Windsor, N.J. -- Ending the season with a 25-16 record, the
MCCC Lady Vikings softball team has plenty of reasons to be
satisfied. There were many hard-fought and decisive victories
in a season that will be remembered as uniquely challenging,
according to Head Coach Ryan Zegarski.
"We clearly had enough talent at the start to be competitive,"
Zegarski said. "We had four pitchers in January. But
then we had two, and then we had none." Losing his pitching
staff one by one was a first for Zegarksi, who completes his
seventh season as softball coach. He responded by bringing
in Brianna Byrne, a solid athlete who was new to the pitcher's
mound. "She helped to keep us in every game, and performed
better and better as she got more experienced," he said.
Despite the difficulties with the rotation, the team never
gave up. "They went into games knowing we were shorthanded,
but there were no excuses. They came to practice and did what
we asked. They had a solid work ethic and they blended well
on the field," Zegarski maintains.
Completing the regular season 23-13, the Vikings faced Del
Tech Stanton in the best-of-three play-in round April 30 and
captured back-to-back wins. Sophomores Ryan Niatis and Kirsten
Edinger came up big in the deciding game, with Edinger collecting
two hits and Niatas driving in the game-winning run in the
bottom of the 8th inning for a 2-1 victory.
women next set their sights on repeating as Region 19 champs.
But with losses to Del Tech Owens and Burlington early in
the tournament, Mercer was forced to concede that the challenges
were just too great this season to capture the title.
According to Zegarski, the defense showed major improvements
as the season progressed, but the offense was weaker toward
the end. "Late in the season, we had very few errors
in the field, but we needed to be more productive at bat.
You have to have both to be a championship team," he
Zegarski notes that the team's appearance at the NJCAA World
Series twice in last four years has raised expectations. "We
are getting to be known not just in the region, but nationally.
We have high standards here now. We hold the girls to that
standard every day."
Freshman Angela Marinos proved an anchor to the lineup. Starting
off at the Myrtle Beach Snowbird Classic in March hitting
over .500, she ended the season batting .444 with 40 RBIs,
56 hits, and 35 runs scored. At the end of March, the Hamilton
native was ranked first in batting averages in National Junior
College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Div. II.
addition to Marinos, four other players made major contributions,
including Brittany Szafran, who hit .390; Mary Rossi, close
behind at .386; Niatas, hitting .373; and Edinger, hitting
.305. Niatis was named to the All-Region 19 and All-Garden
State Athletic Conference First Teams.
Observes Zegarski, "Our group of five sophomores was
quite accomplished. They had 57 wins over two years, a Region
19 title and a World Series appearance in 2010."
While his team didn't go as far as it has in recent years,
Zegarski is looking at the big picture. "Truly, it's
not as much about winning as about lessons learned. We want
players thinking about their education, about transferring
to four-year college and, ultimately, about getting jobs."