Across the IUP campus, it was spring fever, like no other time in recent memory.
In short, the Spring semester ended up being the most successful spring season the IUP Crimson Hawks have had in a long time, thanks to a breakout season by the softball team, a postseason run from the baseball squad, a leap forward from the lacrosse team, and national achievements from the golf and track and field teams. “It has been a great spring,” said Athletics Director Frank Condino. “We made the decision a few years ago to be more competitive in the spring. We put in some more resources, and it has started paying off.”
The big story was head coach Bill Graham’s softball team, which won the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference title in May, an achievement that hadn’t been done in the history of the program. But it didn’t end there. The Crimson Hawks won the Atlantic Region title and then rallied for two wins to claim the Atlantic Super Region crown, sending the Crimson Hawks on to the College World Series. The Crimson Hawks’ trip to the CWS didn’t last long (they lost their first two games and were eliminated), but that didn’t prevent them from finishing with the best season in school history.
The softball team celebrates with the Super Region trophy. (Keith Boyer)
Entering the College World Series, IUP sported a 74-18 record in two seasons under Graham. “These are the two most successful softball seasons we’ve ever had,” Condino said. “Bill has put together a great team.” The wins over Bloomsburg couldn’t have been scripted any better. In the opening game of a best-of-3 series, Dee Eppinger hit a two-run single with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning to lift IUP to a 3-2 win. The next afternoon, a fairytale ending gave the title to the Crimson Hawks, as freshman Mary Ward belted a two-run home run in the seventh inning to take a 2-1 lead, and ace Erin Holloway shut the Huskies down the rest of the way.
Jeff Ditch’s baseball team labored through the regular season but took off in the PSAC playoffs. Facing the number-one-seed Millersville in the opening round, the Crimson Hawks scored a 6-5 win to advance. From there, IUP beat Bloomsburg twice to advance to the championship round before falling to Mercyhurst. The lacrosse team, under third-year coach Mindy Richmond, finished with an 11-7 record, the program’s first winning season since 2001 and only its second since the program was created in 1998. In golf, the Crimson Hawks picked up in the spring where they left off in the fall—by winning. After a solid spring that included a win in the Cecil Spadafora Invitational in Indiana, IUP advanced to the NCAA playoffs, where Fred Joseph’s team finished thirteenth in the country. Leo Acklin had the top finish, at sixteenth place. The track and field team also shined bright, with three athletes advancing to the NCAA Championships, which were held over Memorial Day weekend. Brandon Ford and Breanna Liebold competed in the triple jump, while Leander Toney took part in the high jump. It all added up to a second-place finish in the Dixon Trophy standings, which is given to the top team in the PSAC. This marked the fourth time since the award was first given out in 1996 that IUP was the runner-up. It’s also IUP’s best ranking since it was second in 2003.
The outstanding spring came on the heels of another good winter. The Crimson Hawks’ men’s and women’s basketball teams advanced to the PSAC playoffs, with the men winning the title and moving on to the NCAA tournament, where they advanced to the Sweet 16. Along the way, senior Darryl Webb had another outstanding season, breaking the school’s all-time scoring record while also being named the National Association of Basketball Coaches Division II Player of the Year.
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To culminate their standout college careers, Joe Rocco and Emily Pany were chosen the IUP Scholar-Athletes of the Year, an award given annually to one senior male and female, based on both academic and athletic achievement. Rocco, a member of the men’s basketball team, had a 3.96 cumulative grade point average through his first seven semesters at IUP. He received the NCAA Elite 88 award in March 2010 when the Crimson Hawks advanced to the national championship game for the first time in school history. The Elite 88 award is presented to the athlete with the top GPA at each NCAA national championship tournament. He was also a recipient of the PSAC Top 10 award for combined academic and athletic excellence. A key part of the IUP volleyball team, Pany took a 3.71 grade point average as a History Education major into the final semester of her college career. She has emerged as one of the top defensive players in the nation in her four-year career, earning a pair of All-Atlantic Region berths from the American Volleyball Coaches Association. As a senior last fall, she led the PSAC and ranked fourth in the nation with an average of 6.62 digs per set, and her total of 741 digs ranks second on the IUP single-season list. She was sixth in the country in digs per set in 2009.
Hall of Fame
Ten men and two women will be inducted into the IUP Athletic Hall of Fame on September 10. They are Steve Murray ’99 (baseball), Dick Crawford ’68, Kurt Kanaskie and Robert Misenko ’97 (basketball), George Glarner ’56 and Sam Scavo ’61 (football), Joe Klinchock ’86 and Ed Matko ’51 (golf), Michelle Goodwin ’89 (gymnastics), Amy Peterson ’95 and Frank Wolk ’83 (soccer), and Bob Vranich ’94 (track and field). In addition, Bill Otto will be given the Honorary Bell Ringer Award. The induction will be held at the Kovalchick Complex, with a reception at 10:45 a.m., followed by a luncheon at 11:30. Tickets for the event are $40 for adults and $8.95 for children. For more information, contact Pam Stewart, Athletics Department, at 724-357-2782 or at email@example.com.
Former IUP football player Brian Basile ’81 spent the spring as a member of the Pittsburgh Power coaching staff in the team’s inaugural season in the Arena Football League. In the fall, he’ll return to his post as an assistant at Frostburg State University, along with head coach Tom Rogish ’73 and assistant Gabe Luvara ’01. Former all-American linebacker Terrence Jackson was selected to play for the USA Football national team in the International Federation of American Football Senior World Championship, held in July, in Austria. During the eight-team tournament, Jackson was coached by former IUP head coach Lou Tepper, who coordinated the team’s defense. At a ceremony in April, former IUP player and assistant coach Tyrone Dixon ’86 was honored with a Black History Achievement Award for his contributions to Beaver County churches and communities. Dixon currently runs the Homeboys Football Camp, in Aliquippa. In June, Debbie Shearer ’83 was inducted into the Fox Chapel Sports Hall of Fame. A former standout basketball player at IUP, she held the school career record for assists when her career ended. At the Indiana County Hall of Fame induction ceremony in May, four alumni—Jan Lightcap Brocious ’91, M’92; Sherri Leysock Williams ’91; Kim Schneider Simpson ’89; and Bill Lichtenfels ’68—were enshrined. In his second season of professional baseball, Paul Bingham ’10 is a member of the Class A Eugene Emeralds of the Northwest League. The Emeralds are a short-season Class A affiliate of the San Diego Padres. Bingham was picked in the twentieth round of the 2010 amateur draft. At the Pittsburgh Marathon in May, four IUP alumni—Joe Bujdos ’75, Don Slusser ’73, Tammy Donnelly Slusser ’87, and Don Toy ’75—were part of a dozen runners who had finished every Pittsburgh Marathon since it was started in 1985. Also at the marathon, former IUP All-American runner Mindy Sawtelle ’05 was the fourth woman to cross the finish line, in two hours, 48 minutes, and 41 seconds.