West Windsor, N.J. – It’s an ending he has unfortunately seen before. MCCC Softball Head Coach Ryan Zegarski says the Vikings were well prepared heading into the Region 19 tournament, which was held at Mercer May 3-4. But the Vikings just couldn’t bring home the runs in the critical games.
In the double elimination tournament, the Vikings lost their first game to Burlington, last year’s champs, by a score of 4-0. Hours later, they turned it around in an 8-0 victory over Morris CC. That set up a Mercer-Burlington rematch on Sunday morning, with the Vikings losing 5-1. (Del Tech went on to beat Burlington in the final.)
“It’s hard to put a finger on it,” says Zegarski, who notes that the Vikings have had similar struggles in the post-season for several years. “We haven’t been able to hit when we have to in tournament games.”
Still, Zegarski says that their 32-9 record speaks for itself. “We were pretty good at everything -- offensively, defensively, base running and pitching.” He adds that the team had only 30 errors in 41 games.
Leading the Vikings on the mound were sophomore Stacie Denucci and freshman Kaitlyn Cegielski. A third pitcher, Kiele Eichlin, had surgery after the 2013 season and is expected to rejoin the roster next year. Two other costly injuries were at the catcher position, with Kelly Murphy injuring her shoulder during the Snowbird Classic at Myrtle Beach in mid-March, and catcher Courtney Whittaker suffering an injury with just two weeks left in the regular season.
“When Courtney got injured, we were forced to move outfielder Brianna Castellano to behind the plate and move everyone else around,” Zegarski said. He notes that with injuries usually playing some role in any given season, the recruiting goal is always to secure quality at depth so that the line-up can adjust quickly when players must assume new roles.
Five players were singled out for post-season honors. Selected to the All-Garden State Athletic Conference Team and to the All-Region 19 First Team were infielder Alyssa Bauer, outfielder Brianna Castellano, infielder Courtney Clee and pitcher Kaitlyn Cegielski. Catcher Courtney Whittaker was selected to the All-Region 19 Second Team.
Zegarski says that recruiting is an ongoing process. “Next year’s roster is just about set,” he reports, adding that the team’s three pitchers will all be sophomores. He and his assistants will be out at local games this summer to scout rising high school juniors.
According to Zegarski, the Vikings strive for 15 on the roster, with an extra pitcher and catcher who can step up if necessary.