Trip to playoffs in the balance this weekend for Penn State New Kensington softball
The Penn State New Kensington softball team's fate has come down to the final weekend of the regular season.
The Lions, who sit in second place in the Penn State University Athletic Conference, will host two games against third-place Penn State Schuylkill (10-6, 6-4) on Saturday, and first-place Penn State Mont Alto (14-6, 11-1) on Sunday.
PSNK (9-9, 8-4) needs to keep winning to secure the top seed in the PSUAC playoffs. The top four teams in the league make the playoffs. Schuylkill has played two fewer games than PSNK.
“We have our work cut out for us this weekend. Defense and pitching need to carry us through,” PSNK coach Mike Marsili said. “The girls know what's at stake. I won't have to say too much to get them going.”
Outsiders might be surprised at how PSNK's season has developed, especially after a rough Florida trip to start the season. But not Marsili.
“We went to Florida and got in over out heads,” he said. “We played a lot of schools that are much bigger than us. We sort of expected most of what happened. We were surprised by the offensive power figures we have had. It's been mostly an offensive showing.
“Although our pitching has been strong.”
That's thanks to junior Tarra Oravec, a Kiski Area graduate who has contributed offensively and defensively. Oravec's .468 batting average is the 10th-highest in the United States Collegiate Athletic Association. Oravec also ranks third with five home runs.
“She had a good year last year,” Marsili said of Oravec, who recently was named the USCAA Pitcher of the Week. “We were hoping she'd repeat what she did last year. But she's surpassed it.”
Oravec said personal success is great, but she focuses on the team first.
“I wasn't really expecting (to win pitcher of the week), but it's nice to be recognized,” she said. “We've been more focused and been playing as a team lately. That's what's important. We started to really bring it together.”
Oravec said as the season winds down she and her teammates need to keep the goal of their championship in mind.
“We're close to the top, it's hard to stay focused and not get too confident,” she said. “ We want to try and stay on top.”
Along with Oravec, Marsili was quick to point out how important catcher Rachel Lojas has been to the team.
“Rachel and Tarra have been the heart of our lineup and the heart and soul of the team,” he said. “They've carried us in the middle of the lineup.”
Facing the biggest four-game stretch of the year, Marsili said he expects a cool, confident team this weekend.
“They've made the playoffs the last couple of years, they expect nothing less,” he said. “I don't think we'll have any problems.”
R.A. Monti is a freelancer writer.