith drove in two runs. Starting pitcher Harrison Myers took the loss. The team was plagued by four errors.
Now 23-13, the Wildcats will play the loser of a later game Monday between Southern Virginia and Clark State Community College at 8:30 a.m. today as the double-elimination tourney continues at Robin Roberts Stadium on the campus of Robert Morris University at Springfield, Ill.
Other teams and their records going into the tournament are Spalding, Ky., (25-9-1), seeded No. 1; Newport News, Va., Apprentice School (26-16), No. 2; Rochester, Mich., College (23-22), No. 3; Clark, Ohio, State Community College (24-7), No. 4; Southern Virginia (16-16), No. 5; PSU Mont Alto (17-9), No. 6; PSU Beaver (24-17), No. 7; and host Robert Morris Springfield (15-30), No. 10.
Action continues on Wednesday and concludes Thursday.
In the conference tournament, Howard thought his team's pitching and defense were good enough to win; his players just couldn't get the timely hits when they were needed.
"It doesn't take a lot to get you off track (hitting) and it doesn't take a lot to get you back on. It's really a state of mind. If you feel good (at the plate) and you're seeing the ball well, then chances are you're going to go up and take some good swings," Howard, a former Major League catcher, said.
This is Penn College's second trip to the Series. In 2009, after winning its second straight PSUAC crown, the Wildcats went 1-2 and finished tied for third with three other teams.
"The first time we didn't have any idea what to expect. It was a learning experience. I felt like we had a good team that year but errors just killed us," Howard said.
"One of the things I've told the guys this week is I felt that we played really tight in the conference tournament and didn't play like we normally do. We got into the national tournament somewhat unexpectedly and there's really no pressure on us so I told the guys to go out and enjoy themselves and swing free, play free and see what happens," the coach added.