Cal U softballers home for the playoffs
California University's softball team is facing a busy day tomorrow at Lilly Field, hosting one of the three PSAC tournament's first rounds.
The West Division champion Vulcans (28-10) will play at 1 p.m. against the loser of the opening 11 a.m. contest between Central Division runnerup Lock Haven (24-10) and East Division third-place West Chester (30-17).
The Vulcans will play again at 3 p.m. against the Lock Haven-West Chester winner.
According to long-time coach Rick Bertagnolli, his team used a different script to win a third-straight West title.
"Pitching and defense are usually our strong points," said Bertagnolli.
Despite being the PSAC's third winningest team, the Vulcans were next-to-last among the league's 15 teams with a high 67 errors and .944 fielding percentage.
"It was uncharacteristic the way we kicked and threw the ball away," said Bertagnolli. "We pride ourselves on defense and are usually near the top. Our fielding has cost us the majority of our losses and we'll have to corral that in the playoffs."
Two freshmen pitchers have come up big for Cal.
Hope Spancake is one of the league's top hurlers with a 14-2 record and 1.79 ERA.
She has turned in nine complete games with four shutouts and 85 strikeouts in 113 1/3rd innings.
Kaitlyn Schilling has contributed a 9-5 record with a 2.16 ERA.
"We knew that Spancake had the talent but Schilling was a big surprise.
Alyson Johnson and Jillian Russell lead a California offense, which was tied for second with Slippery Rock with a .330 team batting average.
Johnson, a junior designated hitte, was the league's leading hitter with a .425 batting average including a team-high 14 doubles.
Russell, a junior shortstop, led the league with 48 RBI and her 13 home runs were second only to Kutztown's Nicole Henninger and Mercyhurst's Samantha Eimers. Russell had a .378 batting average with an .803 slugging percentage.
She also led the team with eight stolen bases.
California's other top hitters are freshman catcher Natalie Wideman (.372), senior first baseman Sarah Spiering (.368), freshman second baseman Shelby Lia (.367) and junior left fielder Kristen McKenzie (.364).