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Penn State New Kensington softball team looks for fast start

Jason Bridge | Valley News Dispatch
Penn State New Kensington juniors Sarah Kutchko, front, and Bridget Fisher load luggage and softball gear into the team van in preparation for a trip to Florida for spring training. Photographed at the school on Friday, March 1, 2013.

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By D.j. Vasil
Monday, March 4, 2013, 12:57 a.m.

Last year, the Penn State New Kensington softball team finished 13-15 overall, 11-7 in the Penn State University Athletic Conference.

The quest to improve on last year's record begins Tuesday when the Lady Lions open their nonconference schedule against teams from Massachusetts, Iowa and Michigan as well as St. Vincent College.

“You play six games against teams from all over the country, and ironically, though, they have us scheduled to play St. Vincent,” PSNK coach Mike Marsili said. “You go all the way down to Florida and end up playing a team that's 30 miles from us.”

There won't be much vacation time for the Lady Lions. Spring training is more like a business trip.

After jumping out to a 9-1 start last season, the team advanced to the semifinals in the conference tournament but came up short against Penn State Mont Alto, 2-0.

Despite being known as a two-year school and only having one senior on the team, experience could benefit PSNK this year. The team features four juniors and four sophomores.

“Well, we have a lot of returning starters,” Marsili said. “We do have some injuries we have to deal with, though.”

The Lady Lions could be without their No. 2 pitcher, junior Jenna Swank (Ford City). The potential loss of Swank could put added pressure on their No. 1 hurler, Kiski Area graduate Tara Oravec.

Oravec, a junior who also plays the outfield, finished 3-1 last season with a 3.96 ERA. She batted .353 with four homers and 20 RBI.

“It's definitely going to be rough, but I think we will be OK,” Oravec said about the potential loss of Swank. “In high school, I was in there a lot pitching. It shouldn't be that bad.”

Senior first baseman Katie Colbert (Fox Chapel) could be moved from first base to left field, Marsili said.

Colbert said the position change won't hinder her thoughts on this season.

“Honestly, my mindset is that if the coaches feel that's best for the team, I will go anywhere,” Colbert said. “That's not something that will deter me of my play. I'll play anywhere.”

Something Marsili is hoping to turn around this year is the team's road record. The Lions were 7-3 at home but 3-7 on the road.

Other Alle-Kiski players on the roster are junior Breana Cass (Plum), sophomore Bridgette Fisher (Burrell), freshman Jessica George (Burrell), freshman Crissy Schaeffer (Ford City) and freshman Cassie Stivason (Leechburg).

PSNK opens conference play April 2 at Penn College.

D.J. Vasil is a freelance writer.

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