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Penn State New Kensington softball short on numbers, not talent

April 8, 2018 GMT

Putting 10 college softball players in a seven-bedroom house that includes a swimming pool has all the makings of the next hit reality TV show. But for the Penn State New Kensington softball team, it’s all part of the building process.

Junior Brittney Wolford came away from a weeklong trip to Kissimmee, Fla., as the team cook, team maid and overall mother hen, while freshman Lauren Torgent and junior Becca Wilhelm kept teammates laughing during PSNK’s season-opening trip.

″(Wolford) was the little kitchen girl down in the Florida,” said Torgent, a 2017 Highlands grad. “Brittney was always talking about the weather, what to bring and what to wear. It was a really good bonding experience.”

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The bonding experience was important for the Lions. With just 10 players, the Lions’ bond can’t afford to be broken.

“We sort of took a couple steps back,” PSNK coach Mike Marsili said. “I recruited heavy last year and brought in quite a few players, but none of them are eligible. This year, more than any year, we’ve lost girls due to grades, dropouts and transfers.”

Torgent finds herself in an unfamiliar position. A utility player during her high school playing days at Highlands, she’s now the ace of Marsili’s pitching staff. The last time Torgent took to the circle was during her youth softball days.

Torgent will split pitching time with sophomore Stephanie Schrecengost. Torgent’s pitching ability caught Marsili off guard.

“I’m surprised that she didn’t pitch in high school,” Marsili said. “I was pleasantly surprised when I saw her throw.”

Even with all the pleasant surprises, PSNK (0-8, 0-2 Penn State University Athletic Conference) is still looking for its first win of the season.

The PSNK infield might have a familiar look to Burrell softball fans as three-quarters of it will be covered by former Bucs. Torgent will take over at third base when she’s not pitching. Wolford moved from left field to shortstop. Wilhelm will play second base for her third year in a row. Newcomer Erika Finn, a Slippery Rock transfer, starts at first base.

Finn was a basketball player at Burrell but played on Burrell fast-pitch teams with Wolford and Wilhelm.

“One thing good about the Burrell connection is getting to play with girls like Becca Wilhelm, who I have been playing softball with ever since T-ball,” Wolford said. “I believe we have that advantage of working together and especially playing middle infield, shortstop and second base, we can really work together. It is nice that we get to stay close to home and go to college and get to continue to play.”

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Sophomore Morgan Williams starts at catcher.

With an infield that has plenty of experience, the hole in the PSNK defense is in the outfield. Marsili said his team was exposed by good-hitting teams when the Lions competed in the 2018 Sunkissed Games.

“When we went to Florida, pitching wasn’t the problem,” Marsili said. “It was more of the growing pains in the outfield and trying to find where each person fits on the field.”

PSNK’s outfield consists of all first-year players who all continue to make strides. Freshmen Kaylee Flick and Brittany Kotvas (Plum) will start in left and center fields, respectively. Sophomore Gina Batiz and junior Alyssa Slancauskas will share time in right field.

“Kotvas did better in center field after she got the jitters out and played six games over six days (in Florida),” Marsili said.

Even with the low numbers, Marsili has assembled his most talented team in a few years.

“We have potential to be a good team,” Wolford said. “We do have low numbers and a couple new girls, but they are adapting and working hard to improve.”

William Whalen is a freelance writer.

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