The Winning Season
Chesapeake College posts school-record 50 wins in spring sports
WYE MILLS This spring sports season was the season for winning at Chesapeake College.
"It was an incredibly successful spring for us," said Athletic Director Frank Szymanski, reflecting on the unprecedented 50 combined victories posted by the baseball and softball teams. "It was exciting to have both teams enjoying great success at the same time."
Szymanski’s baseball team, coming off a trip to the 2005 NJCAA Division II World Series, racked up 30 victories. That gave the Skipjacks, who finished 30-15-1, consecutive seasons with at least 30 wins for the first time in school history.
And the softball team’s accomplishments were probably more impressive. That program, which had struggled just to field teams since the early 1990s, put together a 20-10 season that was climaxed by the Skipjacks’ third-place showing in the NJCAA Division II Region XX tournament.
"I was expecting we would do better than we did last year (4-14), which of course we did," said head softball coach Melissa Thompson. "We improved a lot this year, and I think we’ve got a lot of momentum going for next year.
One thing both programs had in common was strong sophomore leadership.
Thompson credits her sophomores third baseman Katie Connolly (.544 average, 32 RBI, 37 runs), outfielder Katie LaNeve (.494, 26 RBI, 17 runs), first baseman Kelly Henckel (.371, 18 RBI, 25 runs), and catcher Katie Satterlee (.378, 17 RBI, 24 runs) with reviving the college’s dormant softball program.
"They had to put a lot of trust in me last year for us to even have a team," recalled Thompson. "They put their faith in someone they didn’t know and that was a huge step for them to invest so much of themselves. They were all very talented ballplayers when they came to me, and they allowed me to be a part of their lives."
Thompson said Connolly "soaks up everything around her. She’s very aware of the needs of her teammates and she knows how to approach every problem." LaNeve, meanwhile, "was the team jokester. You could count on her to cheer up anybody who was down, and she was also a very hard worker.
"Katie Satterlee is a rock she’s just so solid. You can count on her to play any position on the field at any point in any game," said Thompson. "Kelly Henckel is another solid kid, and she always managed to find a way to get on base."
Szymanski said the softball team’s accomplishments were all the more impressive given their challenges.
"This year’s team was very talented, " said Szymanski. "They played together, they played injured, they played sick, and they were also well coached. Melissa did a great job."
Baseball’s eight sophomores outfielder Robbie Miller, first baseman/DH Anthony Archie, third baseman Justin Armiger, first baseman/outfielder Will Delawter, shortstop Mike Kelch, catcher/utility man Mike Garrett, and pitchers R.J. Morse and Nick Lemmer helped the program to a 70-33-1 record during their two-year stay at the college. That represented the most combined wins and highest combined winning percentage (.678) in the baseball program’s history.
"I’m grateful for their commitment to the college, our program and to our system," said Szymanski of his sophomores. "They were committed to playing the Chesapeake way, working hard and helping the younger guys come along."
Szymanski whose teams set school records for victories in five of his first six seasons said the sophomores had to play this season with the weight of last year’s World Series appearance on their shoulders.
"The expectations were high," said Szymanski, who has 173 victories in seven seasons as the Skipjacks’ head baseball coach. "They were part of the championship team and they worked their hardest to make it happen again, but it just wasn’t meant to be. I thanked them for everything they’ve done for the college and the program they’ve done a lot."
Archie may have had the finest season of the baseball sophomores. He led the team in batting average (.392), runs batted in (56) and doubles (19) while tying freshman Brad Brainer with 53 runs scored.
"Arch had a great year," said Szymanksi. "He’s a great hitter and a quiet leader."
Delawter (.378 average, 43 RBI, 48 runs, team-high eight homers), Miller (.359, 38 RBI, 43 runs), Kelch (.353, 31 RBI, 41 runs), and Armiger (.338, 17 RBI, 37 runs) played critical offensive roles for the second straight season. Meanwhile, Garrett (.369, 17 RBI, 30 runs) had a much greater impact after being a role player in 2005.
"Will (Delawter) and Mike (Kelch) are both unbelievable talents, and Justin (Armiger) just worked hard every single game," said Szymanski. "Robbie Miller’s going to be missed. He was the guy that held the team together great attitude, hard worker, fun to be around. And Mike Garrett was extremely valuable because he could play virtually any position."
Armiger (4-1, 1.83 earned-run average) and Delawter (2-3, 2.94 ERA) also pitched, while Morse (3-0, 3.71 ERA) and Lemmer (2-3, 6.00 ERA) were exclusively pitchers. Morse made the most of his role as a spot starter and reliever, finishing his Chesapeake career with a 7-1 mark.
""R.J. (Morse) was a leader for us he was always positive and did a great job when he got the opportunity," said Szymanski. "Nick (Lemmer) won some big games for us, including a couple of games in the playoffs last year."
While both baseball and softball are losing a strong class of sophomores, Szymanski and Thompson are already actively recruiting to fill their holes.
"I had a really good group of freshmen this season that I expect to mature into a great sophomore class next year," said Szymanski, who program has posted 20 or more wins five times in the last six years. "And we’re out recruiting, trying to bring in more good athletes who are also good students to fill our holes."
Thompson said she is "already excited about next year."
"We’re filling the holes pretty quickly," she said. "I hope that this year we have proven ourselves as a competitive program. We’re building a program, not a team that’s good for one year."
Chesapeake Collegeís four sophomore softball players -- from left to right, Katie Connolly, Kelly Henckel, Katie LaNeve, and Katie Satterlee -- were honored before the teamís final home game. The quartet helped the Skipjacks to their first 20-win season in school history.
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