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Present meets past in ’Jacks-Wilmington encounter
Chesapeake College plays Wildcats squad loaded with former Skipjacks

WILMINGTON, Del. – The doubleheader could almost have passed for a Chesapeake College intra-squad scrimmage. Four former Skipjacks played against the current version of Chesapeake College’s baseball team in a fall doubleheader Sunday at Wilmington University’s Wilson Field.

Senior right fielder Cody Holliday and juniors Bryan Woolford (pitcher/third base), J.T. Gregory (pitcher/shortstop) and Greg Snyder (pitcher) all played for Wilmington against their former team. The quartet helped Wilmington hand Chesapeake a rare doubleheader loss, 10-5 and 10-8, but Skipjacks head coach Frank Szymanski said the outcome was almost beside the point.

"It was great – a lot of fun," said Szymanski, whose team finished the fall with a 13-6 record, including 5-3 against four-year institutions. "To have the opportunity to play Wilmington University and to compete against players who played such important roles in our program was kind of special.

"Bryan, Cody and Greg all pitched and they’ve all improved," added Szymanski. "They threw strikes and really competed. J.T. played shortstop both games and played very well."

Woolford also said the doubleheader get-together was a fun experience.

"It was great just seeing the guys and seeing Coach Szymanski again," said Woolford, who said having six former Skipjacks at Wilmington created an instant support network. "We’re in a lot of classes together and if we have a problem we know we can go to each other for help."

Andrew Markey, a Chesapeake sophomore who played with most of Wilmington’s Skipjack contingent last spring, said he enjoyed Sunday’s twin bill.

"It was pretty cool, especially to see them doing well," said Markey. Wilmington head coach Brian August said he’s been pleased with the impact the Chesapeake contingent has had on his program, which won the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference (CCAC) championship in 2007.

"This is my fifth year at Wilmington and this is the best attitude team we’ve have. Honestly, I’d say that has a lot to do with the boys we’ve brought in from Chesapeake," said August, who is red-shirting two other former Skipjacks – pitchers Evan Ford and Kurt Bruce – in 2009. "I really like this team. I think we have a chance to be right there (contending for a championship) again."

August’s familiarity with the Maryland Junior College Athletic Conference and the mutual interest he and Szymanski showed in Holliday sparked the relationship between the Wildcats and Skipjacks.

"I had coached at Cecil (College) four years and I knew Chesapeake had a good program. And I had been interested in Cody before he went to Chesapeake," said August. "That was really my first connection to Chesapeake."

Holliday’s performance last spring in his first season with the Wildcats did nothing to dampen August’s interest in Chesapeake players.

"Cody had a great year for us last season – he was first-team all-CCAC, led the team in home runs and doubles, and was second in hits. He was one of our top players," noted August.

Woolford said both coaches – Szymanski and August – have similar philosophies.

"At both schools the priorities have been to get your schoolwork done, practice hard and be ready to play," said Woolford.

Both coaches said they view this as a long-term relationship between the two institutions.

"We have similar styles and the fit is perfect," said Szymanski.

"I want to continue this relationship through the years," said August. "The guys come prepared, have a good attitude and work hard. We’re counting on Woolford to start at third and pitch, J.T. to start at shortstop and pitch, and Greg to get some good innings for us as well."

The Wilmington connection is just one recruiting path the Skipjacks have created. Chesapeake players have gone on to play at Salisbury University, Washington College, University of Maryland Baltimore County, University of Maryland Eastern Shore, York College, Virginia Commonwealth University, Temple University, and elsewhere.

"We make no promises or guarantees, but we prepare our players for the next level," said Szymanski, who currently has more than a dozen former players playing at four-year institutions. "The proof is there – our kids go places and contribute," said Szymanski. "We try to make sure it’s the right fit of players and programs."

Szymanski said one reason Chesapeake plays so many four-year institutions during the fall schedule is to expose the Skipjacks to four-year programs for after they leave Chesapeake.

"I think it’s good to see ballplayers at the next level," said Markey. "We all want to get to that level, and these games help you get used to playing a higher caliber of baseball."

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