Punxsy duo brings one-two punch to Golden Eagles

PUNXSUTAWNEY — The Clarion University softball team has received a much-needed offensive punch, as Punxsutawney Area High School's No. 3 and 4 hitters recently chose the Lady Eagles as the college they will attend next year.

Punxsy seniors Shawnna Crago and Taylor Powell have decided upon Clarion, and both will begin to compete for the Lady Eagles next spring.

Powell, who will major in business, was the first of the two girls to pick Clarion. She chose Clarion over Penn State-The Behrend College, and that choice came down to a number of factors.

"I love the business program that they have over there, I love that it's close to home, and I love the town," Powell said. "I also met the team, and they were nice. I just liked the whole atmosphere."

Crago's decision took a bit longer, as she received more than a dozen offers, including nearly a full scholarship opportunity from Grace College in Indiana. After narrowing her list, Clarion was in the running alongside Seton Hill as her final two options.

"Something was telling me, 'Go to Clarion, go to Clarion,'" Crago said. "It wasn't anybody else around me; it was just something inside me. I'm very happy with my decision."

Crago, who will major in business management and minor in sports management, also received volleyball offers from a few schools. She said that she greatly enjoys playing volleyball, but she is more invested in softball.

"I love the game of softball. My heart goes out to that (sport)," she said. "That's why I want to play it in college."

The addition of Crago and Powell will help a Clarion offense that hit .244 this season. Powell, Punxsy's No. 3 hitter, is coming off an All-Star season in which she hit .500. Crago not only brings a powerful bat to the Golden Eagles, but also a strong arm that is expected to jump into Clarion's pitching staff next season.

Both players said that interim head coach Shintrika Hudson said that they'll contribute to the team during their freshman seasons. Clarion has struggled over the past few years, compiling a 21-112 record the last four seasons. Punxsy manager Alan Pifer feels that the two girls will be a welcome addition.

"I think their positive attitude and work ethic will definitely help that team," he said. "They're extremely hard workers, and they both don't get down on themselves, which is good. They're both confident players, and they believe in their abilities."

According to Pifer, what helped the two girls reach the collegiate level is more than just talent.

"You have two really hard-working girls who want to be among the best at their sport. And to that extend, they both put in the extra time and effort — not just during practice, but also during the offseason with their parents," he said. "They've also put the extra work in, and now, they're reaping the benefits of that."

At the end of the day, both are overjoyed about the opportunity to play the sport they fell in love with years ago while receiving an eduction at Clarion. Crago started competing in softball at nine years old, and Powell was a 10-year-old when she began to play.

"I love the sport, so it's something I really focus on," Powell said. "I want to strive to do well. I'm just excited."

For Crago, being able to play college softball is like a dream come true. She said that those who hope to achieve something one day should "keep dreaming and keep wishing, because it can happen to you, too."

"I'm really excited to go and do this. This was a dream of mine to play softball, and it's great to actually accomplish it," Crago said. "Sometimes, you can't really fathom the fact that you can achieve your dreams."