UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State University Athletic Conference softball playoffs have begun, and four teams have earned their way into the championship tournament, scheduled to resume on Sunday, May 6th at Beard Field on the University Park campus.
Penn State Beaver and Penn State Brandywine each punched their tickets to the final four with decisive wins in their respective play-in games last Friday, joining Penn State Schuylkill and Penn State Fayette in the four team, double-elimination portion of the 2018 event. Second round play begins on Sunday morning with the championship game(s) set for early afternoon on Monday.
Penn State Schuylkill
Schuylkill enters the tournament as the no. 1 seed from the PSUAC East, finishing 20-10 on the season, including a 13-3 mark in conference play. Coach Darle Cresswell's squad was led by a trio of mashers, Stephanie Killian, Danielle Lilly and Erin Luckenbill, who knocked in a combined 118 runs for the Lions. Killian led the three with an average of .538, best in the league, while Lilly topped the three with 40 RBIs to finish third in the conference. Luckenbill hit four home runs to lead the group and finish sixth in the PSUAC.
On the mound, the Lions were led by Hannah Sell and Cara Brennan who finished with nine and eight wins, respectively. Sell's 2.60 ERA was fourth best in the conference, while both pitchers threw 12 complete games.
Schuylkill will be the home team on Sunday as they square off with the Penn State Beaver, the no. 2 seed from the PSUAC West. Schuylkill seeks their third conference championship, with their two victories coming in back-to-back years in 2005 and 2006.
Penn State Brandywine
No. 2 seed Brandywine had to earn their way into the final four through a one-game play-in with no. 3 Penn State Hazleton. The southeastern campus easily dispatched their northeast counterparts 11-3 to clinch their bid and advance to the second round. There the three-time defending champions will meet PSUAC West no. 1 seed Penn State Fayette in the opening game on Sunday.
Brandywine is led on the mound by Katie DeStafano, a 17 game winner who threw 22 complete games and a total of 121 innings in her senior season. Head coach Mark Caserta also leads a deep group of batters, including five of the top ten leaders in batting average and four of the conference's top six home run hitters. Arianna Segich and Katie Steffen each hit seven home runs, while Alexa Anderson drove in a conference best 41 runs while hitting .476. Rachel Cherubini hit .524 on the season and drove in 31 runs to add to the depth of the Brandywine lineup.
Brandywine finished the regular season 22-8, including a 12-4 mark in the PSUAC.
Penn State Fayette
John Miller's squad earned the no. 1 seed in the West with a thrilling 2-1 win over Penn State Beaver in a tiebreaker game last Wednesday. For his troubles, his team will earn the right to face three-time defending champion Beaver in the opening game on Sunday. Likely to be in the circle will be Tiffany Markovitch, who has picked up 15 wins in 26 appearances this season.
Fayette was 22-13 on the year, finishing 15-5 in PSUAC play. While Fayette lacks the power of their eastern foes, they have been a model of consistency. Seven players hit over .300 on the year, led by Aubree Yates who hit .423 and finished fourth in hits with 47. Markovitch got it done at the plate as well, notching 41 RBIs to tie for the league lead.
Fayette will be the home team in their first game and will look to capture the program's first ever softball crown.
Penn State Beaver
After losing a heartbreaker to Fayette in their tiebreaker game, head coach Andy Kirschner regrouped and led his team to a 6-1 victory over Penn State Greater Allegheny in a play-in game last Friday. The win advanced Beaver into the final four, where they will look to capture their fourth conference championship and first since 2013.
The Lions tied Fayette at 15-5 in PSUAC action this year, and finished 22-13 overall. Vanessa Jackson picked up most of those victories for Beaver, throwing a conference high 134 2/3 innings. Not only did Jackson lead the league in innings pitched, she also led in ERA (2.50), strikeouts (112), appearances (28) and wins (18). Another model of consistency at the plate, much like many of their opponents this weekend, Beaver had six players with 26 or more RBIs, with all of them finishing in the top-18 of the conference. While no Beaver player hit more than three home runs, four players had 41 hits or more, with Kayla Campbell and Jackson leading the league with 51 hits apiece. Jackson was also a doubles machine with 14 two baggers on the season. Campbell added 10 doubles and Brenna Cepull notched nine.