Women's Softball Team Surpasses Early Expectations


Ryan Zegarski, head coach for women's softball, knew this would be a different kind of year than 2007, when the women's softball team earned its best season ever with a 38-8 record and a trip to the NJCAA World Series. As workouts commenced in January, the team had virtually a whole new lineup, and a small one at that. With the addition of two players to the roster, the Vikings began to practice in earnest, tuning up at the Snowbird Classic in South Carolina in March and moving into April with an impressive 16-6 record.

In the end, the Vikings earned a respectable 26-14 record, but their early elimination from the Region 19 Tournament was a blow. The women suffered two tough losses in the play-in round against Del Tech, a team the Vikings had beaten twice during the regular season. Unfortunately, Del Tech got hot at the right time and finished off the Vikings 10-5 and 5-3 on Mercer's home field. (Del Tech went on to win the regional and district tournaments, and competed at the national tournament.)

Still, Zegarski considers the season a success. "The team surpassed my initial expectations," he said. "They made tremendous progress individually and as a team." Zegarski points to improved hitting as a key component. But the lack of depth combined with a grueling schedule took a toll. The team's two pitchers, sophomores Rebecca Pacheco and Robin Clausen, were busy on the mound, rotating game to game. "When you play every day, it's tough physically and mentally. Two players were injured during the season and with little to draw from in the way of subs, that had an impact," he said.

"It was a disappointing ending," Zegarski said, noting that his three returning players - Sara Contento, Clausen and Pacheco - had hoped to repeat last year's success, but in the end, the team took it in stride. "It's not easy to get to the nationals. A lot of things need to fall into place," Zegarski said. "You need to get breaks and to make them for yourselves. Unfortunately, we made critical mistakes at the wrong times."

The team's top two hitters were Contento and catcher Mailee Paselio. Key to the infield was Samantha Combs, while Contento secured the outfield. Contento and Paselio were named to the All-Region First Team. Pacheco and freshman third baseman Jackie Laird were named to the second team.

Zegarski expects to see five players returning for next season, with another seven recruits expected to join the squad, two of whom are pitchers. He was assisted this season by Chris Freihaut.

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