Blending solid pitching with good hitting, Penn State New Kensington’s junior pitcher Tarra Oravec was named the United States Collegiate Athletic Association’s Pitcher of the Week in softball for the period April 8 to 14.
Oravec, a graduate of Kiski Area High School, scattered eight hits with 15 strikeouts in picking up a pair of conference victories over Penn State Greater Allegheny, 5-2, and Penn State Worthington Scranton, 11-0. She contributed offensively to both wins by going 5-7, a .714 average, with 6 RBIs, a triple and a home run.
“Tarra throws hard, and changes speeds to keep opposing players off balance,” said Mike Marsili, the fifth-year head coach. “At the plate, she hits for power and average, and she has deceptive speed.”
Oravec validated her USCAA honor the next game, April 15, by pitching and hitting the New Kensington Lady Lions to a 9-7 extra-inning win at Penn State Hazleton. At the plate, Oravek matched her output of the two games that fueled her national recognition. She batted .750 with 6 RBIs, a double and home run. On the mound, she picked up her team-leading fifth victory, going nine innings while allowing two earned runs and striking out eight. Oravek’s hitting proficiency over the last six games increased her batting average to .468, which moved her to 10th nationally in the USCAA.
National awards are becoming an annual tradition for Oravek. A year ago, she became the first softball student-athlete to be accorded the honor by earning pitching accolades for allowing one run and three hits in a pair of victories at home against Scranton.
When she’s not on the mound, Oravec is a stalwart in the outfield. The Allegheny Township resident has an excellent glove that complements her power and average. Oravec’s athletic dexterity on the field is equaled by her academic acumen in the classroom. She is on the dean’s list, whose membership is reserved for students earning grade-point averages of 3.5 or higher. She expects to earn her bachelor’s degree in 2014 and continue her education in law school.
In addition to her national award, Oravek was named Pitcher and Player of the Week by the Penn State University Athletic Conference for the same period. It was the second PSUAC pitching award of the season for Oravek.
Two weeks ago, Oravek and catcher Rachel Lojas earned the two conference awards. Oravek was honored for going 18 innings and giving up two runs, a 0.76 ERA. She picked up two wins while striking out 19. Lojas, a freshman nuclear engineering major from Norwin High School, was named PSUAC Player of the Week. In wins over Beaver and Penn College, she went 8-15, a .533 batting average. The power-hitting catcher had 2 doubles, a triple and a home run, 4 RBIs and scored 7 runs.
On the year, the battery mates are supplying a majority of the team’s offense. Oravek leads the team in average, RBIs (21), triples (2), and home runs (5). She is tied with sophomore shortstop Bridget Fisher (Burrell HS) in stolen bases with 4. Lojas tops the squad in runs (17) and doubles (4). She is second in average (.393), RBIs (10) and home runs (3). On the mound, Oravek is 5-4, with a 2.62 ERA and a shutout. She has 56 strikeouts in 61.1 innings.
Oravek joins a select group of Penn State New Kensington student-athletes who have garnered two USCAA Player of the Week honors. In men’s basketball, Justin Reed turned the trick in 2010 and 2009. Golfer Adam Stawski, current PSUAC individual champion, was honored in 2009 and 2012.
National honors have been a staple of the campus athletics program since it joined the USCAA in 2005. In the past seven seasons, five student-athletes have been named to the All-America team: Mende Hicks, women’s volleyball (2006-07); Jeremy Hurt, men’s basketball (2007-08); R.J. Hurt, men’s basketball (2007-08); Matt Miller, golf (2008-09); and Stawski (2009-10 and 2012-13).
In addition, five student-athletes were selected to the USCAA Academic All-America team: Stawski (2012-13); Matt Knapp, golf (2011-12), Kayla M. Smail, women's volleyball (2008-09); Jeremy Hurt (2006-07 and 2007-08); and Christy Heasley, women’s volleyball (2006-07).
The USCAA is a national organization that is geared toward providing athletic opportunities to small colleges — those with enrollments of fewer than 2,500. It sponsors 11 national championship tournaments in men's and women's sports. Established in 2001, the USCAA was incorporated to provide an opportunity for members to compete on an equal level of competition with schools of similar size and athletic programs. Headquartered in Newport News, Va., the organization has more than 82 member institutions in 24 states, stretching from Maine to California.