2019 Twin Tiers Martial Arts Championship to be held at Elmira College Domes

The 2019 Twin Tiers Martial Arts Championship will be held at the Elmira College Murray Athletic Center (The Domes) Saturday, March 30, 2019.

The Twin Tiers Martial Arts Championship is the premier martial arts competition in the Twin Tiers of New York and the Northern Tier of Pennsylvania.

This is an opportunity for students of all ages and all levels to come together and present their martial arts skills in healthy and fair competition.

This regional martial arts tournament is open to all martial arts schools and all styles. This tournament is sanctioned by the Sport Karate International and will follow the TTMAC rules and regulations, which can be obtained at TTMAC or through American Family Karate.

This tournament is open to the public; spectators are encouraged to attend and see live martial arts in action. There is plenty of free and convenient parking, a snack bar and bleacher seating for spectators.

There will also be a number of vendors including a professional photographer and official TTMAC apparel.

TTMAC is a great opportunity to grow in your martial arts journey whether you are a beginner, a seasoned martial artist or just a curious spectator possibly interested in martial arts.

The tournament is promoted and produced by American Family Karate, which has been serving the Elmira community for the past 10 years. Sensei Shawnie Brown is a two-time inductee to the United States Martial Arts Hall of Fame and holds the rank of Godan (fifth-degree black belt) in Soryu Karate. Brown has been national, and internationally ranked in the National Blackbelt League and has been participating in tournaments for more than 20 years.

Order of events

8 a.m. – Registration Opens

9 a.m. – Blackbelt Meeting

9:30 a.m. – Competitor Meeting

10 a.m. – Tournament Starts


1. Board Breaking (12 divisions)

2. Traditional Weapons (42 divisions)

3. Open Weapons (42 divisions)

4. Traditional Forms (42 divisions)

5. Open Forms (42 divisions)

6. Point Sparring (54 divisions)

7. Continuous Sparring (32 divisions)

8. Grand Championship Competition (six divisions)

For more information, visit http://TwinTiersMartialArtsChampionship.com

Kutztown University News

KU to host Human Library event March 28

Kutztown University will host its second Human Library event from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday, March 28, 2019, in the Rohrbach Library. The Human Library is a place where real people are on loan to readers. It is a place where difficult questions are expected, appreciated and answered.

Readers will have the opportunity to check out a human book to “read” for up to 20 minutes in a one-on-one or small-group setting.

The event is designed to build a positive framework for conversations that can challenge stereotypes and prejudices through dialogue.

Organized by the Rohrbach Library staff and the Office of Inclusion and Outreach, this Human Library will have a variety of books. which include students, staff and community members, as well as “sequel books” from the first Human Library event.

The Human Library, or “Menneskebiblioteket” as it is called in Danish, was developed in Copenhagen in spring 2000 as a project for Roskilde Festival by Ronni Abergel, his brother Dany, and colleagues Asma Mouna and Christoffer Erichsen; the original event was open eight hours a day for four days and featured more than 50 different titles. The broad selection of books provided readers with ample choices to challenge their stereotypes. More than 1,000 readers participated, leaving librarians, organizers and readers stunned at the impact of the Human Library.

For more information about this unique event, visit library.kutztown.edu/humanlibrary.

Mobile mammograms coming to KU April 4 with the Lehigh Valley Cancer Institute

The Lehigh Valley Cancer Institute will bring its mobile mammography coach to Kutztown University Thursday, April 4, 2019, and Monday, Oct. 7. 2019.

The first screening in April will take place from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the Student Recreation Center Parking Lot.

The screening service will be offered to those 40 and older and is open to the entire community. Both post-traditional and graduate students as well as staff, faculty and community members can benefit from this opportunity.

The screening on April 4 is limited to 18 registrants. Women must register ahead of time. The Lehigh Valley Health Network will be on campus at the Health Expo from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday, March 28, 2019, in the Student Recreation Center to assist with registration, insurance and other questions.

There are potential grant funding opportunities for those over 40 without insurance; those interested should contact the Lehigh Valley Health Network for more information.

First in the region to have a mobile option for its patients, the Lehigh Valley Cancer Institute designed the mobile coach program for women who don’t have convenient access to screening mammography. The coach offers new 3D screening mammograms, the same imaging technology used at their facilities.

The mobile mammography coach is designed with women in mind, as it offers private changing rooms and mammogram area, is fully staffed by Lehigh Valley Cancer Institute medical technologists and takes less than 15 minutes to complete. Mammogram readings are performed by Lehigh Valley Cancer Institute doctors and screening results are provided to women and their primary care providers in a timely manner. The mobile mammography coach is only accessible by stairs, so women should be able to walk up a few steps and remain standing during their exam.

For more information, contact Erin Yaworski, program coordinator at Lehigh Valley Health Network, at 610.402.8659 or by email at erin.yaworski@lvhn.org.

KU’s Dr. Christine “CJ” Rhoads to discuss opioid crisis at Spirit on Tap Series March 26

Kutztown University professor Dr. Christine “CJ” Rhoads will speak at the March edition of the “Spirit on Tap” series at 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 26, 2019, at the DoubleTree Hotel in Reading.

The event is free and open to the public.

KU President Dr. Kenneth S. Hawkinson previously spoke at the “Spirit on Tap” series in November of last year, focusing on “Higher Education in Contemporary Culture.”

The topic of Rhoads’ discussion is titled “The Opioid Crisis: Problems and Solutions.” She will discuss how and why there is an opioid crisis, how opioids affect various parts of the body, the difference between types of opioids and how to decrease pain within the body without opioid usage.

Rhoads is a successful entrepreneur, business owner, consultant, community advocate, speaker and author. She runs a non-profit called Health, Prosperity, Leadership Institute and is also CEO and president of HPL Consortium, a technology development company helping small groups and causes.

Rhoads has lived in chronic pain since 2002, when she was injured in a devastating car accident, but she doesn’t let her chronic pain stop her. She instead tirelessly worked to discover how pain works and learned to short-circuit the pain mechanism through integrative health practices so that she can completely ignore it and live a full, productive, successful life.

Although she figured out what she needed to do to stay out of pain, she initially didn’t understand the mechanism of how it worked; that’s where her research began. She studied pain, the pain mechanism, integrative healthcare and opioids in order to figure out exactly what caused her pain to begin with, as well as how she could help others prevent or solve the same problems.

This led Rhoads to further research what economic issues caused the opioid crisis to begin with and why it is so hard for society in general to defuse the opioid crisis in the future. It also led her to discover that few doctors know much about the new research on opioids, the pain mechanism or how to help their patients beyond surgery. Rhoads says there is a solution to pain and addiction; we just need more people to understand how it works, which is what she has set out to accomplish.

Sponsored in part by the DoubleTree Hotel by Hilton and other individual contributions, Spirit on Tap’s purpose is to encourage theological discussion, explore alternative views and stimulate dialogue around issues of faith, spirituality, culture and social justice.

Updates to the Spiritual Exploration programming include the Interfaith Dialogue Committee meeting at 10 a.m. Thursday, March 21, Queen City Family Restaurant in Reading, as well as the rescheduling of the Spirit on Tap program, “The Future Isn’t What It used to Be,” for Tuesday, May 21.

BLOTTER: Kutztown Borough Police Department

March 3, 2019

  • Police are investigating a report of vandalism to a fence after it was reported that the fence was damaged following an incident that occurred at a residence in the 00 block of S. Whiteoak St.
  • Police arrested Hannah Nielson-Gormley, 18, of Bangor, for violation of the borough peace and good order ordinance following an incident that occurred in the 200 block of W. Main St.
  • Police arrested Jeffrey Hurley, 22, of Media, for violation of the borough peace and good order ordinance following an incident that occurred in the 200 block of W. Main St.

Kutztown University announces Matthew Heffelfinger as sports information director

Kutztown University welcomed Matthew Heffelfinger ’07 as the university’s new sports information director Jan. 7, 2019.

In his role as SID at KU, Heffelfinger will be responsible for the coverage of KU’s 21 NCAA Division II varsity sports through the university’s athletics website and social media accounts.

A KU alumnus and Wernersville native, Heffelfinger returns to KU from Elizabethtown College, where he served as the director of athletic communications for more than eight years. During his time at Elizabethtown, he promoted and publicized the Blue Jays’ 24 varsity athletics teams on Elizabethtown’s official website and various social media outlets.

A member of the College Sports Information Directors of America, Heffelfinger oversaw three redesigns of www.etownbluejays.com, most recently in 2018, as well as directed game operations at home events, serving as head statistician and public address announcer for many Blue Jay teams.

His vision and ideas brought an innovative and attractive look to the site with a focus on user friendliness.

Heffelfinger also launched BlueJaysTV, the athletic department’s streaming video initiative, with partner Stretch Internet prior to the 2014-15 academic year. BlueJaysTV offers live and on demand HD broadcasts of more than 60 Elizabethtown College home athletic events, including the annual Student-Athlete Recognition ceremony and Blue Jay Athletics Alumni Reunion (hall of fame induction).

Heffelfinger served as the host media coordinator for the 2015 NCAA Division III Wrestling Championships at GIANT Center in Hershey, Pa., and assisted the media relations staff at the 2016 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball East Regional, held in Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Center.

He joined Elizabethtown after 2+ years as a graduate assistant at Millersville University, where he was the primary media contact for men’s and women’s soccer, women’s basketball, and softball.

Heffelfinger earned a bachelor’s degree in leisure and sport studies from Kutztown University in 2007 and a Master of Education in sport management with a concentration in athletic administration from Millersville University in 2011.

Cecilia M. McCormick named 15th president of Elizabethtown College

Elizabethtown College Board of Trustees announced the appointment of Cecilia M. McCormick as the college’s 15th president, following a 10-month national search; she will begin her tenure July 1, 2019, and will be the first woman at the helm of the 120-year-old institution. She will succeed Carl Strikwerda who retires June 30, 2019.

McCormick, a graduate of a liberal arts and professional education, has spent her career focusing on education, advocacy and service to the community. McCormick serves as vice provost for academic strategy and special programs at Thomas Jefferson University where she was integral to the successful merger of Thomas Jefferson and Philadelphia universities and developed numerous strategic initiatives, including new academic programs, an Institute for Emerging Health Professions, an Honors Institute and academic operations and processes.

She has collaborated across the institution in the creation and implementation of strategic plans and budgeting processes. McCormick also secured school and community partnerships and launched pipeline programs for students in the Philadelphia region to create an interest in science, technology, engineering and math education, with a focus on skills and workforce development for underserved populations.

“It is truly an honor to have been chosen to lead Elizabethtown College, to build on its legacy and accomplishments, and to seek opportunities at a pivotal time in the history of the college,” McCormick said. “I look forward to working with faculty and staff members, students, administration, alumni and the broader E-town community to reinvent our vision as a learning institution focused on the educational and personal growth of our students in preparing them for 21st century careers and lives steeped in service.”

At Jefferson, McCormick served as the chief of staff for academic affairs and the associate provost for strategic and academic initiatives. At Johns Hopkins University, she was the chief of staff to the senior vice president for finance and administration and chief operating officer. She also has held myriad positions at Widener University, including serving as executive director in the office of the president and a member of the president’s executive team. McCormick has been celebrated as a champion for students and has taught in the areas of business, law and leadership for students at both the graduate and undergraduate levels.

“Cecilia’s experience in both academia and private business along with her collaborative problem-solving skills will guide us through the changing landscape of higher education,” said Robert Dolan, chair of the Elizabethtown College Board of Trustees. “Her dedication to student development makes her an excellent leader for our college.”

“Throughout her career Cecilia has had a remarkable record of success at a variety of high-quality institutions,” said Ed Lovelidge ‘82, Presidential Search Committee chair. “Those experiences, along with Cecilia’s strong background in strategic planning and finance, will benefit Elizabethtown College immediately. The committee was extremely pleased to recommend Cecilia as our next president.”

McCormick also maintains her license to practice law in Pennsylvania. Her legal experience includes serving as an attorney over a 10-year period with two private law firms in the Philadelphia region. Prior to that, she held the positions of assistant general counsel for PECO Energy and special project manager for The Vanguard Group’s Retirement Resource Center.

McCormick received her bachelor’s degree in management/marketing from St. Joseph’s University, her paralegal certificate from Widener University, a juris doctorate from Delaware Law School: Widener University and post-doctoral education from the Institute of Educational Management at Harvard University, Graduate School of Education.

McCormick resides in Ocean City, N.J., with her husband, John. Her family includes three sons; Timothy (and his wife Danielle), Daniel (and his wife Heather), John, and two grandchildren.

The search was conducted by a presidential search committee with trustee, faculty, staff and alumni representation. Students also played an important role in the search, as did Witt/Keiffer, an executive search firm.

The Committee’s recommendation of McCormick was unanimously ratified by the board of trustees.

Benise brings his acclaimed PBS special to Kutztown University March 21

Join the audience on a romantic and exotic journey of music and dance that celebrates the fire, passion and spirit of Spain with Fuego!, which takes the stage at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 21, in Schaeffer Auditorium on the Kutztown University campus.

Armed with his Spanish guitar, Benise is backed by a stage-full of musicians and elaborately choreographed dancers hand-picked from an international pool of talent. Flamenco dancers take center stage in a tribute to Old World Spain while breathtaking couture fashions and innovative staging and choreography give Spanish dance a fresh and luminous makeover.

With a beautiful and charming Spanish courtyard as the backdrop, Benise debuts all new music, dance and costumes, adding his signature twist on classics such as “Granada,” “Malaguena,” “Moonlight Sonata,” “Asturias” and “Adagio.” It’s a musical adventure that includes the “Dress of a Thousand Roses,” one of the world’s largest Flamenco fans, and many more surprises. Fuego! captures world music at its best with a show that appeals to the hearts and souls of people of all ages, cultures and musical backgrounds.

Regular admission is $40, $36 for students and seniors, and can be purchased at www.KutztownPresents.org or by calling the KU Presents! Box Office Tuesday – Friday 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 610-683-4092.

Established as the center of cultural life at Kutztown University, KU Presents! serves the campus and community by bringing world-class live arts that can entertain, educate and enrich.

Berks County Courier celebrates local Scholastic Shining Stars

Chemey of Reading recognized on Georgia Southern University’s president’s list

Georgia Southern University recently recognized approximately 1,850 students on the fall 2018 president’s list.

Elizabeth Chemey of Reading has been named to the list for excellence in academics.

To be eligible for the president’s list, a student must have at least a 4.0 grade point average and carry a minimum of 12 hours for the semester.

Northampton Community College announces winter 2019 grads

A total of 594 graduates received associate degrees, specialized diplomas and certificates from Northampton Community College at the winter commencement ceremony held Jan. 26.

Among them were the following local students:

  • Michael McKinzie of Hereford, associate in arts in communication studies
  • Savanah Stevens of Mohrsville, associate in arts in general studies
  • TyQuan Ellis of Reading, associate in applied science in criminal justice
  • Jordan Grossmann of Topton, with an associate in applied science in nanofabrication manufacturing technology
  • Lauren Stauffer of Wyomissing, associate in arts in general studies

Dean’s, president’s list students named for University of Alabama fall 2018 term

A total of 12,332 students enrolled during the 2018 fall term at The University of Alabama were named to the dean’s list with an academic record of 3.5 or above or the president’s list with an academic record of 4.0 (all A’s).

Students on the list include:

  • Brianna Cipolla of Reading, dean’s list
  • Elisabeth Timura of Reading, dean’s list
  • Colleen Borian of Sinking Spring, dean’s list

The UA Dean’s and President’s lists recognize full-time undergraduate students. The lists do not apply to graduate students or to undergraduate students who take less than a full course load.

Christopher DeSanctis of Wyomissing awarded degree from UA

Christopher DeSanctis of Wyomissing has received a bachelor of arts in communication from The University of Alabama.

UA awarded more than 2,000 degrees during its fall 2018 commencement Dec. 15.

Local high-achieving students earn Albright College scholarships

Albright College awards $12,000 annual Founders Scholarships to high school students with outstanding academic records.

Founders Scholars generally rank in the top five percent of their graduating class and demonstrate strong leadership skills and a commitment to service.

Local scholarship winners include:

  • Jenna Grosko of Bethel, a senior at Tulpehocken Junior-Senior High School, Grosko is interested in studying pre-medical, public health and pre-medical in college.
  • Linette Martir of Reading, a senior at Muhlenberg High School, Martir is interested in studying chemistry, sociology: criminology and pre-medical in college.
  • Yihong Huang of Reading, a senior at Wilson High School, Huang is interested in studying mathematics and accounting, economics & finance in college.
  • Joanna Fair of Reading, a senior at Muhlenberg High School, Fair is interested in studying political science and accounting, economics & finance in college.
  • Darin McCartan of Birdsboro, a senior at Twin Valley High School, McCartan is interested in studying environmental science and art in college.
  • Binya Zhang of West Reading, a senior at Wyomissing Area High School, Zhang is interested in studying accounting and Asian Studies in college.
  • Taylor Wilson of Reading, a senior at Muhlenberg High School, Wilson is interested in studying chemistry and biochemistry in college.
  • Giselle Walter of Temple, a senior at Muhlenberg High School, Walter is interested in studying photography and business administration: management in college.
  • Natasha Halulakos of Reading, a senior at Governor Mifflin Senior High School, Halulakos is interested in studying business administration: marketing and communications: public relations & advertising in college.
  • William Pham of Reading, a senior at Muhlenberg High School, Pham is interested in studying computer science and digital studio art in college.
  • Anthony Hix of Mohrsville, a senior at Hamburg Area High School, Hix is interested in studying chemistry and environmental chemistry in college.
  • Austin Johnson of Reading, a senior at Muhlenberg High School, Johnson is interested in studying computer science and environmental chemistry in college.
  • Christian Roman of Reading, a senior at Exeter Township Senior High School, Roman is interested in studying biochemistry and evolutionary studies in college.
  • Viktor Rohrbach of Reading, a senior at Wyomissing Area High School, Rohrbach is interested in studying biochemistry and music in college.
  • Amber Elinsky of Bethel, a senior at Tulpehocken Junior-Senior High School, Elinsky is interested in studying physics and photography in college.
  • Olivia Scholl of Wernersville, a senior at Conrad Weiser High School, Scholl is interested in studying biology and political science in college.
  • Nicholas Griffith of Reading, a senior at Pennsylvania Virtual Charter School, Griffith is interested in studying environmental science and political science in college.
  • Faith Sensenig of Hamburg, a senior at Hamburg Area High School, Sensenig is interested in studying history and pre-law in college.
  • Matthew Pyle of Douglassville, a senior at Daniel Boone Senior High School, Pyle is interested in studying biology and pre-medical in college.
  • Lindsey Diggan of Reading, a senior at Governor Mifflin Senior High School, Diggan is interested in studying biology and pre-medical in college.
  • Rosaly Diaz De La Rosa of Reading, a senior at Schuylkill Valley High School, Diaz De La Rosa is interested in studying biology and pre-medical in college.
  • Leighan Elicker of Bernville, a senior at Tulpehocken Junior-Senior High School, Elicker is interested in studying psychology and pre-medical in college.
  • Elizabeth Chibirka of Wernersville, a senior at Conrad Weiser High School, Chibirka is interested in studying biology and psychobiology general in college.
  • Sara Sanchez-Rivera of Reading, a senior at Reading High School, Sanchez-Rivera is interested in studying accounting and public administration & policy analysis in college.
  • Lucas Ungurean of Reading, a senior at Wilson High School, Ungurean is interested in studying mathematics and religious studies in college.
  • Alexander Worrall of Douglassville, a senior at Daniel Boone Senior High School, Worrall is interested in studying international relations and Spanish in college.
  • Alyssa Romoho of Bernville, a senior at Hamburg Area High School, Romoho is interested in studying accounting, economics & finance in college.
  • Michael Vogt of Reading, a senior at Antietam High School, Vogt is interested in studying in the alpha program for exploring major areas of study in college.
  • Christiana Wagner of Womelsdorf, a senior at Conrad Weiser High School, Wagner is interested in studying in the alpha program for exploring major areas of study in college.
  • Kandace Engle of Blandon, a senior at Fleetwood Area High School, Engle is interested in studying in the alpha program for exploring major areas of study in college.
  • Amanda Marley of Douglassville, a senior at Daniel Boone Area High School, Marley is interested in studying biochemistry in college.
  • Kamaryn Koch of Reading, a senior at Exeter Township Senior High School, Koch is interested in studying biology in college.
  • Chase DePue of Reading, a senior at Wyomissing Area High School, DePue is interested in studying international relations in college.
  • Benjamin Behm of Birdsboro, a senior at Exeter Township Senior High School, Behm is interested in studying mathematics in college.
  • Gabriel Turoscy of Fleetwood, a senior at Oley Valley High School, Turoscy is interested in studying physics in college.
  • Timothy Richard of Douglassville, a senior at Daniel Boone Senior High School, Richard is interested in studying pre-medical in college.

“Farm to Table” exhibit at Studio B ends March 12, 2019

Studio B Fine Art Gallery, 39A East Philadelphia Avenue in Boyertown announced Jan. 18, 2019, the opening of “Farm to Table,” the studio’s 11th annual exhibit celebrating the area’s agricultural roots.

The exhibit, fondly known among the gallery’s artists and patrons as “The Farm,” is the studio’s most popular exhibit and takes a slightly different approach each year. This year, gallery director Susan Biebuyck added food art to the exhibit’s focus highlighting her view that “in the end, it’s all about the food.”

“This year, we wanted to acknowledge the support of our Pennsylvania legislators in naming Pennsylvania Council on the Arts as the sponsor of the exhibit,” said Jane Stahl, director of community relations. “In 2007, Pennsylvania Council on the Arts funded our fledgling efforts to promote art and our local artists. The Arts and Activities Alliance was added as a 5thcommittee of Building a Better Boyertown.

“Our first year we staged a few exhibits along Boyertown’s streets, offered some classes and workshops, and took field trips to several artists studios. A little over a year later Studio B opened and staged its first exhibit during Boyertown’s annual Holiday Open House Tour.

“Pennsylvania Council on the Arts has continued its support for our efforts; we are grateful that our legislators recognize the important of the arts and culture in our communities in maintaining quality of life and economic security.”

Prizes will be awarded on Friday night, including the coveted “Best in Show,” which nets the winner a cash prize, as well as a featured spot during the agricultural- and environmental-themed exhibit in 2020.

In 2018, the exhibit was titled “Farm/Earth” combining “The Farm” with the annual April show celebrating the environment to make room in the schedule for an exhibit entitled “Wheels” that received a grant award from Berks County Community Foundation.

Joanne Schlosser was awarded Best in Show in 2018 for her mixed media piece “No Chickens Allowed.”

Schlosser is an adjunct faculty member offering art classes at Reading Area Community College and has been a loyal member of Studio B since the studio opened in 2008.

Schlosser explains that her teaching inspires her artwork, opening her mind to unlimited creative potentials and exploration. Mixing linocut printmaking on painted silk is one example. Central to her work is making the invisible visible—making what can be seen only with a microscope or visualizing a concept through her art. What matters most to Schlosser is the opportunity to thoughtfully move the observer.

“With ‘No Chickens Allowed,’ I mock suburban regulations forbidding ownership of pet chickens by presenting a doorway with a wild bird seated on top eating seeds provided by residents,” Schlosser said.

In a relief sculpture created with decorative boxes of ink drawings on a stretched canvas that continues the ink designs onto the canvas, the piece visualizes the soulful beauty of jazz music.

“Farm to Table” is being juried by Shelbi R. Stoneback. Stoneback comes from a family of artists and studied as a metalsmith for more than 20 years. She is on the board of trustees of The Baum School of Art and vice president of the board of directors of Healing Through the Arts.

“We are always very excited to see what our artists bring to this show,” said Biebuyck. “They have wowed us with their innovation and fresh takes on the traditional subjects of agriculture and farming. And, as a ‘foodie’ myself, I’m eager to see our artists take on this year’s theme.”

Seton Hall announces fall 2018 dean’s list

Seton Hall University is pleased to announce the following students who qualified for the fall 2018 dean’s list and to congratulate them for their outstanding academic achievements:

Mansimran Anand of Reading, Bethany Davidheiser of Douglassville, Mark Equi of Shillington, Anya Smith of Blandon, Owen Winters of Shillington and Brady Hayes of Douglassville.

Baseball looks to take next step in 2019

3/1/2019 | Baseball

For a program steeped in winning tradition, four consecutive seasons without a postseason appearance is unfamiliar territory. The Kutztown University baseball team showed it could play with the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference’s best last season and is focused on taking another step on its journey back to the top in 2019.

The message remains simple from 17th-year head coach Chris Blum, who enters the new season three wins shy of becoming just the fifth coach -and third fastest-in PSAC history to reach 500 victories at a conference school. Maximize strengths and improve in a few key areas.

“I’m very optimistic about what’s going on,” said Blum. “Our pitchers are doing well in their bullpen sessions and I think we can have a top-notch defense. We just need to sure up a couple outfield spots and have the bottom of our lineup execute their games, whether that’s speed, drawing walks, hit-and-run situations to get on and get guys into scoring position.”

The Golden Bears finished three games under .500 in 2018 at 19-22 overall, but 12 wins against PSAC East opponents (12-15) were the program’s most since its most recent PSAC championship in 2014.

Kutztown’s seven-win improvement in league play wasn’t enough to shift the mindset of fellow PSAC East coaches, who voted the Golden Bears seventh in this year’s Preseason Poll. “It’s understandable,” noted Blum. “There are a number of teams with very good players coming back from last year.”

Indeed, the East will be ultra-competitive, as it usually is. Last year’s PSAC runner-up, Millersville, and West Chester both opened the season nationally-ranked in the National Collegiate Baseball Writers of America (NCBWA) NCAA Division II Top 25. Bloomsburg is coming off a 31-win season, in which it reached the PSAC semifinals.

Within the Golden Bears’ clubhouse all focus is on getting better each day. The Maroon and Gold have plenty of returning talent to be excited about, too, talent that authored a number of impressive victories last spring.

KU knocked off nationally-ranked No. 4 and eventual PSAC West No. 1 seed Mercyhurst, 7-6, during its annual trip to Wilson, North Carolina. Blum’s squad also split PSAC East series with nationally-ranked No. 17 and East No. 1 West Chester, nationally-ranked No. 18 Lock Haven and Millersville.

The foundation is in place for the Golden Bears to be a surprise contender. Four position players that made 37 starts or more in 2018 return, giving Kutztown a strong core. There are many others that have contributed, but have their sights set on increased opportunities. A number of new faces join the den, while the pitching staff could have a distinctly different look.

The importance of having a reliable game manager behind the plate cannot be understated and Kutztown has one of the conference’s best in senior Nick Lafferty. Lafferty caught 28-of-41 games last season, while sprinkling in nine at designated hitter. Not only is the Croydon, Pennsylvania native a strong defensive option, he’s the Golden Bears’ top returning hitter.

Lafferty, who was an All-PSAC East Second Team pick in 2018, batted .363 with 45 hits, five doubles, three home runs and 36 RBIs. The veteran of 118 games (97 starts) reached 100 career hits with a single in game two at Shippensburg last May. Lafferty is also coming off a season in which he put forth a career-best .987 fielding percentage.

When KU’s catching mainstay needs a rest, juniors Ryan Weller and Connor Teschko are the top options to provide relief. Weller appeared in 17 games behind the dish, throwing out two potential base-stealers and posting a .986 fielding percentage. Teschko caught in nine games.

Blum also suggested senior Jeff Charles and junior Evan Musto could see some time at catcher.

Continuity is the theme among Golden Bear infielders outside of a void at first base left by the graduated Ryan Cox.

Senior shortstop Bo Rottet supplied a team-leading 11 doubles and hit better than .300 for the second year in a row. He gained a few battle scars to reach base, too, being hit by pitch a PSAC-high 19 times. Rottet, who started 39 games at short last season, ranked second on the team with a .425 on base percentage.

Collin Bishop took over as KU’s everyday third baseman in 2018 and has made 61 starts at the hot corner over the last two seasons. The junior from Laurel Springs, New Jersey was the team’s third-leading run-generator with 25 RBIs and nearly mirrored his rookie season in many offensive and defensive categories.

Bishop added some pop to his game with nine doubles (up from two in 2017) and finished 2018 on a high note with hits in eight of his last night games, including four multi-hit efforts.

Fellow junior Mitch Pinder solidified Kutztown’s middle infield with a .305 batting average and 13 RBIs in 18 games (17 starts) at second base, before his second season in maroon and gold was cut short due to injury. Pinder, of nearby Boyertown, has also pieced together back-to-back seasons with batting averages above .300, but he was just as impressive defensively with a .955 fielding percentage on 64 opportunities.

Redshirt sophomore Jake Augustus is credited with working hard in the offseason to improve his game and could push for time at either middle infield spot.

Cox led Kutztown in batting average (.377), hits (52), total bases (65), on base percentage (.444) and stolen bases (9) last season, which Blum knows will be hard to replace. The head coach lauded the versatility of sophomore Zach Moretski and Musto, while also expressing confidence on what newcomer Andy Blum, an Owen J. Roberts grad, can bring to the position.

Moretski impressed in limited exposure as a field player, hitting .464 (13-for-28). He also contributed as a relief pitcher, compiling a 1.00 earned run average in nine innings across seven appearances. Musto had a .333 batting average (3-for-9) in the five games he was deployed at the position last spring.

Redshirt junior Tanner Miller can be utilized in a number of different spots. While Miller appeared in five games at second base, most of his damage in 2018 was done as the Golden Bears’ designated hitter. He batted .279, knocked in 11 runs and scored 11 for the season.

“I’m really happy with our infielders,” said Blum. “They all play a strong defensive game and it’s definitely an area of strength for us.”

Senior Mike Villa returns as Kutztown’s starting center fielder, but the corner outfield spots are very much up for grabs following the graduations of left fielders Brady Carras and Zack Delp, and right fielder Dariel Richardson.

Villa, who transferred into the program last season, plays a stellar defensive game, as evidenced by a .980 fielding percentage and four assists –tied for most among KU outfielders in 2018. The Scranton native also drew a team-leading 22 walks, along with producing two triples, seven doubles and 24 runs scored.

“It’s really fun to watch Mike play out there,” explained Blum. “There will be balls hit that you think are going for doubles and he’ll track them down. I think you could make the case for him as the best defensive center fielder in the league.”

Returning players who saw a majority of their time in the outfield include senior Jeff Zebrowski and sophomore Jacoby Pate.

Zebrowski made 16 starts between all three outfield spots last season, collecting 11 hits, two doubles, six RBIs and a .933 fielding percentage.

Blum also has a few incoming options in sophomore Brandon Heere, freshman Ronny Silvestro and junior transfer Greg Power. Power was a .366 hitter with 13 doubles and 25 RBIs at Division III Medaille College last season.

Blum knows that the reliability of his pitching staff is crucial to how successful 2019 will be for the Golden Bears. Kutztown produced three straight seasons of sub-4.00 team earned run averages from 2012-14, culminating in the program’s most recent PSAC title.

In an offense-heavy PSAC, KU has seen its team ERA exceed 5.00 in each of the last four seasons. There is optimism with this year’s crop of arms, however.

Senior Michael Hunter, who played scholastically at Brandywine Heights, led the Golden Bears with a 3.06 ERA, five wins and a complete game shutout over 47 innings in 2018. He started a team-high nine games and opposing hitters batted only .194 against the 6-foot-5 righty.

All-PSAC East Second Team reliever Gavilan Fogarty-Harnish made a team-high 15 appearances last season, including three starts. The junior from Ephrata posted a 5-2 record and was tied for fifth in the conference with five saves.

Steve Wagner started five games for the Maroon and Gold and Zach Peters made three starts. The sophomore duo each gave KU more than 20 innings of work during their rookie seasons.

Kutztown will also benefit from the return of redshirt junior Doug Conrad, a southpaw that missed last season due to injury, but showed promise in 2017 with a 4-3 record and 50 strikeouts across 53 innings. Conrad fanned a career-high 11 in a victory over Fairmont State on March 10, 2017.

The aforementioned Zach Moretski registered six scoreless appearances in seven tries out of the pen. Senior Garrett Alread turned in four consecutive scoreless efforts between Feb. 24-April 11 last spring and Jeff Charles has also been called upon to give the Golden Bears innings.

New to the program are Aaron Cleveland, Noah Davidson, Nick McAuliffe, Eric Petroski and Brandon Staub. Cleveland started four games for Shippensburg a year ago, Davidson and McAuliffe are true freshmen, while Petroski and Staub both come to KU from Cumberland County College in New Jersey.

Kutztown’s season was to open last weekend at the Builder Invitational in Hampton, Virginia, but adverse weather conditions washed out the tournament. Instead, the Golden Bears are in Petersburg, Virginia for round-robin play with UVA-Wise and host Virginia State this weekend. KU’s first home game is scheduled for Saturday, March 23, a PSAC East doubleheader with Shippensburg