BY BRETT FRIEDENSOHN
The softball team at County College of Morris has begun practicing for its 2017 regular season which it will open Sunday, March 5 against Rowan College at Gloucester County.
The Titans look to repeat their region title victory after winning the 2016 National Junior College Athletic Association Region XIX Championship May 6, 2016.
Softball head coach Greg Wardlow said that a lack of pitching depth may hinder his team.
During the fall preseason, the team had three pitchers, two of whom have since announced that they cannot play this season because of injuries. Since then, the coaches have been working to find players who have had some experience pitching and train them so that they can pitch behind starter Mary Mastriani. These backups consist of infielder Carly McDaniel, outfielder Taylor Van Sant, second baseman Kellyann McClain who pitched one inning for CCM last season, and Vincenza Megone who pitched for Bloomfield High School until her graduation in 2015 and played for CCM in the fall 2015 preseason but not the spring 2016 regular season.
Despite this, Wardlow said that this season’s team is akin to last year’s.
“Other than the pitching depth issue, I think our team is comparable to last year,” Wardlow said. “And we’re always optimistic. Maybe we’re a bit better … I think our overall defense is shaping up to be a little bit better than last year. I think our team speed is definitely a little bit better.”
Wardlow expressed confidence in Mastriani as the starting pitcher. Mastriani pitched in 2016 with a record of 22-6, and was named by international softball news agency Fastpitch News as an NJCAA Division II All-American for the fall 2016 preseason, along with four other pitchers nationally.
“She was one of the principal reasons why we won the regional championship,” Wardlow said. “And she’s back and continues to give us optimism, but our pitching depth behind that took a bit of a hit, so right now, we have quantity, not sure of the quality in our second and third pitchers, but we’re working on that … They’re not as experienced as the two pitchers we lost, but we’re still optimistic that with Mary leading the way, when we get to the big games, we’ll still be okay.”
Magone said that she was adjusting back into the pitching role.
“I feel confident,” Magone said. “It’s fine. I did it all my life, so it’s just like muscle memory.”
Softball assistant coach John Baccolini has focused in on training the backup pitchers this season.
“They’re all well-quality athletes,” Baccolini said. “We start off with fastball and changeup first, and then, we’ve been doing mostly that in late December and January, and then, as we move into the middle of February, we’ll start working on their breaking pitches.”