PSNK softball team takes early lumps
The Penn State New Kensington softball team took its annual spring trip to Florida a few weeks ago. Twelve players and four coaches hopped a plane to the Sunshine State with two goals in mind: bond as a team and play some softball. The Lions accomplished both goals on the trip but realized there’s plenty of work to do on the latter.
“It was fun in Florida, but we came back with our tails between our legs,” coach Mike Marsili said. “It was good to go down there. It let the girls see the other teams and see how good they are. It’s always better to play up then to play down, but it’s no fun getting your butt kicked every time, either.”
PSNK (0-8) opened the 2019 season with a wide-eyed reality check. The Lions began the Florida trip with a 17-1 loss to Westmoreland Co. rival Saint Vincent. PSNK didn’t fair much better the rest of the way. The Lions were outscored 67-7 over the six games.
“Those schools were three-to-four times bigger than us,” Marsili said. “It’s nice to go down there and get on the dirt and show the girls what they’re trying to achieve at their level. They see how much work they need to do to get their game up.”
Marsili and his Lions had an early hurdle to overcome.
“I had a late start to the season because half of my team played basketball,” Marsili said. “I didn’t get them until mid-February. They missed out on the first few weeks of practice.”
Nevertheless, Marsili is optimistic his Lions can rebound and battle for a spot in the Penn State University Athletic Conference postseason. All they need is a little bit of confidence, he said.
“I don’t think we’re a powerhouse in that we’re going to blow through the whole conference,” Marsili said. “I think we have some kids that have the drive to get better and to win. They just need to get their confidence back up.”
Marsili will look to four-year starters Brittney Wolford and Becca Wilhelm, both of Burrell, to lead. Wolford will get the start at center field, and Wilhelm will take over at second base.
“Luckily, we have some senior leadership this year, which I very seldom have,” Marsili said.
Another Burrell alum in senior Erika Finn will start at first base and bat cleanup. Pitt-Greensburg transfer Calle Zmenkowski will get the nod at shortstop when she’s not in the circle. Sophomore Lauren Torgent (Highlands) locked up a spot at third base.
Marsili likes former Apollo-Ridge standout Teresa DeSimone’s speed. DeSimone will get the start in left field but also get a chance at shortstop depending on who is pitching. Freshman Sami Grazioli and senior Alyssa Slancauskas are in a battle at right field. Freshman Hannah Berry (Leechburg) won the starting catcher spot.
The Lions might be a little young on defense, but the strength of the 2019 team is the pitching. Marsili has a trio of arms that can get the job done. The Lions ace will be freshman Abigail Michelucci with Zmenkowski as the No. 2. Torgent also will get some time in the circle. For the first time in a long while, Marsili has options.
“The pitching is nothing overpowering, but we have some good pitchers,” Marsili said. “We have depth there, as well. I won’t be trotting the same person out there game after game.”
PSNK will have plenty of opportunities to work out the kinks: The Lions have 36 games on the schedule, weather permitting.
“Playing more games and being in that competitive environment is going to help with their skills, ability, but also mental attitude,” Marsili said. “You just got to get right back on the horse, work hard at it and eventually good things will happen.”
William Whalen is a freelance writer.