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Young, Talented Vikings Softball Team Ready for Title Run


WEST WINDSOR – Some may think that a lot of new faces on a sports team would pose an incredible challenge. But Mercer County Community College Softball Coach Ryan Zegarski sees it as a strength.

"We are young, but our freshmen are very talented," Zegarski said. "And after two or three weeks, they won’t be new anymore."

It took a few weeks for the Vikings softball team to get their season started in earnest, with several games postponed due to weather. But after traveling to Myrtle Beach for the Snowbird Classic on March 14 – and playing 11 games in just six days – the team has hit its stride.

The Vikings are off to a 15-6 start, but had a bit of a scare early in the season when they thought they would lose ace pitcher Kiele Eichlen to injury following the season opener. But Eichlen has continued to pitch through the injury, and the team’s other starting hurlers have stepped up, including sophomores Stephanie Canulli and Cynthia Page, and freshmen Erica Benedetti and Stacie Denucci.

2013 Viking Softball Team

The 2013 Vikings Softball team, back row, from left: Coach Ryan Zegarski, Bianca DeAngelis, Cynthia Page, Chelsea Arnold, Dana Knapp, Michelle Anderson, Stacie Denucci, Assistant Coach Danielle Brossoie. Front row: Brianna Castellano, Kiele Eichlin, Stephanie Canulli, Kelly Murphy, Courtney Clee, Alyssa Bauer, Morgan Cullen, Erica Benedetti.


"The game of softball is all about pitching," Zegarski said. "We have pitchers who can all go out there and throw strikes."

Zegarski also noted that the left side of the infield is much improved, anchored by two freshmen: shortstop Courtney Clee, and Alyssa Bauer at the hot corner. Freshman Morgan Cullen will be turning the pivots at second. Center field consists of a platoon between freshmen Brianna Castellano and Dana Knapp, with sophomore Chelsea Arnold patrolling right field.

Rounding out the Vikings roster is freshman Kelly Murphy behind the plate, and freshman Michelle Anderson at first base and outfield.

Offensively, the Vikings are stacked as well. Clee leads off for the Vikings, with Knapp, Bauer, and Arnold making up the heart of the order. Arnold’s return is particularly important to the team, coming off of a freshman season where she drove in 50 runs and posted a .432 batting average.

"Defensively, we are very solid. That will help our pitchers get off the field quicker," Zegarski said. "Offensively, we have a nice blend of singles hitters, and hitters who can drive balls in the gap. We have players who hit for average, and players who hit for power.

"A team is only as strong as the weakest link, but I don’t know where that link is yet."

Zegarski fully expects the Lady Vikings to contend for the Region 19 championship, with Del Tech Owens – champion for three of the last four years – the team to beat. Mercer will host the Final Four of the Region 19 tournament in May.

"This team is young now, but I believe we have a shot," Zegarski said. "This year feels different. We have a lot of exciting, young players."

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