As we count down the top 5 stories of the 2017-2018 Cumberland County College Athletics season, we begin with number 5.
Starting us off will be the quiet rumble coming from the Dukes Softball Complex. At the surface, many will look directly at the team's record and be puzzled, but the record does not tell the whole story. Five of the team's losses were by 4 runs or less, including two heartbreaking late season losses to Region Final Four participant, Camden County. Those losses ended the postseason push the Dukes made winning 3 of the previous 4 games heading into the matchup with the Cougars. In that doubleheader, Cumberland led in both games before falling 8-6 and 8-4.
Coming into the season, Cumberland returned just 4 players from 2017 and they would all provide significant contributions to the daily improvement of the 2018 campaign. Abigail Abate and Britney Johnston established stability for the Dukes pitching staff as they split time behind home plate for the entire season. Johnston also finished third on the team in triples. Briana Peppitoni anchored the hot corner for Cumberland, playing every single inning at third base. Lastly, Samantha Santos, the team's recipient of the Coaches' Award, led the team as she played outfield, pitched, and batted clean up for the Dukes. In the final game of the season, Santos won the season finale by sacrificing herself for the team by getting hit by a pitch with the bases loaded to secure a 12-11 victory over Middlesex County.
What would be considered a weakness for most, was the strength of the 2018 Dukes as the freshmen unit would rise to the occassion and provide glimpses of an exciting future throughout the season. The freshmen were led by 2-time Conference Player of the Week, Katryna Arbelo. The shortstop was a consistent performer for Cumberland as she hit leadoff and lead the team batting average, hits, runs, home runs, and RBIs. She was second on the team in triples, second in doubles, and struck out just 4 times all season. 2nd-Team All-Region honoree, Breanna Suppi, was second in the team in innings pitched and led the team in strikeouts. Suppi was also a force in the batter's box as she led the team in triples and was third on the team in runs, second in hits, doubles, and RBIs. She also struck out just 5 times.
The remainder of the Freshmen unit consists of Tyra Capers, Siani Gomez, Megan Culley, and Jessica Taylor. Capers was second on the team in runs and led the team in stolen bases. Siani Gomez played an excellent second base all season and came up with clutch hits down the stretch to maintain the team's playoff hopes. Megan Culley led the team in innings pitched and finished the year with a 3-3 record with 14 starts. Culley contributed on the offensive end as well finishing third on the team in hits and led the team in walks. Jess Taylor played a steady outfield for the Dukes and provided speed off the bench as the team's top pinch runner.
Taking into account the talent this team had during the 2018 campaign and the experienced gained in being the postseason hunt up until the final two weeks of the season, one cannot deny the fact that Cumberland Softball will be a significant player in the 2019 season. As head coach Christin Carpani adds to this solid roster, campus will be buzzing come Spring 2019.