CCM Softball

Soaring season sees CCM softball clinch playoff berth

By Connor Iapoce
Sports Editor

The 2017-2018 Titans softball team found a rhythm early in their season with a 13 game win streak, but the schedule has had its bumps due to weather cancellations in their last four matchups.

IMG_1223

Titans freshman Hannah Brizek fouls off a ball during an 11-0 win in the rst game of a doubleheader against Sussex County Community College. Photos by Brett Friedensohn

Meanwhile, injuries sustained in games have impacted the team’s lineup with key players being injured for a stretch of time. The Titans at presstime sit on a record of 23-6 with a five-game win streak and are currently in the third spot of the Region XIX Division II standings and clinched the playoffs with an 11-0 win over Sussex County Community College Wednesday, April 18.

The Titans trip to Florida over spring break found them finishing with the best record of any Titans program at 12-0. Head Coach Greg Wardlow said he was excited about the way the Titans competed in the tournament against strong nationally ranked teams.

“We beat really strong national programs,” Wardlow said. “We beat Iowa Central Community College twice, who were ranked in the top 12 in the country at the time. We beat Parkland College, who was a national runner up a few years back. We beat a couple of other Midwest powers, St. Louis Community College and Spoon River College. When we looked at our schedule going down to Florida, we pessimistically said ‘Hey we’ll have a time tough with these games,’ but we won them all. We played very well.”

The lossless streak continued with a 9-0 victory against nationally ranked Brookdale Community College, but the Titans were plagued by a group of injuries to the core team during these 13 games.

“Along the way we suffered a couple of injuries,” Wardlow said. “We didn’t have a lot of depth to begin with, having only 13 players on the roster. In Florida, we lost our lead off hitter, starting outfielder, number 4 pitcher Hannah Brizek. She had a labrum tear in her shoulder. One of our leading hitters in Florida, Melissa Ackerman, in her first game back against Brookdale suffered a meniscus sprain in her knee, running out a hit to first base. So we were down a couple of kids.”

The Titans’ win streak earned them a national rank of 14 in the country in the NJCAA, marking the first time the team had never been ranked since Wardlow started coaching at CCM in 2005.

IMG_1297

Titans freshman pitcher Jonnalyn McClain throws a strike against a Sussex batter.

“They started out very strong down South, went 12-0 and reached 14 in the country in the NJCAA, which was very promising,” said Jack Sullivan, CCM athletic director.

The middle half the season was impacted by the appearance of miserable weather in the Northeast, consisting of snowstorms that made it hard for the team to practice outside. It ultimately impacted the team’s return to play when they came back Thursday, March 15, as the team was unable to practice. More injuries would hurt the Titans lineup, including a meniscus sprain, bone bruises, and a broken nose in subsequent games following the return.

“We played some key games not at full strength, but that’s no excuse,” Wardlow said. “Everybody suffers injuries.”

The Titans would win eighth more games and lose only six, leading Wadlow to believe the Titans have clinched a postseason berth according to their record. Four teams make the playoffs with a double elimination style tournament. The Titans have made the final four the past 9 seasons.

“We have to keep our kids motivated, because we think we have a very good team and we have a pretty good chance,” Wardlow said. “We just need to put it all together when it counts at the end and work on things over the next couple of weeks. It’s anyone of the four teams that qualify are going to have a chance, so it’s who’s playing well.”

The Titans have proved their strength and consistency during the long season, event with the difficulties resulting from the numerous postponements and cancellations. They have not lost a game by more than two runs and Wardlow attributes this to the players themselves.


“We have to keep our kids motivated, because we think we have a very good team and we have a pretty good chance.”

Greg Wardlow Titans softball coach


Freshman pitchers Nicole Carter and Kellie Faber are 11-3 and 9-3 respectively, with Carter pitching a perfect game in the first game of a doubleheader against Northampton Community College and Faber striking out ten in the first game of the doubleheader.

Freshman Kaitlyn Lloyd has an average of .526, earning the title of GSAC player of the week for the second consecutive week Wednesday, April 28. Lloyd leads the team is stolen bases with 21, putting her in the top 10 all time for a CCM player during one season.

“We have a really good record and a really talented team,” said Ally Tufaro, a sophomore outfielder and fine art major. “I think we can make it to [nationals in] Mississippi. That’s like our one goal for the entire season. I would say that’s where I see our team at the end of the season.”

Wardlow said he has the team practicing to deal with the lack of depth that has occurred as a result of the injuries. The team was averaging double figures in Florida but have not scored as many runs as the beginning half of the season.

“Right now, we’re just not scoring as many runs anymore,” Wardlow said. “Some of it is because our lineup has been depleted a little bit, so the lack of depth hurts so we do have to work on getting back into a groove hitting. Our pitching has been pretty consistent and strong. None of the four teams that we play at the end have dominating pitching, so we’re going to have to score runs to win. We’ll certainly work on hitting in the next couple weeks. A couple of things we noticed during games are kind of hard to correct in-game. There is not a lot of chances for practices, because we are always playing games. But certainly things we will try to tighten up in those last couple of weeks.”

The Titans stand in third place of the top four teams who are in positions to make the tournament. Sullivan said he thinks the end of the season will come down to the wire to determine the fourth team.

“It’s going to be a mad rush to see who makes the final four team for the tournament,” said Sullivan. “As we stand, we are 3rd and the top four teams make it to the semifinals. We are looking at Mercer in first place, Lackawanna in second place, and Morris in third. Burlington is in fourth, but Del Tech Owens has an outside chance. That wouldn’t be our problem right now.”

The success of the rookie Titans have the team looking forward to next season, but with a shifting sophomore class, the team has also focused on recruitment efforts. A big effort is their sophomore


“They started out very strong down South, went 12-0 and reached 14 in the country in the NJCAA, which was very promising.”

Jack Sullivan CCM athletic director


“Next season we’ll retain all of our pitchers and all of our pitchers are freshman,” Wardlow said. “We lose a lot of offense and a lot of players on the field which is going to impact us for sure. We have two kids signed for next year, but we know we need more and we have to build up our roster size and depth. We’re always trailing in recruiting compared to four-year schools, but we have to work hard in April and May to get the right kids. That’s one of our focuses, even though we’re playing right now, to actively recruit at high school games and continue to push for that in the next month or so. We do need to build up our numbers for next September.”

Sullivan said he wants the team focused on the rest of this season, before worrying about next year but believes that under coach Wardlow’s leadership, the Titans will find success.

“Coach does a great job finding talent and making it translate to team chemistry, on the field and off the field,” said Sullivan. “There is solid leadership this year from Carly McDaniel and Olivia Feiger and the rest of the sophomores, they’re the core. I’ve always said in junior college, you are led by sophomores. They have been through the league before and they know what’s expected of them. They are all quality sophomores, and we have an outstanding group of freshman that came in, learning their way and by this time, I think they’re all ready to roll.”

Katlyn Lloyd, a freshman was hitting .526 at press time and was Player of the Week in the conference in the second consecutive week April 18.

“She does everything, she has 21 stolen bases already which is already in the top 10 for CCM in a season,” Wardlow said. “She hits with power, she’s the fastest kid on the team, and an all-around terrific player with a great season … Both our top two pitchers, Nicole Carter and Kellie Faber, have done very well as freshman. Carter is 11-3 right now and on Saturday, she pitched a perfect game in the second game of a doubleheader against Northampton Community College. Kellie Faber is 9-3, she struck out 10 in the first game of the doubleheader on Saturday. Both of those are certainly keeping us in game. We lost six games. The six losses, we lost 2-4 against Orange, we lost 5-6 to Lackawanna, we lost 3-5 and 2-3 to Mercer, we lost 4-6 to Del Tech, and we lost 0-2 to Western Connecticut. Those are our six losses and none of the ever by more than two runs. A little luck and maybe less injuries, our 21-6 is a lot loftier.”

County College of Morris will host the Region XIX tournament on April 28 and 29 at the softball fields near Parking Lot 1.

Softball seeks strong season start

Titans finished second in region last year

Softball_Facebook

The 2018 Titans softball players pose for a team picture at practice. Photo courtesy of: Facebook

By Connor Iapoce
Sports Editor

County College of Morris Titans softball looks to stay motivated as they open the 2018 spring campaign after last season’s 3-4 defeat in the Region XIX Championship game against Lackawanna College stopped ended their chances of reaching the College World Series.

Head coach Greg Wardlow is now in his 14th season coaching softball at CCM; under his command, the team started training beginning Thursday, Feb. 1, but irregular weather made it difficult to practice outside prior to the Titans’ Friday, March 9 season opener.

IMG_0637

Titans freshman pitcher Jonnalyn McClain warms up her arm during a team training session outside. Photo by: Brett Friedensohn

“We’re practicing on average like five days a week,” Wardlow said. “It’s tough in the Northeast because you are limited by the weather and the field conditions. We try to use the space available to work on what we can.”

The makeup of the team has changed since the previous year’s lineup with the team made up of mostly new players and five returning sophomores. A key addition to the Titans was the acquisition of four new freshman pitchers, replacing former Titans powerhouse pitcher Mary Mastriani who, after setting a CCM record for most wins for a softball pitcher at 43, now plays at NCAA Division I St. Peter’s University.

“Obviously, our pitchers can get in work in the gym just as well as they can outside,” Wardlow said. “So we put a premium on pitching development. We have four freshman pitchers this year all of which were pretty good high school kids. We try to maximize their development in February.”

In recent years, the program has found a solid footing with three trips to the Region XIX championship game in the past three seasons. The Titans won the region in 2016 but were unable to go back-to-back last season. Wardlow said he is optimistic about the team’s chances of reaching the game once more this season.

“We’re kind of optimistic going into this season,” Wardlow said. “We always have hopes of going to the World Series which this year is mid-May in Mississippi, so we try to promote that motivation and enthusiasm to the players. We talk about going to Mississippi; that’s our objective every year. It’s not easy. You have to win your conference, win the region tournament, and then you have to win the district tournament to get there. Two years ago, we came close. We won our region for the first time in 25 years, and we played the district championship, and we won our first two games. We just got beat, though. Once step short. Last year, we lost in the final of our region tournament. But, that’s our goal. We are excited to start the season.”

The Titans team has focused their sights on the end goal of reaching the region tournament and beyond. Many Titans returning sophomores are set on returning to the big stage to prove the team’s newfound talent, especially with their new bullpen.


“We try not to put too much of a premium on winning games early in the season. It’s all about development.”

Greg Wardlow Titans head coach


“Honestly, I hope to win regions because last year we came in second,” said Carly McDaniel, a sophomore shortstop. “I think that we have a better chance this year because we have four pitchers. Last year, we only had one”

Other returning sophomores are focused on proving their determination and collaboration as one core Titans unit.

“I think we’re going to do really well,” said Ally Tufaro, sophomore outfielder. “We have a lot of talent. Everyone gets along, which is very important on a team. We need to probably improve on consistent winning streaks.”

Wardlow said he knows the team must focus on the length of the season to stay consistent over the course of the 56-game season. He emphasized the team’s development over focusing on a winning record.

The Titans will have games against GSAC members and Region XIX rivals as well as a visit to Cocoa Beach, Florida punctuating the front half of the season. The team will match up with other junior colleges from around the country during the Florida trip with the outcome of the games still weighing on the overall season record.

“We try not to put too much of a premium on winning games early in the season,” Wardlow said. “It’s all about development. The conference schedule is a small portion of our schedule. We have 56 games scheduled between now and the end of April and only 10 of which are conference games. We’ll play games in Florida which count towards our overall record, but whether we win or lose those games is not all that important. We need to be over .500 to qualify. We want to be playing our best at the end, so you have to try to keep an even keel between now and the end and just try to keep getting better and better.”

Wardlow said softball was a part of his family when his daughters played, and when that ended, he continued his involvement of the sport at CCM.

“I make this part-time job into a full-time job which means that I enjoy it,” Wardlow said. “I come to school every day, and I enjoy every aspect of it. Whether it’s recruiting high school kids during the season or in the summer or coming out here and practicing every day. Obviously, I’m a competitor, so we try to build this program to win, but it’s also very rewarding to develop kids to help them not only in their athletic pursuits but academically as well. I think that’s probably what we take the most pride in as coaches is seeing these kids do well at their next stop.”

Tufaro said that she feels welcomed at CCM.

“It’s a very welcoming atmosphere,” Tufaro said. “I transferred from a different school that I played at, and I thoroughly enjoy this much better.”

County College of Morris Titans softball are a member of the Garden State Athletic Conference and NJCAA Region XIX at the Division II level. The Titans open their home season with a doubleheader against Rowan College at Burlington County starting at 12 p.m. Saturday, March 24.

CCM softball team takes on national competitors

BY TANNA HOLZWORTH
Contributor

This March, the women’s softball team at the County College of Morris will be packing up and heading to Orlando, Fla. to compete against teams from across the country.

There will be 19 players and three coaches going down in hopes of winning the week­long double­header games.

“We have been practicing everyday and playing a lot of games in preparation for our games in Florida,” said Nicole Iorio, a nursing major at CCM. “My mindset going into the games is just to make a minimal amount of errors and run as fast as I can.”

The three coaches have been working very hard with the athletes, training them almost everyday.

“We have been practicing a lot of infield, outfield and team drills that will come in handy on game days,” Iorio said. “I’m both nervous and excited and I know all the girls are really eager to play.”

Breanna Csakvary, a power hitter, has a right arm injury from overuse but still plans to participate in the games in Florida.

“Thanks to physical therapy, trainers and the coaches, I’m still able to go,” said Csakvary. “I’m excited to go because I think our team works well together, and it was so cool to see a group of strangers come together as a family over the course of a few seasons.”

Kim Vansavage, a liberal arts major, said she is excited to go to Florida because all of the games thus far have been local, and she wants a change of scenery and weather.

Vansavage, an outfielder, said that in order to make her coach, Greg Wardlow, proud, she has to run back for any ball that goes over her head to catch it.

“My coach has made me a better player, and he is really encouraging,” said Vansavage. “So I want to show him how much I have improved. I need to watch for bad hops and adjust for them to make the plays.”

Vansavage said putting her teammates in the best position possible is what she is most concerned about.

The team will play at the Disney Sports Center, known as the Wide World of Sports Complex.

“On Wednesday we will be going to a water park, and I’m probably most excited about that,” Vansavage said.