Softball team No. 1 and baseball No. 3 in the country BY TIM MORRIS Staff Writer BY TIM MORRISStaff Writer SCOTT PILLING staff Brookdale softball coach Bo Scannapieco and his Jersey Blues are up to their old tricks again, earning the nation’s top ranking with another superb season on the diamond. This spring has marked an extraordinary time for Brookdale Community College. The school’s softball team is ranked No. 1 in the country among Division III junior colleges, and the baseball team, which plays in Division II, is ranked No. 3. Both are legitimate national championship contenders. “It’s pretty impressive,” said athletic director Jack Ryan. Both teams will take their first steps toward the national championships this week when the Region XIX tournaments begin. The baseball team, 34-1 and riding an impressive 33-game winning streak, is already assured of the top seed and a bye in the first round (Saturday and Sunday). Brookdale will host the tournament May 6-8. The softball team is shooting for an equally impressive 10th straight Region title. The Blues did not get a first-round bye and will play a double-header on Saturday, starting at noon, against either Bergen or Burlington. If a third game is necessary, that game will be played Sunday in Lincroft. The winner will advance to the Region Tournament, which is being hosted by Gloucester this year on May 6-7. “Baseball has always been one of the top programs in the Northeast,” said Ryan. “Paul MacLaughlin, a Hall of Fame coach, won 856 games. “This team  is special,” he added. “It has won 31 straight and surpassed the old record of 22. Just like our softball team, they are good and they are prepared.” Ryan can take pride in what the baseball and softball teams are accomplishing because he was behind the hiring of both head coaches, Johnny Johnson in baseball, and Bo Scannapieco, softball, the architects of these teams. Scannapieco was Ryan’s assistant when he coached the softball team and was the logical choice to replace him. Ryan hired Johnson in 1998. Both Johnson and Scannapieco had something in common. “It’s great having former players coach the team,” said Ryan. “Brookdale developed them.” Both Scannapieco and Johnson played baseball at Brookdale under Hall-of-Famer MacLaughlin. Scannapieco came back to be an assistant under MacLaughlin before moving over to assist Ryan with the softball team and then becoming the head coach. More than 500 wins later and a national championship (2002), Scannapieco has turned the softball team into a perennial national power. “Bo is one of the most dominant coaches in the Region and nationally, in all sports,” said Ryan. “Bo’s level of excellence is mind-boggling. He works hard, does things the right way and knows all the details that make a good player.” Johnson had the toughest shoes to fill in replacing MacLaughlin, whose baseball teams first put BCC athletics on the map. Ryan never doubted that Johnson — MacLaughlin’s ex-player — was the right man for the job. “No. 1, he had been successful coaching baseball at Red Bank Catholic and Bloomfield College, and he had been an assistant at Monmouth University,” said Ryan. “He had a very strong pedigree.” Scannapieco and Johnson have something else in common besides their Brookdale backgrounds. Both are excellent recruiters. They work as hard bringing the best student-athletes to the Lincroft campus as they do coaching them. They are out there in the public getting many of their players from their home base in the Shore. All Brookdale teams, be it softball or baseball, basketball or soccer, have benefited from Ryan’s and the school’s philosophy of playing the best. “We believe in playing as tough a schedule as you can,” he said. “It prepares you for the Region tournament.” There can be no arguing with the success. The men’s and women’s soccer teams have all made it to the national championships. The same can be said for the basketball teams. The baseball and softball teams have both made the national junior college championships a home base, as has the men’s tennis team. Then, there are the players themselves. Scannapieco and Johnson have both put together powerhouse teams that are dominated by Shore-area talent. Both coaches were optimistic about their teams before the season started, and nothing they have done on the field this spring has changed their outlook. The baseball team is on an incredible roll, having won 31 straight games and already won the Garden State Athletic Association crown. Catcher John Romano is the top hitter in the country, bashing the ball at a .528 clip (56-for-106). He has 16 doubles and five home runs, and has scored 41 runs and driven in 42. Joe Arminio (.486), Joe Schiettino (.472), Jon Marzella (.425), Robbie Hine (.425), Dave Lorber (.418) and Nick Mullins (.409) are all hitting over .400. The Blues are explosive, averaging more than eight runs a game. Not to be lost in this offensive barrage is just how strong the pitching staff is. Billy Lawson and Chris Coulson are both 7-0 and ranked first and fourth in the country. Lawson has a 0.735 ERA and Coulson a 1.200. Scannapieco’s Blues are 36-8 and had a 17-game winning streak at one point during the season. Brookdale has a very deep rotation that features three strong starters in Cherise Malatais, Elyse Papaianni and Erin Covell. Maltais is 13-2 with a 1,6328 ERA, Papaianni is 11-4 with a 1.643 ERA and Covell is 8-2 with a 1.776 ERA. In third baseman Jessica Williams, the softball team also has a national hitting leader. She leads the country in four offensive categories — batting average (.418), doubles (19), home runs (six) and RBIs (50). Williams has had plenty of help with Kara Hertzke (.417) and Leah Minnick (.393) tied for second in the nation in RBIs with 32. Allyson Weinkofsky has scored 41 times and is batting .359. Lynn Olender is batting .388 and has a team-best 48 runs scored. Brookdale’s softball and baseball teams are exciting, in addition to being two of the best in the country. Saturday will be the last chance for fans to see Scannapieco’s Blues in Lincroft this year. The baseball team will be home throughout the Region tournament starting next weekend.