DuBOIS, Pa. — As spring rolls in and temperatures outside start to heat up, the baseball and softball teams at Penn State DuBois are getting ready to do the same. Both teams are getting ready to start their seasons in the coming days.
Head coach Tom Calliari and his team enter this season in a spot they have not been in the last five years as they are not looking to defend the PSUAC championship, nor the USCAA national championship. Instead, the team is now looking to recapture those titles this season, and Calliari said he isn’t changing the standards for the program, nor his expectations.
Our goal is the same every season, win the world series. We can’t and won’t lower our expectations.
—Tom Calliari , Penn State DuBois baseball head coach
“Our goal is the same every season, win the world series,” Calliari said. “We can’t and won’t lower our expectations.”
Last season, the Nittany Lions saw the PSUAC championship go to Penn State Mont Alto and the USCAA national championship was taken by the Apprentice School. This season, Penn State DuBois is looking to bring both titles back to the campus that they have called home for many years.
“People get content by winning, and that’s not a place you want to be,” Calliari said. “The conference has gotten much stronger, and we have to use that to make us better as well.”
Calliari said he will be looking for some new faces to step up into leadership roles this season. Several seniors and leaders from the team last year have now moved on, he said, so the Nittany Lions will have new players stepping up into those leadership roles. Calliari also noted that it is hard to compare teams from one year to the next as each year is unique and presents its own challenges. However, he said he does feel the team he has this year is very deep in numerous areas.
One of the players stepping up into a leadership role is Cory Lehman. A senior this season, Lehman appeared in 39 games last year, hitting .357 with 11 extra base hits, scoring 23 runs and driving in 23 runs as well. Lehman is being counted on to be an offensive leader this season, but a leader for the team on and off the field as well.
With the mixture of both young and veteran guys I feel we have a great chance of making another great run.
—Cory Lehman , Penn State DuBois senior baseball player
“I believe that we have a young team,” Lehman said. “But this is a very talented group of younger guys. I feel that everyone will accept the roles they are given and do it to their very best. Then you throw in the older guys, who are all great athletes and great leaders. With the mixture of both young and veteran guys I feel we have a great chance of making another great run.”
On the mound, the Nittany Lions return right hander Taylor Boland, who is also a junior. A year ago, Boland appeared in 13 games on the mound, starting 11 of those appearances. He ended the season with a perfect 8-0 record while recording a 2.89 ERA in 56 innings pitched.
“I feel very confident in our team this season,” Boland said. “I feel we have really good chemistry as a group. We are ready to get the season started.”
Although he is a junior this year, one of the players that Calliari highlighted is Brett Beith. The left handed hitting outfielder returns after appearing in 40 games last season, hitting .295 with 11 extra base hits, including four home runs, while scoring 30 runs and driving in 33 more. Also, he has been a rock defensively for the Nittany Lions, having yet to commit an error in 74 games total in his career. Calliari said he feels that Beith has a chance to be in the running to win the conference player of the year this season.
Having a deep team in areas will be put to the test early, as the Nittany Lions have been hit by the injury bug prior to the full start of the season. The team just returned from their spring break trip to the Ripken Experience in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Prior to the trip, Calliari said he was hoping for a safe trip that didn’t see any further injuries develop, as well an opportunity for him to see his team’s depth in action with some players in new positions and new roles.
Both Lehman and Boland both expressed optimism.
“I feel excited,” Lehman said. “Nothing better than playing ball with the boys against some great competition.”
“I’m very excited to get the season started,” Boland said. “It will be a real test to see who we are as a team.”
This season sees a new face lead the Lady Lions, as Jeff Tomb takes over as the new head coach for Penn State DuBois softball. Tomb comes to DuBois with plenty of collegiate coaching experience, including his last stop in the PSUAC as the head coach at Penn State Hazleton. In only his second season at Hazleton, Tomb took his team to the PSUAC Championship game as well earning a spot in the 2022 USCAA Small College World Series. Prior to Hazleton, Tomb was the assistant softball coach for seven years at the Pennsylvania College of Technology, where he was instrumental in the process of earning bids to the NCAA DIII National Tournament.
“Everyone from the campus has been very welcoming,” Tomb said. “The athletic department and admissions are making sure when a recruit comes to visit that they are taken care of, along with their family members. The players have been very receptive to what the coaches are putting in as well.”
Tomb takes over a team that is very experienced that has depth in many positions. The team is one that has their sights set on a goal, winning the PSUAC championship.
The players work hard every practice. Everyday they want to get better and compete for the PSUAC softball championship.
—Jeff Tomb , Penn State DuBois softball head coach
“The players work hard every practice,” Tomb said. “Everyday they want to get better and compete for the PSUAC softball championship. That’s what they have set their goal to be.”
In the preseason, Tomb said he has instilled into his team to be just that, a team. His players will play for one another while enjoying their time on the field with their teammates. But, no matter what, they are a team, said Tomb. He said he wants to see them compete in each game to help them achieve their championship goal this season.
Tomb said he will rely on his team to play good defense, use a pitching staff, always look to take the extra base, and compete to try and win the PSUAC. The conference has been full of tough competition, he said, but no team has been tougher than Penn State Brandywine, who have held the PSUAC crown since 2015 (there was no championship for the 2020 season due to the pandemic). But, top to bottom, Tomb said he is expecting the PSUAC to present challenges in each game.
The Lady Lions have three seniors on the team this year, Jordan Bundy, Larissa James-LaBrance and Paige Pieta. Each of them will be counted on for leadership throughout the entirety of the season.
Bundy returns after appearing in 34 games last season, hitting .290 for the year with two extra base hits, scoring 11 runs and driving in 15 runs as well. She also contributed to two double plays defensively from her infield positions.
“We have a great atmosphere on our team,” Bundy said. “We are a strong team, we have the passion, motivation and determination to be a great team. You will have lows and high points but what matters most is how we stick together to succeed as a team.”
We have a great group of women with a lot of talent and drive. We have been working very hard to prepare and I think it’s really going to pay off.
—Larissa James-LaBrance , Penn State DuBois senior softball player
James-LaBrance saw action in 37 games last year, being the rock behind the plate for the Lady Lions. Secure fielding to the tune of a 94%, combined with a .273 batting average saw her contribute both offensively and defensively. James-LaBrance had six extra base hits for the Lady Lions last season, while scoring 15 runs and driving in 9 rbis also.
“I feel very excited (about the upcoming season),” James-LaBrance said. “We have a great group of women with a lot of talent and drive. We have been working very hard to prepare and I think it’s really going to pay off. We also all get along well which will help us in the long run as we develop a new culture and environment with Coach Tomb.”
Pleta, who also played in the infield defensively, returns to the team as one of its top hitters. Last season saw her finish the year with a .348 average, 10 extra base hits, 25 runs batted in and scoring 24 runs. Pleta also had eight stolen bases and was only caught stealing one time. Defensively, she contributed to three double plays last year.
“I feel like the team is going to be very successful this year,” Pleta said. “The team is full of skilled and talented young women that have their heart into the game. The team really cares for the game, and it shows when we are all out there. When you have all those components along with the good chemistry on the field comes greater outcomes. I just cannot wait till we start winning as a team.”
Weather and field conditions play a huge factor when it comes to spring sports, such as baseball and softball, and the schedule for both teams has already seen adjustments due to upcoming weather forecasts. The best place to find the most up-to-date schedule for both the Nittany Lions and Lady Lions is at the Penn State DuBois athletics website.