WILDCAT WEEKLY: Penn College softball season starting, wrestlers make history
As Pennsylvania College of Technology wrestlers were winding down their season over the weekend, the college’s softball team is gearing up to get underway.
After spending her first two years as coach building the program with a freshman-dominated youth movement, Jackie Klahold enters this year with a seasoned squad that she has high hopes for. The Wildcats are scheduled to open their season Sunday in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
“It’s a great position to be in. We have built a lot and grown a lot over the past two years. For the first time in my head coaching career I have a team that is in a good position leadership-wise,” Klahold said. “I’ve always had teams that have been rather young to start with … We still have no seniors, but these upperclassmen have really stepped it up in certain areas, which have allowed me and my assistant Jeff (Tomb) to focus on other things in practice and they (veteran players) are leading the drills. That’s wonderful to see.”
After going 17-20 overall two years ago (10-8 in the North Eastern Athletic Conference), Penn College improved to 21-13 (16-6) last season and reached the conference playoffs, where they went 1-2. For their efforts, four juniors – outfielder Taylor Krow, of Mechanicsburg; pitcher-outfielder Taylor Brooks, of Cogan Station; catcher Maddie Wenk, of Biglerville; and pitcher Kassie Winters, of Sayre – earned all-conference honors, the first two on the First Team and latter two on the Second Team, and Klahold was honored as the North Division Coach of the Year.
“We know what we need to do. We know what’s expected. We know, to a degree, we’re going to be playing with a target on our backs, which is OK to have. They (the veterans) really have stepped it up and taken the underclassmen with them … and been positive reinforcements for the first-year players. … They’ve taken that pride and they’re really running with it,” Klahold said.
In a preseason poll of NEAC coaches, Penn College, with 113 points, was picked to finish third behind Keuka College (138) and Penn State Berks (130). Following those three are: Wilson College, Cazenovia College, Penn State Abington, SUNY Poly, Gallaudet University, Morrisville State College, St. Elizabeth, SUNY Cobleskill, Lancaster Bible College and Wells College.
“Steadily moving up, that’s what we want to do. We want to be able to go in there with no hesitation and compete with Penn State Berks and Keuka College because they really have set the bar that high. … I think we’re in a good position, which is great, but we also know that those top five teams, there are a lot of good softball teams right there,” Klahold said.
Conference play is slated to start March 31, so development during 18 games before then, including eight in Myrtle Beach and four in Virginia Beach, Virginia, will be important.
“We are looking to see what we have. … We have a team to compete with a lot of teams out there and if we’re in the right mind-set and they’re keeping their focus they definitely can do that. We increased the strength of our (early season) schedule because teams in our conference are playing better competition in their spring trip to get ready for that regular season, and that is one of the things that we wanted to do (in order) to compete better and compete at a higher level,” Klahold said.
“Our goal is to go out and put forth the best effort we possibly can, knowing that the lumps are going to happen. How we deal with the adversity is really going to determine the outcome,” the coach added.
In addition to returning power hitters on the team, this year’s squad has more speed and Klahold said, “We’re looking to push as many runs across the plate as possible in any way that we can.”
Defensive depth will be an added asset for the squad and the Wildcats boast a pitching staff that is five deep, each pitcher with the ability to throw completely different than the other. In addition to Brooks and Winters, they are freshmen Kassidy Svenson, of Auburn; Morgan Heritage, of New Castle, Delaware; and Kelsea Dangle, of Montoursville. “They complement each other very well and that’s how we use our pitching staff. We don’t have a one or a two or a three. We have a staff. It’s next person up and that’s what we have to do,” Klahold said.
“We’re really excited about the season,” the coach said.
Although no one qualified for the national championships, three Wildcats made Penn College history over the weekend by becoming the first to post victories in a NCAA Division III regional tournament. Christian Fox, of Boyertown (133-pound weight class); Jared Mooney, of Palmerton (197); and Dylan Otis, of Towanda (285), all went 2-1 on Friday and advanced to the Southeast Region consolation quarterfinals on Saturday where Mooney went 2-1 and finished fourth while Fox and Otis ended among the top eight. The top three in each weight class qualify for nationals.
Also competing for Penn College were Chris Bashaw, of Jersey Shore, at 141 (0-2 on Friday) and Ty Gardner, of Pottsville, at 174 (1-2).
“I’m very proud. These guys wrestled a very difficult schedule this year and we really held our own this weekend,” first-year coach Jamie Miller said. “… I really just couldn’t be happier with the way that we wrestled.
“(Mooney) had a slow start to the season, he really lost some matches that he thought that he could have won, but he just improved constantly over the course of the season,” Miller said. “Jared has been wrestling really well up to this point … but something just clicked and he went out and wrestled and beat some kids that he really shouldn’t have, necessarily, based on seeding. He wrestled at a different level this weekend. He was sharp, he was aggressive, he was confident.
“Otis was the only one who came in (for Penn College) as a seeded wrestler, so for him, I think this is the place that he expected to be. He loves wrestling in big matches. … He just happened to run into a buzzsaw (Saturday),” Miller said, noting that Otis was caught in a six-point move during the first period from which he couldn’t recover. “Aside from that 10-second stretch, he wrestled pretty well,” the coach said.
“Christian was a guy that nobody had on their radar. We felt he was a dangerous kid in his weight class. He’s just a dangerous kid because he’s not afraid of anybody. He doesn’t back down from anybody,” Miller said of Fox, noting that during the regional tournament he avenged earlier regular season losses to opponents from both Wilkes University and Gettysburg College.
“Ty wrestled tough. He didn’t give up in any of his matches. And Chris Bashaw, who hasn’t wrestled in three weeks (due to injuries), showed some flashes of brilliance. … Every kid, top to bottom, we’re extremely impressed with and wrestled very, very well,” Miller added.
During the regular season, Penn College compiled a 7-20 dual match record. The seven wins was the most in a season since 2012-13 when it finished 13-8.
“As a team we were always a little overmatched. We went into this year knowing that we weren’t going to be the most technically-sound team. The one thing that we wanted to do every match was not let anybody be tougher than us. We wanted to be the toughest team on the mat, and I think for the majority of the season (we) were,” Miller said. “They believed in themselves. They competed. They battled. We improved every single day.
“Moving into next year, we have six guys who we feel really great about (the five who competed over the weekend and injured 157-pounder Dan Bergeron, of Jackson, New Jersey), who we really feel comfortable moving forward with. We’re going to bring in a very strong recruiting class that is going to push these guys and add a little depth to the lineup and hopefully fill every weight class. We’re excited with where we’re going next year,” Miller added.
Commenting on her team’s recently completed season, second-year coach Lauren Healy said, “I have to give a lot of credit to the student-athletes who have been committed and dedicated to our program the last two seasons. We have been going through a lot of adversity trying to build this basketball program back up to where it should be.
“Despite our record (2-22 overall and 1-15 in the conference) and what the stats show, the members of the team and coaching staff are doing more than meets the eye. We continue to work hard every day and show that even with limited numbers, we can still compete with the best of them. We, as a team and staff, have learned a lot these last two seasons, but I am hopeful that these challenging seasons will soon be coming to an end.”
Freshman Tori Wolfe, of Dalmatia, led Penn College in both scoring and rebounding with 281 points (11.7 average) and 171 rebounds (7.1 average). Junior Jane Herman, of Greencastle, was second in scoring with 180 points (10 per game), and freshman Cassi Kuhns, of Loyalsock Township, was second in rebounding with 150 (6.8 average).
Team-wise, on offense the Wildcats scored 1,162 points (48.4 per game). On defense, Penn College allowed 1,646 points (68.6 per game).
“The biggest thing for us is to encourage the returning players to continue to work on their game and conditioning during the off-season. Now that we are starting to build on a solid foundation of players, this will allow more accountability for the players to want to get better during the off season. Off-season training is extremely important and now our returners can communicate the importance of working on their game to our incoming freshmen. Once we start doing that each year, now we are starting to create a culture and tradition that was not there the last two seasons,” said Healy, whose two-year record at Penn College is 5-44 overall and 4-32 in the conference.
Going into the season, the Wildcats had high expectations that never materialized as they finish 3-22 overall and 2-14 in the NEAC.
Statistically, of the players who saw action in at least 10 games, freshman Robert Young Jr., of Abington, led the team in scoring with 354 points, an average of 14.2 per game, and sophomore Ben Sosa, of Loyalsock Township, was second with 261 points (11.3 average). Sophomore Jesse White, of Harrisburg, was tops in rebounding with 193 (8.0 average) and Sosa was second in rebounds with 143 (6.2 average). In two seasons, Sosa has scored 639 points. Freshman James Bullock, of Philadelphia, saw action in just nine games but during them he averaged 18.7 points and 6.9 rebounds per outing.
As a team, the Wildcats scored 1,623 points, an average of 64.9 per game, and allowed 1,966 points (78.6 average).
In three seasons under coach Ryan Callahan the Wildcats are 15-59 overall, 12-42 in the conference.
Penn College’s scheduled opener on Saturday was postponed because of bad weather. The Wildcats now will open this Saturday in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
Saturday, Feb. 24 – host Lebanon Valley College at Bowman Field (2), ppd.
Saturday, March 3 – vs. Lehman College in Myrtle Beach, S.C., 3 p.m.
Sunday, March 4 – vs. New England College (2) in Myrtle Beach, S.C., 12:30 p.m.
Sunday, March 4 – vs. Mt. Aloysius College in Myrtle Beach, S.C., 1:30 p.m.
Sunday, March 4 – vs. Cedar Crest College in Myrtle Beach, S.C., 3:30 p.m.