The Rowan College of South Jersey-Cumberland baseball team won the NJCAA Division III World Series last spring, but this year brings a fresh start with a new head coach.
Marco Carolla, of Brigantine, is moving from assistant to head coach, replacing Keith Gorman, who took over the program in 2011 and built it into a national power.
“It’s really an incredible opportunity,” Carolla said.
Carolla graduated from Buena Regional High School in 2008. His team won multiple titles there before he moved on to play at Camden County College and Rowan College of South Jersey-Gloucester.
Eventually he found himself playing at Ramapo College in Mahwah, Bergen County, where he would be part of a record-setting team that won 35 games and reached the NCAA Division III Regional Finals.
Carolla began his coaching career at Pascack Hills High School in Montvale, Bergen County. As an assistant coach, he helped guide the team to a sectional championship.
After a year he moved to Buena Regional where he helped the team win two South Jersey Group II championships in two years. He then spent two years coaching at Bridgeton High School before making his way to RCSJ-Cumberland, where he’s been an assistant coach for the last two years.
Athletic director Jonathan Dijamco thinks Carolla has what it takes to follow Gorman.
“First and foremost, Marco is a proven winner,” Dijamco said. “He has won at every level he has been at as a player and as a coach.”
Success at a junior college is a tough thing. The better the team plays, the faster its best players move on.
“At a junior college it’s a quick turnaround,” Carolla said. “It’s expected and that’s why player development is so important.”
The Dukes lost their entire infield. Their National Pitcher of the Year, Michael Miles (St. Augustine Prep), was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds. Others went to NCAA Division I schools.
“The goal is to develop the new guys,” Carolla said. “I’m really happy to have the coaching staff I have around me. I have a ton of experience (within the staff).”
Catchers’ coach Tom Ryder and outfielders’ coach Mike Freund have been instrumental in the Dukes’ success.
“The fact that they chose to stay on after Gorman left was really an honor for me,” Carolla said.
Carolla believes one of the ways you build a team is by hitting the gym.
“I really believe that great players are built in the weight room when no one’s watching,” Carolla said.
Asked if things are different now that they’re defending champions, Carolla doesn’t think so.
“I don’t know if there’s a difference between this year or not,” Carolla said. “There’s no change in mindset or what we’re doing. It’s just understanding ... what we’re doing and continuing to work.”
“I like talking about the process,” Carolla said. “What the team is doing on and off the field. That’s my goal as a coach is to make sure we continue to be a top notch program.”