New Kensington Softball Preview 2013
GOOD PITCHING, STRONG DEFENSE AND
CLUTCH HITTING ARE KEYS TO MAKING A RUN AT CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP
“I believe that we can play with anyone in the conference. With our pitching, we should be in every game with a chance to win it at the end.” -- Mike Marsili, Head Coach
With two months of indoor practice and seven games in Florida sunshine under their belts, the Penn State New Kensington softball team is ready to start the regular season under Pennsylvania’s overcast skies.
Since returning March 8 from a swing through Orlando, the New Kensington Lady Lions have yet to set foot on the diamond. A combination of late winter and early spring snow and rain have rendered the home field at Wolf Pack Park unplayable and forced the squad to continue hitting, fielding and pitching inside the campus Athletics Center. Even with a synthetic turf field, the season opener March 19 at Carlow University was postponed because of the windy and cold weather patterns that have stalled over western Pennsylvania.
Coach Mike Marsili, beginning his fifth year at the helm, is anxious for the regular season to get underway. The Lady Lions went 1-5 down south against formidable competition and were able to groove their swings and solidify their defense. Since resuscitating a dormant program in 2009, Marsili has been steadily building toward a conference championship. Last year, the team finished third in the Penn State University Athletic Conference with an 11-7 record and reached the Final Four of the PSUAC playoffs.
“I am expecting to make the playoffs again and challenge for the conference title,” said Marsili, a resident of Vandergrift. “We have all three pitchers back from last year, so I am expecting our pitching to keep us in most games.”
According to Marsili, the keys to the season are good pitching, strong defense, and clutch hitting. Excellent team speed complements both the defense and offense.
“We will rely heavily on our defense, as is the case every year, being strong up the middle and having good speed in the outfield,” said Marsili, the dean of campus coaches. “Offensively, we have a strong hitting team as our players are good contact hitters who will hit to all fields and lay a bunt down when needed. We hit for power last year; hopefully, that will continue this year.”
The double play combo of shortstop Bridget Fisher and second baseman Sarah Kutchko
is back for a second year. Three-year starting first baseman Katie Colbert, who was
second nationally in fielding percentage, moves to left field this season.
With a solid nucleus of veterans augmented by a talented group of newcomers, the Lady Lions are poised to go deep into the playoffs. A veteran infield and pitching staff will be the backbone of the team.
Heading the list of returnees are junior pitchers Tarra Oravec (Kiski Area High School) and Jenna Swank (Ford City). The hard-throwing Oravec is the ace of the staff, and her dexterity with changing speeds keeps opposing players off balance. When she is not on the mound, Oravec will patrol the outfield. She is equally adept with the bat, hitting for power and average. An All-PSUAC selection and national Player of the Week last year, Oravec led the team in home runs and rbi's last and is slated to bat clean-up. Swank will take the hill when called upon and will be at first base when Oravec pitches. She provides power in the middle of the line-up.
The Lady Lions are strong up the middle with sophomore centerfielder Brooke Churma (Kiski Area), junior shortstop Bridget Fisher (Burrell), junior second baseman Sarah Kutchko (Deer Lakes), and freshman catcher Rachel Lojas (Norwin). Churma has exceptional speed and can run down hits in the gap and keep opposing runners from taking the extra base. A switch hitter, Churma can slap it around or drag bunt to get on base.
Fisher has good range and a strong arm. She is also an effective relief pitcher who can come in and throw strikes. Kutchko has great hands and blossomed into a team leader last year. A good hitter, she was third on the team in batting average. Rojas is a good gap hitter and can hit for power. She handles pitchers well and has a good knowledge of the game.
Flanking Chuma in the outfield will be senior left fielder Katie Colbert (Fox Chapel) and freshman right fielder Cassie Stivason (Leechburg). Colbert moves to the outfield after three years as a starter at first base where she was second in fielding percentage in the United States Collegiate Athletic Association, the national governing body for campus athletics. Her speed and inate capablilities should help her adapt to the new position. Stivason has good outfield instincts and a strong arm.
At the hot corner is freshman Sabrina Johns (Karns City). Johns brings a strong arm and a good bat to the third base position. Jessica George (Burrell) is Marsili’s top utility player. She is equally comfortable in the outfield, infield or behind the plate. Pushing for starting positions are junior outfielder Breana Cass (Plum) and sophomore outfielder Jordan Miller (Harvest Baptist Academy). In addition to softball, Milller was on the volleyball team and is president of the Student Government Association.
Junior Jenna Swank lays down a bunt last year against Penn State Fayette. With excellent team speed,
Coach Mike Marsili utiizes the bunt to move runners around the bases.
“We are long on talent but short on depth,” Marsili said. “We are strong up the middle, and our speed will surprise a lot of teams. We will be bunting runners into scoring position and using our speed to get them home.”
Marsili's squad is set to play six home doubleheaders at Wolf Pack Park. Located at the intersection of Wild Life Lodge and Garvers Ferry roads, the municipal field has served as home to the softball team the past five years. The 22-game schedule features 16 Penn State University Athletic Conference games and six nonconference contests.
“I believe that we can play with anyone in the conference," Marsili said. “With our pitching, we should be in every game with a chance to win it at the end.”
A former assistant coach at Kiski Area High School, Marsili begins his fifth year as head coach. He is a certified coach and conducts numerous clinics throughout the year. His assistant is Brian Eshbaugh, who was the head coach of the Lady Lions for three years, 2002-05. Eshbaugh guided New Kensington to two PSUAC championships.
For the full softball schedule, visit http://psnkathletics.com/sports/sball/2012-13/schedule online.