Looking back on the Penn State Berks Nittany Lions magical run

Penn State Berks Women's Softball Team

Penn State Berks Softball Team celebrated a successful season.

Credit: Tyler Schueck

WYOMISSING, Pa. – The Penn State Berks softball team capped off its magical run with a strong showing at the Salisbury Regional of the NCAA Tournament this past weekend. Berks returned to the national stage after missing out the last two seasons after winning the United East Championship on Sunday, May 7. The team went 1-2 this past weekend, marking the fourth time they have won a game at regionals.

This was the first conference title and trip to regionals for the softball program since the 2019 season. With the 2020 season called off due to the global pandemic and after losing in the first round of the 2021 playoffs, the Nittany Lions returned for their seventh trip to the NCAA Tournament.

In the previous six visits, Berks had a roster filled with experienced players who had participated on the big stage. However, the 2022 squad, had just two members who were part of the last trip. What the team lacked in experience, they made up for with talent, effort and togetherness.

In the first game of the regional, Berks was defeated 2-0 by Endicott College on Friday, May 13 (Full recap found here). They were held to just one hit and were struck out a season-high 11 times. Despite all of that, the attitude and mindset on the bus and in the hotel that night was positive as they prepared for the games ahead of them. They were not thinking “we are one loss from having our season ending,” but were thinking “we need to win four games to advance to the next round”.

On Saturday, May 14, the Nittany Lions had the start time of their game pushed back from 2:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. due to rain. This change to the schedule did not alter the focus of the team heading into an elimination game with Framingham State University. When gametime hit, the team was ready to go and raced out to a 3-0 lead in the second inning. The Rams eventually tied it up at 3-all, but Berks would go on to win 9-5 and advance to the final day of the tournament. (Full recap found here)

The Nittany Lions needed to defeat Endicott and then host Salisbury University twice to advance to the NCAA Super Regional round. It was going to be a tall task and they knew they needed to take it one game at a time. Berks got a hit in the top of the first, which matched their output against the Gulls the first time around and allowed the team to relax. Endicott got five runs over the first two innings but were held scoreless the rest of the way. Unfortunately for Berks, they only scored one run on a home run by Susan Duncan in the 5-1 setback. (Full recap found here)

The softball team finished the season with a record of 27-13 overall and were 21-7 in the United East. They entered the conference tournament as the No. 3 seed and limped in having lost four of the final five regular season games. They stepped it up and performed at another level in wins over Penn State Harrisburg and Penn College to capture the United East title.

That momentum carried over to the NCAA Regional where all 10 student-athletes on the trip gave everything they had. In a tournament field where teams have upwards of 20-plus players on their rosters, the Nittany Lions proved that it is quality and not quantity that matters most.

“I would like to express my heartfelt congratulations to the Penn State Berks softball team for making it to the NCAA Tournament,” said Chancellor George Grant Jr. “As one of only 62 teams – from a pool of more than 400 colleges and universities – this is quite an accomplishment. In addition, they won the United East Championship for the seventh time. The team has represented Penn State Berks well and we are all very proud of their accomplishments.”

Briana Smith was the Nittany Lions ace in the pitcher’s circle all season long. She was the United East Tournament MVP and was one of the leaders of the team. The junior came on strong at the plate at the end of the season and was batting cleanup in the final game of the year.

Arizona Shreck, Susan Duncan, and Peyton Vivian all batted over .400 for the season. The trio combined for 57 doubles, six triples, 17 home runs, 140 RBI, and 145 runs scored. Veronica Maryanski was an eyelash away from joining the .400 club, as she finished the season with a .398 batting average.

Savannah Wilson, Naomi Fay, and Hayden Perrone all batted .300 or better and the group combined to steal 22 bases. Emily Strupp, who batted .341, finished with 15 doubles, three homers, 37 RBI, and 36 runs scored in her freshman campaign. Madi Haraschak and Erin Spatz both batted .300 or better this spring.

Emily Smith stopped splitting her catching duties and was behind the plate for each of the final 17 games of the season. She was phenomenal catching, blocking, and framing pitches all season long. The sophomore catcher threw out five runners trying to steal, including one runner in the first game against Endicott.

With just one senior (Erin Spatz) on the roster, the Nittany Lions will look to build on the experience gained during the tournament run. They know what it takes to get to the next level, and they know it starts in the offseason.