2010 Season Preview: Softball


WEST WINDSOR, N.J. - The way Mercer County Community College's softball program has risen to a higher standard of excellence under sixth-year head coach Ryan Zegarski has been confirmed since the school year began in September. The Vikings haven't even played a game during that time, either.

Three-quarters of MCCC's roster - 12 of the 16 players - are freshmen, a high percentage which would seem to suggest a rebuilding season for the Vikings. But the many newcomers have shown otherwise during the offseason and preseason. Zegarski, who has a 151-60 record in five seasons, including 35-8 in 2009, has been able to recruit from traditionally strong high school programs. And the players not from competitive programs have risen to challenge.

Jessica Maciolek at bat during 2009

"We don't go back," Zegarski says. "We have to stay on the same level and go forward. They embraced that right away."

How MCCC wins games this season should be different from recent seasons. It's the fastest team under Zegarski, but with less power, so the offense will rely on bunting, moving up runners and taken advantage of other teams' mistakes. Ironically, the pitching and defense will give the Vikings their punch.

"I'm stressing every day that we have to play small ball to win this year," says Zegarski, who once again is assisted by coach Chris Freihaut.

"Our pitching is going to be pretty good, our defense is going to be pretty good. We've going to catch and pitch all day long. It's going to keep us in every game. We're going to have to single teams to death, bunt teams to death, and we're going to have to be aggressive on the base paths."

The Vikings return four sophomores, including two starters, pitcher Jenna Berger (Fairless Hills, Pa.) and shortstop Jessica Maciolek (Hamilton, N.J.), who not only provide leadership but plenty of numbers. Last season, Berger went 15-1 with a 1.84 ERA, while allowing less than one base runner per inning - a combined 85 hits and walks in 99 innings - and stood out at the plate, batting .425 with two home runs, 22 RBIs and 48 runs. Berger will slide from No. 2 in the batting order to No. 3, while Maciolek will remain in the leadoff spot. She scored 68 runs in 43 games, while batting .370 with 18 RBIs and eight stolen bases.

The Vikings' other sophomores are center fielder Andrea Bethke (Hamilton, N.J.), who batted .300 with 10 RBIs last season, and third baseman Kristine Funk (Bordentown, N.J.), who batted .353 in limited duty.

The freshman class includes another third baseman, Brianna McInnis (Levittown, Pa.), who has stepped into the cleanup spot. Left fielder Alyssa Becker (Yardley, Pa.) brings speed to the lineup, second baseman Kirsten Edinger (Ewing, N.J.) adds a solid bat and pitcher/right fielder Kelly Hancarik (Hamilton, N.J.), like Berger, will try to paint the corners from the mound.

Also among freshmen, the competition has been closely contested at catcher between Amanda Myers-Morales (Hamilton, N.J.) and Angela Parascando (Lawrenceville, N.J.), and at first base for Heather Canulli (Trenton, N.J.), Jackie Cella (Neptune, N.J.) and Ryan Niatas (Levittown, Pa.). Other freshmen are outfielder Jenna Comiski (Ewing, N.J.), pitcher Beth Rochon (Croydon, Pa.) and second baseman Amanda Terebey (Princeton Junction, N.J.).

The Vikings are scheduled to open their season with road doubleheaders on March 6 (Cecil College of North East, Md.) and March 11 (Delaware Tech-Stanton), if field conditions allow. Otherwise, they will begin the season at the Snowbird Classic in Myrtle Beach, S.C., from March 15-20. The first home doubleheader is scheduled for March 23 against Middlesex County College.

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