West Windsor, N.J. - Mercer County Community College’s (MCCC) softball team has been a postseason staple for the better part of the last two decades.
Since Ryan Zegarski, Head Coach and Assistant Athletics Director at Mercer, took the helm in 2005, the Lady Vikings have amassed a stellar 429-162-1 record. The program’s exceptional win percentage (.724) under Zegarski is nothing short of historic. His teams have made appearances in the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Division 2 World Series three times (2007, 2010 and 2018).
Last year’s team was particularly poignant, finishing with a 37-7-1 record and making it as far as the second round of the NJCAA World series.
“We had a lot of players return last year, which made us very successful,” Zegarski said of the 2018 squad. “Having a lot of sophomores that know how to practice, know the expectations and understand the grind of going to class and competing as an athlete makes for a strong team.”
This year’s team is dominated by freshman—only three of the team’s four sophomores played for the Vikings last year—which has led Zegarski and his staff to adjust their expectations. “There is no doubt in my mind that we can compete this year,” Zegarski said. “We just have to be better at the small things. Getting bunts down, running the bases, and being very, very strong defensively have to be on the short list of our goals for this year.”
With a freshman dominated roster, Zegarski expects leadership to come from a variety of faces. The Lady Vikings’ pitchers—Heather Clevenger, Heather Devine and Alanna Pearson—will all be called upon throughout the season.
Additionally, Zegarski said that the three returning sophomores, outfielder Natalie Ferrara, and infielders Riley Ferrara and Tori Bowen, enter the season with a firm grasp on what it takes to lead.
Compounding the team’s on-field efforts and leadership, Zegarski knows he doesn’t have to worry about his players’ commitment to one another. “Our players are around each other so much and they end up doing a lot of stuff outside of practice together,” Zegarski said. “They’ve gone to concerts together and had team dinners, which takes some of the pressure off of me because I know our leaders are going to help bring everyone together.”
After a series of weather cancellations, the Lady Vikings opened play with a double-header against Anne Arundel College on March 9. Mercer split the day, dropping the first game 1-0, then bouncing back with a 16-0 victory in the second. The Lady Vikings will play their home opener in a double-header against Rowan College at Gloucester on March 12, weather permitting.
Zegarski is assisted by John Simone and Tom DeStefano.