Previewing the Spring in State High Sports

The State High baseball field sits dormant waiting for the season to begin.
The State High baseball field sits dormant waiting for the season to begin.
Noah Radio

The spring sports season has kicked off at State High with events in three different sports last week; more are coming starting March 25. Each team has a different story, and every one of them deserves to get its shine. That begins right now with a comprehensive preview of every PIAA varsity sports team competing at State High this spring.

Baseball

In Head Coach David Williams’ first season at the helm, the State High baseball team finished with an 11-11 record and brought the District VI Championship back to State College for the first time since 2019. After winning the district title, the team took on Erie McDowell with a spot in the state playoffs on the line and got blown out, 9-1. This year, the Little Lions have a team goal to go just a little bit farther and qualify for the state tournament. To achieve that goal, the Little Lions must adequately replace an 11-man senior class that included seven consistent starters. Among those departed seniors were first baseman Jack Messina, who logged a .360 batting average, and closing pitcher Cooper Ryan, both of whom committed to play baseball at Penn State. The first base spot will be a committee situation to begin the season, with senior Sam Janik slated to get the start in the season opener. Janik, who is primarily a pitcher, will share the position with fellow pitcher Cody Norman and Catcher/DH Jack Coleman. Those returners, in addition to junior Austin Harter, make up a strong nucleus to propel the team to a state playoff berth in 2024.

Softball

The softball team is coming off of an underwhelming 2022-23 season, in which it finished with an 8-12 record. The Little Lions came up just one run short of a District VI Championship, losing 3-2 to Mifflin County. After a season marred by one-run losses and a lack of experience, the Little Lions return a core of experienced players for 2024. Part of that core is junior Jess Hawbaker who will be in the starting lineup for the third year in a row leading off and playing shortstop. Joining her will be Addison Harpster on the mound and Tori Kroboth providing a big bat in the middle of the lineup. Head Coach Shawn Herncane expects Kroboth, who has battled injuries throughout her career, to have a huge senior year at the plate. The team also sports talented upperclassmen looking to make their mark on the varsity field. Sophomores Paige Moriarta, Harper Campbell, and Elizabeth Sikorski are all first-year varsity players, as well as freshman Sarah Mellott who will play her first season in the program on the varsity team. The smooth assimilation of the newcomers with the returning core needs to be the driving force towards playoff success this season. In the past, the softball team has consistently been one of the best regular season teams in the school but has little playoff success to show for it. Herncane laments these playoff shortcomings and has a clear goal for this season. “Our goal is not only to play great in the regular season and make a run at the Mid-Penn Championship,” Herncane said. “But then to play the way we’re capable of playing we get into the district championship game.”

Boys Volleyball

The boys volleyball team finished 14-4 and won the District VI Championship last season, but could not get past Erie McDowell to qualify for the PIAA State Playoffs. The Little Lions return a strong team for 2024 but have lost two District VI All-Stars from last season. Sophomore and captain Derrick Campbell is very confident about the outlook of this year. “I’m very confident about [the District VI Championship], we’ve won it for a couple years in a row now,” Campbell said. He went on to describe the Mid-Penn schedule and said “I feel like we have a good chance of going undefeated in the regular season.” While that is a lofty goal, this team has the pure skill to achieve it and will just need consistent performance every time they walk onto the court.

Boys Tennis

In the 2022-23 season, the boys tennis team fell short of the District VI Championship after finishing with a 14-1 record in the regular season. After 11 shutout victories in the regular season, losing to Hollidaysburg in the District VI Championship was a shocking development. Sophomore and member of the first doubles team for 2024 Dash Nealon said, “Honestly, last year was kind of a shock. We haven’t lost to them in a very long time [and] I think we came in a little bit overconfident, and they got the better of us.” The team will look to remedy that this season by bringing the district title back to State College. The Little Lions are already off to a great start, defeating the only team they lost to last regular season, Cumberland Valley, 3-2 on March 20.

Girls Lacrosse

The girls lacrosse team is one of the youngest teams for State High this spring season, starting just four seniors and bringing only one more off the bench. That doesn’t keep them from having strong leadership from the players on the field, though. Head Coach Tara Hohenshelt listed nearly every upperclassman on the roster as someone who can be a vocal leader and that was certainly shown in the team’s season-opening loss to Strath Haven. While the Little Lions suffered a 16-9 loss, communication on and off the field was at an extremely high level all game long. Hohenshelt is keeping goals for the team simple this year, she just wants the team to “Work with a growth mindset to learn from the things that didn’t work and sharpen up the things that did.”

Boys Lacrosse

In recent years, the boys lacrosse program has experienced extreme highs in the regular season, then swung right back to extreme lows in the first round of the district playoffs. Last year, the Little Lions finished with a 14-5 record, the most wins in school history, but closed their season with a first round exit in the district playoffs. In the last three seasons under Head Coach Tyler Kaluza, the team is 37-13, which comes out to a .740 winning percentage. The team returns a strong core for 2024 and is looking to finally get over the hump and win a playoff game. Two pieces of that core are juniors Ty Salazer and Cooper Brushwood, who will bring high-level speed and scoring to the Little Lions’ attack. Additionally, junior Owen Kissinger could prove to be an instrumental piece of the team as a faceoff specialist. The Little Lions will need strong goalie play to replace the departed Zach Paterno, but if the pieces fall into place, the sky is the limit for both playoff and regular season success.

Boys & Girls Track and Field

In 2023, the boys track and field team just missed out on winning the PIAA State Championship, taking second place. The team had one individual state champion, Jesse Myers. Myers, a junior, took gold in the 200 meter dash, silver in the 400 meter dash, and fourth place in the 100 meter dash. This year, Myers has the opportunity to compete in these three events again and bring home as many as three gold medals. The team has plenty of other championship contenders, including freshmen Theo Oppermann and Luke Bradbury, who placed 15th and 40th in the freshman one-mile race at the New Balance Indoor Nationals this March. At the New Balance Nationals, Myers placed 11th in the 200 meter dash and 26th in the 400 meter dash. On the girls’ side, sophomore Devon Jackson placed 94th in the girls one-mile race. Jackson placed 15th in the one-mile at the Indoor PIAA State Championship this year and is looking to improve on that in the outdoor season. Outside of Jackson, the girls track and field team took first place in seven events in last year’s District VI Championship Meet, and most of those athletes are back. Those returners bring the potential for the Little Lions to achieve even more in 2023-24.

 

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