The Atlantic Cape Community College softball team started practice earlier this month for the upcoming season.
That may night seem so unusual, but not long ago, there wasn’t a team at all. Not even a club team.
Thanks to the help of first baseman Brittany Yachere, female athletes now have the opportunity to continue their softball careers at theMays Landing community college.
In preparation to attend ACCC, Yachere searched the college’s athletics page on its website. When she saw there was no softball team, she contacted the athletic director at the time and told him she wanted to play. She played a substantial role in forming a club team in 2009. By spring 2010, the team rejoined the National Junior College Athletic Association and competed in Region XIX.
“That’s basically how it all got started,” Yachere said. “Softball is my biggest passion. I wanted to spread it to more people.
“He told me to find some girls and to find an advisor for us and we were a club at first. When we first played, we didn’t have uniforms. So we made T-shirts. We were off the map and a little scrambled.”
Yachere, who lives in the Laureldale section of Mays Landing, was recognized for her efforts and named a Woman of the Year by the New Jersey Association of Intercollegiate
Athletics for Women.
The 2008 Oakcrest graduate, who missed her senior year with a a broken ankle, plays softball for the Buccaneers while maintaining a 3.0 grade-point average. She is a general studies major who has been on the dean’s list and the All-Academic Team at Atlantic Cape.
Each year, the NJAIAW chooses one exceptional athlete from each college and university in the state for her achievements in athletics, academics and community service. Yachere was one of the recipients honored at the 19th annual New Jersey National Girls and Women in Sports Day awards luncheon at Seton Hall University in early February.
“I was surprised,” Yachere said. “I don’t play to get recognized. I just love softball.”
Atlantic Cape softball coach Evelyn Morozzi nominated Yachere for the award. Morozzi runs the ACCC fitness center and always has wanted to be a college softball coach. She jumped at the opportunity when she saw the position became available.
“She’s a natural born leader,” said Morozzi, who lives in the Weymouth section of Mays Landing. “People look up to her. If anyone ever needed help on or off the field, she’d do it. She’s a very positive influence for the girls.”
Yachere said she is the only original member of the team left. However, she consistently has been able to find enough players to form a team each year. At times, she even gave up her position at first base to accommodate other players’ strengths.
When the team first needed a coach, she got her aunt, Nancy Seehafer, to fill the position temporarily to save the team from folding. When Morozzi was hired in 2009, things got a little easier.
“Last spring I went to high school games (in the area) and gave out cards and got in touch with athletic directors,” Morozzi said. “It’s difficult. These kids have a lot going on these days. So to find the time for this, it’s like an extracurricular activity, where for me it was everything.”
So far Morozzi and Yachere’s efforts have attracted pitcher Stephanie Doering, an Egg Harbor Township graduate.
Morozzi hopes that with a year of experience, the team can get its first win this year.
Morozzi graduated from Oakcrest in 1997 and pitched for the Falcons. She also played for Montclair State University. She said she tries to instill the things she learned to her players.
The Buccanners open their season at home against Salem County College next Tuesday.
“This year I think everybody knows a little bit more about what to expect, who we are playing, what they are like,” Morozzi said. “Last year I said, ‘If I could play this team (again), I think we could have won.’ I’m definitely expecting a couple victories this season.”
Yachere is, too. She said the team has gotten better each year.
She is taking five classes this semester so she can transfer in the fall. She recently applied to Rowan and Montclair and has contacted the softball coaches in hopes of continuing her playing career. She wants to study physical education and sports management.
“My ultimate goal is to come back to ACCC and hopefully help coach,” Yachere said. “It was a bit of a struggle, but it was completely worth it. When I leave, now I know I’ll leave something behind.”
Contact Kelly Ashe:
Tuesday, March 29 vs. Salem 3:30
Saturday, April 2 vs. Bergen Noon
Sunday, April 3 at Sussex Noon
Tuesday, April 5 vs. Cumberland 3
Thursday, April 7 vs. Brookdale 3:30
Saturday, April 9 vs. Middlesex Noon
Sunday, April 10 at Gloucester Noon
Tuesday, April 12 vs. Ocean 3:30
Saturday, April 16 vs. Montgomery Noon
Thursday, April 21 vs. Camden 3
Saturday, April 23 vs. Northampton Noon
Thursday, April 28 vs. Raritan Valley 2
Saturday, April 30 Region XIX playoffs TBA