This season, the Rowan University softball team looks to return to the NCAA Division III Championship Tournament. It won’t be easy for the Profs with several ranked teams on the schedule, including national runner up Illinois Wesleyan University.
The Profs have advanced to the national tournament, twice in the last three years. In 2019, Rowan had a 39-13-1 record and a 12-6 conference mark. The Profs won the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) Championship and made their 26th appearance in the NCAA postseason.
The softball team is ranked first in the 2019 NJAC Coaches Preseason Poll and fifth in the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) Top-25 Preseason Poll. Shortstop Carly Anderson (sr. Nutley, NJ/Nutley) and pitcher Jesse DeDomenico (jr. East Windsor, NJ/Hightstown) were chosen for the Schutt Sports/NFCA Division III National Player of the Year Watch List.
“We return enough experience this year that starting right away with a strong schedule will be a good test for us,” stated head coach Kim Wilson. “I think the kids in the program can handle it and the truth is in 2016, out of our first six games, four were ranked teams. There is not much difference, it is the same challenge, just different teams that we are playing.”
Rowan returns starting pitchers Lauren Shannon (jr. Sewell, NJ/Washington Twp.) and DeDomenico. Last season, DeDomenico compiled a 23-9 record with a 1.06 earned run average (ERA). She recorded 164 strikeouts and held opponents to a .163 batting average. DeDomenico hit .353 with 21 RBIs and 31 runs. She was selected to the NFCA All-America third team and the All-Region first team. DeDomenico was also a member of the All-Conference first team. She was chosen the Most Outstanding Player at the Rowan Regional.
Shannon compiled a 14-2 record with a 1.68 ERA. She struck out 106 batters and had a .212 opposing batting average. Shannon earned NJAC All-Conference second team honors. She was named to the Regional All-Tournament Team and was honored as the Most Outstanding Pitcher at the Super Regional.
“I look forward to Jesse and Lauren after competing two years on the national stage, they understand what it takes to win not only in the NJAC but also nationally,” Wilson said. “They have worked very hard to continue to improve and not be the same pitcher every year. Hopefully, we start off where we ended last season and continue to grow. They only have two years of collegiate experience and they have been very successful.”
The pitching staff also includes veterans Kelly Duffy (so. Sayreville, NJ/Sayreville War Mem.) and Emily August (so. Mahwah, NJ/Mahwah) and rookie Alexa Saccomanno (fr. Kinnelon, NJ/Kinnelon). Duffy also contributed at the plate last year as the designated player. She hit .265 and had 15 RBIs. Along with Duffy, the designated player position can be filled by DeDomenico and Saccomanno. DeDomenico can also see time in right field.
“Kelly looked really good in our scrimmage,” commented Wilson. “She is definitely absorbing all the things that we are doing with the pitching, the challenges and we are making changes in her release. She has really taken to it and I am excited to see her compete. Emily has improved since last season. I look for her to challenge for innings throughout the season.”
“Alexa will be a utility player, probably our future middle infielder,” Wilson continued. “She is also a pitcher and she should get some innings, especially while she is learning. She is learning the things that go on in the infield and will hit some. Alexa has done a good job so far and I look forward to seeing how she improves.”
Christina Guarino (so. West Caldwell, NJ/James Caldwell) has one year of experience at catcher. She contributed with a .276 batting average, 18 RBIs and 11 runs. The Profs have added catchers Korie Hague (fr. Vineland, NJ/Vineland) and Alessandra Rodriguez (fr. Oakland, NJ/Indian Hills).
“I am proud how Christina took our team through playoffs and kept getting better throughout the season,” said Wilson.
“She is only a sophomore and it is exciting to have her on the team. Kori is a local Vineland player. She came to our clinics so we had the opportunity to see her play. She will fit in very well. Alessandra is working as a bullpen catcher right now. She is learning and will get some innings.”
The Profs have everyone back in the infield. Anderson anchors the infield at shortstop. Cassandra Gerard (sr. Wayne, NJ/Wayne Valley) is starting her third straight season at third base while Sonia Sharma (so. Mahwah, NJ/Immaculate Heart Academy) is in her second at second base. Mackenzie Short (jr. Denton, MD/North Caroline) is the returning starter at first base.
“Carly has really come in to her own this year as a leader,” remarked Wilson. “She went from a quiet freshman that led by example to a player that is teaching the younger players. She is working for the betterment of the team. Carly is tough to pitch to and she is a perfectionist with her hitting. She is a fantastic shortstop and I am glad that she is on our team.”
Last year, Anderson led the team with a .490 batting average. She totaled 75 hits, 43 RBIs and 36 runs. Her extra base hits included 19 doubles, one triple and five home runs. Anderson was named to the NFCA All-America second team and the All-Region first team. She was chosen the conference’s Player of the Year and was on the NJAC first team. Gerard hit .307 with 28 RBIs and 25 runs. In her rookie season, Sharma had a .279 batting average, 21 RBIs and 22 runs. Short contributed with a .206 batting average and 13 RBIs.
“Cassandra has locked down third base for her third year,” Wilson stated. “We look for her to be more consistent at the plate. She is the little work horse that covers a lot of ground and makes things happen. I look for Sonia to get better at the plate. She is a little bit gangly in how she moves but it works for her. Sonia is able to get to a lot balls that other people would not get to and you wonder how she got there. She was pretty consist for us last year and I look forward to seeing the improvements that have happened with her.”
“If Mackenzie had not improved the way she did last season, we would have not gone anywhere,” said Wilson. “She has three different people throwing at her and Carly throws the ball pretty hard. Mackenzie has been able to pick things that others would not have been able to. We are looking for more power from her at the plate.”
Kristina Mueller (sr. Basking Ridge, NJ/Ridge) returns to center field. She batted .343 last season and led the team with 39 runs scored and 15 stolen bases (19 attempts). The remaining outfield positions will be filled by veteran Rebecca Lombardo (so. New Egypt, NJ/New Egypt) and rookie Morgan Zane (fr. Pittsgrove, NJ/A.P. Schalick). In 2018, Lombardo missed the last part of the season. She batted .343 and scored 14 runs.
“Kristina started in center last year and did a really good job,” commented Wilson. “I think she will become more consistent at the plate and put the ball in play and she has good speed. Rebecca was on fire before she missed the end of the last season. Hopefully she can come back for us. She was very consistent on the bases and is still learning in the outfield. I think overall she did a good job. Morgan brings a little power to the lineup. She is a local Schalick player. We just need to determine if she will be in left or right field.”
The softball team starts the season at the Grand Slam Triangle Classic in Cary, NC on Friday and Saturday, Feb. 22 and 23 and in Rocky Mount, NC on Sunday, Feb. 24. Rowan plays Berry College (GA) and Christopher Newport University on Friday and Piedmont College and the University of Lynchburg on Saturday. The Profs are at North Carolina Wesleyan College on Sunday and they also face Hood College. The softball team is scheduled to host Haverford College on Thursday, March 5 before heading to Kissimmee, FL for a 12-game slate at The Spring Games.
“Our opening day, we face tough competition against Berry and Christopher Newport,” said Wilson. “Lynchburg is also a good team. This time of the year, everyone is getting the feel of things. They have been outside already and played games so they are ahead of us.”
“We have talked to the team about taking it one game at a time,” continued Wilson. “What you do early in the season leads to what happens at the end but a lot of times it comes down to what we do at NJACs. We are a long way from going to nationals. We need to focus on game to game and not look at the big picture. Let the season take care of itself by the quality of the schedules we play.”