It certainly helps to know what you want before you begin the search for a college that makes you feel comfortably at home.
Chloe Pocceschi is a terrific softball player who wishes to be a nurse in the near future. The desire to marry the two at the collegiate level, she learned, met some resistance.
“Not every college softball coach thinks a nursing major and softball work well together,” said Pocceschi.
Pocceschi had considered Division 1 Sacred Heart, Division 2 Caldwell and some smaller Division 3 schools, such as Scranton and Moravian. “I thought I could play softball and pursue my career choice, but I was not able to do that at Sacred Heart. The coach there said it wasn’t possible because I’d miss a lot of games due to the clinical schedule.”
The demands of a Division 1 athletic program are truly extensive, so Sacred Heart was simply being honest with Pocceschi.
Pocceschi stepped up her college search with one thing in mind; finding a program willing to work with her to achieve both of her college goals. The Finch’s Aces 18U Premier corner outfielder would find an agreeable ear in Caldwell University coach Dean Johnson.
“Coach Johnson is very flexible,” said Pocceschi. “He accepts nursing students and will work with us to maintain our academic commitment while understanding the time we’ll miss on the field.”
Johnson, beginning his 26th season at Division 2 Caldwell University, had four nursing students on his roster in 2019 and has managed to win at a precipitous pace, posting an 828-381-3 record over that span. Caldwell competes in the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference.
“Coach Johnson was at Tommy Tarulli’s camp at Diamond Nation,” said Pocceschi. “He’s watch me play in a few tournaments. He understands academics comes before sports.”
Caldwell, with a study body of 1,595, is similar in size to Pocceschi’s high school, North Hunterdon. While nestled in the bustling western suburbs of Essex County, Caldwell University draws nationally. The 2019 Caldwell roster boasted four players from California, one from Arizona, another from Chicago and four from Florida, as well as players from Delaware, New York and New Jersey.
“It’s on the smaller side and has a nice town right there,” said Pocceschi. “Everything you need is close by.”
Pocceschi has shown steady and tremendous growth the past three seasons while playing in two highly competitive softball environments; the Finch’s Aces program and North Hunterdon High School, which plays its games in the Skyland Conference. The Skyland Conference is a perennial statewide powerhouse in New Jersey.
Pocceschi has embraced the competition in both programs as well as the experience itself.
“It helps to play on two strong teams,” said Pocceschi. “It’s more than just the sport. It also helps you in life. You have to adjust to different people, new people everyday. You learn to work with people around you as you build chemistry.”
“Chloe is one of the unquestioned leaders of our team,” said North Hunterdon coach Anthony Rotondo. “After moving up to varsity late in her freshman year, she has been a starter and big time contributor the past two seasons and started all 30 games for our state championship team.”
Pocceschi batted .320 and drove in 14 runs as a sophomore in 2018 and was one of many critical ingredients to North Hunterdon’s drive to the NJSIAA Group 4 championship. The Lions followed that remarkable 2018 season with a North Jersey, Section 2, Group 4 championship in 2019 that few saw coming.
“We lost our best player, Maggie (Swan), so it was a little bit of a surprise,” said Pocceschi. “But we proved that (2018) team was more than just one player.” Swan was the Lions’ ace in 2018 and one of their top hitters before graduating and moving on to New York University. “Julie (Apsel) stepped up for us on the mound.”
Pocceschi also stepped up for North Hunterdon in 2019, batting .392 with 6 doubles, 2 home runs and 19 RBI. She also went 3-for-4 with 2 RBI in North Hunterdon’s 8-1 victory over Columbia in the sectional championship game.
“Chloe brings a maturity and work ethic that coaches look for in every player,” says Rotondo. “It has really been an honor to be her coach the last few years. She’s a great player and tremendous young lady overall.”
Pocceschi spent her summer fine tuning her game with the Finch’s Aces 18U Premier squad under the direction of coach Jackie Tarulli, the Aces Director of Player Development.
“Chloe is a leader by example,” says Tarulli. “She is always delivering on what is asked of her and she does a nice job helping younger players on the team.”
Pocceschi is enjoying her fall practices and tournaments with the Aces now with the summer and her college selection behind her.
“The summer went well,” she said. “We went pretty far and won some tough games and, as a team, grew together. Everything now is about getting better. There’s no pressure. I just want to focus on the little things and improve.”
Tarulli believes Caldwell has landed a gem in Pocceschi.
“Her clutch and very timely hitting, as well as her strong defense, will be invaluable to Caldwell’s program,” says Tarulli.