BY BRETT FRIEDENSOHN
The 2016 seasons began for three of the four teams that represent the County College of Morris during the National Junior College Athletic Association Region XIX’s spring season. CCM’s baseball team, whose season began March 6, won its first four games before dropping to 8-6 during a series of games in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina during spring break. CCM’s lacrosse team, whose season began Feb. 28, started 1-4 while winning a game after entering the second half of it with an eight point deficit. CCM’s softball team, whose season began March 5, started 9-7 while playing a series of games in Titusville, Florida during spring break. Meanwhile, CCM’s golf team prepared for the beginning of its season.
Jack Sullivan, athletic director at CCM, had positive views regarding the baseball and softball teams’ travels.
“Both teams did very well,” said Sullivan. “They go down under very competitive circumstances, and this year, they are showing signs of vast improvement. Teams that, in the past, they weren’t been able to really compete on a high level with they’re competing with.”
Sullivan said that unpredictable weather serves as CCM’s greatest hindrance during spring seasons.
“We’re subject to – we don’t have a turf field, so – rain outs,” said Sullivan.”If we get a good stretch of weather, that’s gonna be lovely; if we get bad weather, a lot of cancellations… We’re hoping for an agreeable spring season weather-wise.”
Defending NJCAA Region XIX Division II Championship runner-up and head coach of CCM’s baseball team Brian Eberly said that his team had a great chance of winning the championship this season.
“First and foremost, we would like to win the regional championship,” Eberly said. “I think this year’s team is much better than last year’s team is, so how that’ll all compare to the other teams and everything we’ll have to wait and see. But I definitely feel that this is the strongest team that I’ve had here.”
After his team’s opening day, during which CCM baseball won both of its games against Anne Arundel Community College, Eberly said that his team proved effective with few mistakes.
“I thought we swung the bats very well, thought we ran the bases well; the pitchers did a good job,” Eberly said. “A few mistakes defensively, but all in all it was a pretty good day.”
Eberly said that to fix these mistakes, his team must practice more on the field.
“We just gotta keep working,” Eberly said. “I think we have a strong defensive team. We haven’t had a chance to be outside too much yet because of the weather, so it was obviously one of our … first few days being on grass. That definitely played a part, but I would expect to be much improved going forward.”
During its opening day, CCM’s softball team lost both games that it played against Rowan College at Gloucester County.
“I never like to use excuses because the other team beat us and outplayed us,” said Greg Wardlow, head coach of CCM’s softball team.
“First game out of the shoot, when we haven’t really been outside more than once in terms of our infield and we were able to take a few fly balls for our outfielders on the field. Most of the time, it’s been in the gym. I believe that our opponent, Gloucester, has been on the field a bunch of times.”
Wardlow said in order for his team to win the championship, which CCM hosts this season, they must make improvements.
“[Our team must] keep getting better day by day, correct our mistakes,” Wardlow said. “I think confidence is a big factor, because I think that we have the talent to compete at this level for sure. We have good quality pitching, which is a number one need, and beyond that if we can do a better job on our defense, reducing our errors, and hitting with confidence, and that’s the thing that I think will happen…If [the softball players] believe in themselves, that’s what’s gonna happen, so I’m very optimistic about this season.”
Christen Mills, criminal justice major and outfielder for CCM’s softball team, said that her team will likely win the championship that it missed last season.
“I think we have really good chances of it,” Mills said. “The way we continue to play. If we continue to play the way we do, we’ll definitely make it.”
Mills praised her team for its ability to play as a unit.
“Everybody hits; everybody picks each other up,” Mills said. “If somebody strikes out, everybody’s together. There’s just great talent.”
On March 5, CCM’s lacrosse team entered the second half of its game against the College of Southern Maryland losing 7-1 but won the game 9-8 in double overtime.
Jonathan Tamoklo, business major and lacrosse player at CCM, attributed the win to his coach’s inspiration during a pep talk at halftime.
“[Our coach] just let us know that we needed to push ourselves, and even though things were down and weren’t in our favor that we can switch that with hard work and dedication, so that put some fire under us,” Tamoklo said. “And we don’t want to lose again, which is obvious. We came back with the win, we came back strong. It was good; we’re happy with it.”
Tomoklo said that he hoped for his team to win the NJCAA Region XIX Championship this season.
“The region championship is always a goal at CCM,” Tomoklo said. “CCM being the Morris County college, Morris County is a very good county for lacrosse. Some of the best lacrosse players in the nation in the Division I ranks are all from Morris County or some other county, and CCM is kind of overlooked by a lot of people that come into … the junior college level of lacrosse.”
Sullivan said that despite starting 1-5, CCM’s lacrosse team should improve.
“There’s a lot of young, inexperienced players on this team,” Sullivan said. “The more experience they get, the more together they play, the better the chances are.”
CCM’s golf team, 2015 NJCAA Region XIX champions, began practicing indoors at a range Feb. 1 and at a range weeks later to determine which five players will earn the right to golf for the team in the team’s regular rotation.
“Everybody’s going to have an equal chance to play this year because I think we have maybe 8 guys that can qualify for those 5 spots that we’re looking for to declare for a team score,” said Jim Chegwidden, CCM’s head golf coach. “It’s good to have eight, nine, ten guys compete for five spots because it puts that much pressure on them to do well.”
Alex Pedersen, the CCM golf team’s only returning player, said that he did not consider himself certain if his team would have as a successful season as it has had during recent seasons.
“It’s hard to say right now,” Pedersen said. “We haven’t really been on the course. Most of it hasn’t been on the range type stuff. Everybody’s swing looks pretty good, I would say. There’s always room for improvement. It’s early in the season. Usually, everyone’s swings develop as the season goes on, so mid season swings are better that in the March era swings.”
This season, Pedersen serves as captain of his team.
“In terms of leadership, I hope I’m more of a role model in character and keeping the game honest,” Pedersen said.
CCM’s golf team begins its season March 28 against Burlington Community College.