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For student-athletes, participating in college sports can be tough.

In addition to all of their course work, there are a slew of other time commitments — workouts, practices and games — necessary be part of the team.

For a lot of incoming students, doing both is a difficult task. For some athletes, it's more than they want to take on.

You can count Northeastern High School graduate Kenny Kopp among that group.

Kopp, a sophomore at California University of Pennsylvania, had his focus on his academics when he got to the school just south of Pittsburgh last year. However, when Kopp found out that his school, which fields a school team at the NCAA Division II level, also had a club team, he tried out.

The rest, as they say, is history.

"Club baseball is for guys that want to play baseball, but are worried that they couldn't do both baseball and academics at the same time," said Kopp, who helped lead his team to a perfect 21-0 record during the regular season and the No. 1 overall seed in next weekend's National Club Baseball Division II World Series in Pittsburg, Kansas.

Balancing academics, competition: The fact that the club team typically practices just a few times a week while playing games primarily on the weekends allows Kopp to walk the fine line between academics and competition. For Kopp, a standout pitcher during his high school and American Legion career, the chance to play club ball was an opportunity he could not turn down.

“It's more of a relaxed style of baseball," Kopp said. "Obviously the competition isn't as good as what it would be if you were playing for the college team, but it's still pretty comparable to either D-III or low D-II baseball.”

Cal plays in the New Penn Conference during the regular season. The conference includes big schools such as Duquesne, West Virginia, Penn State and Akron, as well as smaller schools such as IUP, Robert Morris and Carnegie Mellon.

Kopp, who threw a no-hitter during the regular season, picked up the victory after throwing six innings in the championship game of the New Penn Regional two weekends ago, when Cal knocked off Akron, 14-6, to earn a berth into the national bracket. For the season, he's 7-0 with a 3.40 ERA.

After a few weeks off, Cal will play No. 8 seed Longwood at 7 p.m. Saturday in their first game of the double-elimination tournament.

The reason for the long layoff between the regional tournament and the beginning of the World Series is to allow time for the various schools to complete their academic finals.

"Otherwise it would have probably been this weekend," Kopp said.

Other area connections: Kopp isn't the only York County product who will compete for the Vulcans next weekend. Spring Grove graduate Brandon Warner is also one of Kopp's teammates. Warner is hitting .362 with a homer and 16 RBIs. He has a .446 on-base percentage and a .493 slugging percentage. Trevor Troxel, also of Spring Grove, was on the team this year but will not be available. The senior began his post-college career after finding employment in Georgia.

Kopp sounds excited to be able to compete in the World Series in Kansas for more than one reason. Most of the team's travel during the season is done either by bus or car, but the Vulcans will get the chance to fly to Kansas.

“I don't think any of us have ever been to Kansas or the Midwest at all," he said. "So this will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for most of us. Now don't get me wrong, we all want to win, but this figures to be a really fun experience for us no matter what happens.”

Reach Ryan Vandersloot @sports@yorkdispatch.com. The bracket for the World Series can be found at div2.clubbaseball.org/worldseries/

 

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