Women's Softball Team Makes Huge Strides in 2005


What a difference one year can make. Under first-year Head Coach Ryan Zegarski, the Mercer women posted a 22-14 record this season – with nine of their losses by only one run – won the GSAC title, and came just one game short of winning the Region 19 championship. Compared to last year’s 11-18 record, the Vikings softball team let the region know they are back.

The season had plenty of drama. With a pair of wins over Cecil Community College (MD) on March 5 to start the season, the Vikings proceeded to lose their next six games. But as the season progressed, the new coach and his team jelled.

“We made some costly defensive errors in those early games,” Zegarski said. “I predicted that once we won two or three of those close games, we were going to start winning them all. We needed time on the field, some games under our belts, and a chance to increase confidence.”

From the earliest days of the fall, Zegarski emphasized conditioning. He believes it was a key reason why the players suffered no major injuries. Team dynamics also played a role in the Vikings’ winning ways. “Through good times and bad, the players continued to be very supportive of each other and very committed to the team. They all attended practice regularly,” he said.

They also got used to traveling together, Zegarski noted. “We had a tough schedule. Only nine of our 36 games were at home.”

The team’s two freshmen pitchers, Ashley McHenry and Jessica Goodstein, were a great addition to the roster. “We didn’t know what we were going to get from them,” Zegarski said. “They were a big part of our success.”

Pictured at an Athlete Appreciation Breakfast in May are: (top row, left to right) Katie Ashe, Crystal Everett, Kristin Lup, Lisa Dey, Head Coach Ryan Zegarski, Samantha White and Assistant Coach Regina Brown; (front row, left to right) Ashley McHenry, Ingrid Measor, Dana Pallotta, Cyndi Fregoni, Kristin Kuzma, and Jill Benningfield. Not pictured: Danielle Zaletski, Adria Frascella, Jessica Goodstein and Pitching Coach Katie Banas.

April was the Vikings’ strong month as they posted a record of 16-4. Then came the road to the Region 19 championship – a very long road for the Vikings. After losing to Lackawanna 5-3 and 3-2 in a doubleheader on April 13, the women found themselves heading back up the Pennsylvania Turnpike to face the very same team in the “play-in round” to qualify for the tournament in a best two-out-of-three series. The Vikings lost the first game, 6-3, but came back to win the next one, 14-9, in ten innings, followed by a solid 10-5 win. “We scored five runs at the top of the first,” Zegarski recalled. “It set the pace for the win.”

With momentum on their side, the women moved on to the double-elimination Region 19 tournament on May 6. Going in as the no. 4 seed, they pulled a 2-1 upset over no. 1 Del Tech Owens, a team they had lost to twice during the regular season. Then they beat no. 2 Del Tech Stanton 3-2 in 11 innings.

“It was very intense,” Zegarski recalled. “Whether you are up by 10 or by 1, you have to stay focused. We often had trouble getting that last out. There was always an adventure, or one small mistake that would be compounded into two or three. Having been a player, I know what the girls felt like. As a coach, you have to stand back. You prepare your team and then watch them play.”

Mercer next faced newcomer Mercyhurst CC, from Erie, PA. After a rain-out on May 7, they played the game the following day, losing 2-1. In a tournament that requires double elimination, the teams had to meet again, but with more rain, the tournament concluded without a winner.

Thus, both Mercer and Mercyhurst headed up to Northeast District championship at Dean College in Masssachusetts to complete their unfinished business. With yet another rain-out on May 14, the game was finally played on May 15, with the Viking losing 3-1. “It was devastating,” Zegarski said. “It was more than just a loss; it was the end of our season. For some of our sophomores it was the end of their playing careers. That’s hard.”

Still, the Vikings know how far they came this season. The team was well served by co-captains Jill Benningfield and Kristin Lup. Four players made all-region: pitcher Ashley McHenry, catcher Dana Pallotta, who received the most votes, outfielder Kristin Kuzma, and shortstop Jill Benningfield. Also contributing were Lisa Dey, Crystal Everett, Adria Frascella, Cyndi Fregoni, Ingrid Measor, Samantha White and Danielle Zaletski.

Losing nine sophomores, Zegarski will have plenty of positions to fill next season. He was assisted this season by Regina Brown and former player Katie Banas.



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