Penn State Berks Softball celebrating their NEAC Championship

Berks softball enjoys historic run in 2017

The Penn State Berks softball team reached familiar territory after claiming the North Eastern Athletic Conference (NEAC) title for the fourth time in five years to earn a trip to the NCAA tournament.

By: Tyler Schueck

The Penn State Berks softball team reached familiar territory after claiming the North Eastern Athletic Conference (NEAC) title for the fourth time in five years to earn a trip to the NCAA tournament.

But at the regional site in Ithaca this past May, the 2017 squad was able to do something no other team in program history could do, and that was earn a victory in the NCAA tournament. To make things even more exciting, the Nittany Lions won the game in walk-off fashion with junior Ashley Malek crushing a home run to center field with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning to top Susquehanna University, 5-4, and stave off elimination. Berks had its magical run come to an end with a 5-3 heartbreaking setback to host Ithaca to finish the year with an overall record of 29-9.

The Nittany Lions claimed the NEAC South Division regular-season title after finishing their conference slate with a 19-1 record. They then hosted the NEAC tournament, where they went 3-0 and outscored the opposition by a 27-2 margin and ended each game in five innings due to the eight-run rule. Chelsea Bright, who finished 3-for-4 with three RBI in the title game and played phenomenal defense at third base, was named the NEAC tournament MVP.

Berks cleaned up in the NEAC South Division awards, earning three individual honors and having five all-conference recipients. Four-year star Jenna Heffner was rewarded for her brilliant season by being named the NEAC South Division MVP for the second straight year, Jessica Rozick was named the Pitcher of the Year, and Donna Ference was selected Coach of the Year. Heffner, Rozick and Malek all garnered All-NEAC first-team honors, while Becca Faust and Megan Olsen were second-team selections.

In addition, Heffner and Rozick were NFCA All-Mid-Atlantic Region First Team selections. Heffner became just the second student-athlete in program history to receive NFCA All-America honors, when she was named to the second team.

The success of the 2017 season was achieved in part due to the amazing senior group of Bright, Heffner, Olsen and Madison Newhouser. Newhouser, playing the final season of her Berks career, gave a strong year at the plate with her blazing speed and provided a solid glove all year in left field. Bright, Heffner and Olsen have been four-year standouts who were able to take the program to a new level during their tenure. The three have etched their names all over the record books, while also adding a level of leadership that will be nearly impossible to replace.