New Faces Propel MCCC Vikings to Successful Softball Season


West Windsor, N.J. -- How long does it take for a young softball team to develop and learn how to win? That was the question Mercer County Community College (MCCC) softball coach Ryan Zegarski faced entering the Spring 2022 season. There was no doubt that these athletes were talented; but with so many new faces, 9 in total, some growing pains wouldn’t have been terribly surprising.

“We had a bunch of young kids in there and I knew it would be a little slow to start off,” said Zegarski. “I didn’t know how long it was going to take.”

The answer, at least for this Vikings squad, was not very long.

“It took about three weeks for the kids to find their niche and get comfortable with what we were expecting from them.”

After going 4-4 through their first 8 games of the season, the Vikings took off and finished the year with a 30-12 record. In particular, the Vikes thrived in West Windsor, compiling a stellar 21-3 record on their home turf. Whether they were at home or on the road, their success throughout the season hinged on a mix of strong defense, timely hitting, and consistent pitching.

The Vikings took that formula all the way through to the Region 19 tournament, where they faced and initially beat a pair of familiar foes. An 11-8 win over Lackawanna in the opener and a 4-2 victory over Delaware Tech in game one of the finals put Mercer in a good spot. As fate would have it, however, a rainout pushed the rest of the series back and when the games were finally played four days later, the Vikes couldn’t reclaim the magic as they dropped games two and three to Del Tech.

It was a tough ending to a promising season but the most important piece for this group of talented young players was the experience gained managing the rigors of a full season, both on the field and off it. Coach Zegarski expects most, if not all, of this season’s freshmen to return to the team next season, which gives everyone a lot to look forward to.

“It bodes well for us because we’ll have experience, which helps when it comes to being prepared. The kids have been through it now, so they know how to manage their time. They know what day-to-day practice setup is like. They know how to travel to away games and prepare for a three-hour bus ride to a doubleheader. That experience goes a long way.”

Two of those freshman newcomers led the way offensively for the Vikings: Bella Truelove led the team in home runs (11), runs scored (56), and RBI (43); Mia Land led the team in batting average (.486), hits (67), doubles (17), triples, (5), and stolen bases (10 steals in 10 attempts). Other key contributors to the offense included freshman Lillian Torres-Perez (.411 avg), sophomore Amanda Gonzalez (.385 avg), and freshman Hailey Nardone (.381 avg, 44 RBI).

On the mound, freshman pitcher Gianna DeMatteo led the club in wins (17) and ERA (3.66) and freshman Delaney Misier made the most starts (19) and led the pitchers in strikeouts (74).

This season’s success was a full team effort and as a result, six players were selected to the First Team All-Region 19: DeMatteo (pitcher), Nardone (catcher), Torres-Perez (infield), Julia Hannawacker (infield), Land (outfield), and Truelove (outfield).

While the players on the field received most of the accolades this season, there was also a big one to celebrate in the dugout: Ryan Zegarski picked up his 500th career win as coach. The winningest coach in MCCC softball history appreciates the honor but ultimately deflected the success of the program to the players he’s coached throughout his 18 seasons at the helm.

“It’s always nice to be recognized for something like that but I don’t do it for personal accolades. We do this for the kids. I’ll probably reflect on all of this in the future when I give up coaching, but we’ve had a lot of good players and I’ve been blessed to do this for a long time.”

With roughly 8 new recruits set to join the roster next season, the Vikings look to be set up for success in 2023 with a balanced squad that has the right combination of talent, experience and youth.

“We’re really excited for when we start back up this Fall to see how the returners mesh with the new kids and how they work together on the field during Fall practices and games. We look forward to being really competitive next Spring.”

Zegarski was assisted this season by Tom DeStefano and Alisha Patel, with special assistance from Athletics Director John Simone.


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The Vikings went 30-12 thanks to a mix of strong defense, timely hitting, and consistent pitching.


pitcher Gianna DeMatteo

Pitcher Gianna DeMatteo threw the most innings and led the club in wins and ERA.


Bella Truelove

Outfielder Bella Truelove provided power, leading the team in home runs, runs scored and RBI.


Mia Land

Outfielder Mia Land was on base often, pacing the team in batting average, hits, doubles, triples, and stolen bases.