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Vikings Softball Starts Strong in Region 19


West Windsor, N.J. – After this winter, one of the biggest hurdles Head Softball Coach Ryan Zegarski faces is literally getting his team on the field to play.  The cold temperatures and precipitation have forced the Vikings to cancel or postpone seven games thus far; the team has only played two games in New Jersey (Cumberland on March 26  and Burlington on March 31.) 

The Vikings did get a chance to test their mettle in eight games in Myrtle Beach March 13-18, with Mercer going 6-2.  Heading into the season, Zegarski expected the Vikings to struggle offensively, but was pleasantly by the at bats at Myrtle Beach, where the Vikings scored seven or more runs in every game.

Fourteen games into the season, six Vikings are currently batting .300 or better.  Sophomore Dana Knapp (Langhorne, PA/Neshaminy) has been responsible for a large part of the Vikings’ offensive success.  Knapp is batting .538, the 21st best batting average in NJCAA Division II softball right now, and is 9th in the nation in on base percentage at .660; she is 20th in the nation in slugging percentage at .974.  Freshman Rachael Levach (Burlington, NJ/Florence Twp.) is batting .372 and freshman Casey Murphy (Hillsborough, NJ/Hillsborough) is hitting .341.  Freshman Haley Leonhauser (Ringoes, NJ/Hunterdon Central) is batting .333, sophomore Robin Antozzeski (Bordentown, NJ/Bordentown Regional) is hitting .318 and sophomore Kelly Murphy (Hillsborough, NJ/Hillsborough) has a .313 batting average.  Freshman Kristen Cheesman (Clinton, NJ/North Hunterdon) is just off the .300 mark, hitting .295.

Zegarski is also pleased with how his pitchers have been throwing, noting that the strike zones this year have been very tight, especially while the Vikings were in Myrtle Beach.  The rotation features returning All-Region 19 pitchers Kaitlyn Ceglieski (Stockton, NJ/Hunterdon Central) and Kiele Eichlin (Milford, NJ/Delaware Valley Regional), who sat out last season due to injury. Freshmen Megan Mount (Frenchtown, NJ/Delaware Valley Regional) and Autumn Sharkey (Hamilton, NJ/Hamilton West) are also part of the rotation and had solid outings in Myrtle Beach.

The Vikings opened up Region 19 play with a sweep of rival Burlington on Tuesday.  (Leading up to this game, the Vikings had lost one at Cumberland and two at CCBC-Catonsville this past weekend.)

Kiele Eichlin returns to the mound.

Freshman Megan Mount is proving highly effective on the mound.
Sophomore Dana Knapp has had a big role in the Vikings' offense.

In their doubleheader vs. Burlington, Mercer got a big performance from three freshmen in a 6-4 Game 1 win.  Leonhauser had a home run and Rachael Levach had 2 RBIs.  Pitcher Mount entered a 2-1 game in the second inning (due to an injury to starter Kaitlyn Cegielski) facing bases loaded with 2 outs and a 3-0 count.  Mount calmly stepped in and struck out Burlington’s batter to get the Vikings out of a big jam.  Mount finished the game with five strikeouts and her first win of the season.

In Game 2, the Vikings beat Burlington 3-1.  Eichlin struck out eight in seven innings for her third win of the season.  Levach had another big game at the plate, going 2 for 3 with a double and 2 RBIs.

Coach Zegarski hopes the wins over rival Burlington give the Vikings momentum as they begin the month of April and push to qualify for the Region 19 playoffs and a chance to travel to the NJCAA  Division II World Series. (The team last made it to the World Series in 2010.)  Pending further schedule changes due to weather, Mercer will be playing 11 games in 20 days.  If they can get back to the big offensive output they had in Myrtle Beach and combine that with improved pitching, the Vikings will be a contender for the Region 19 title this season.

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