Sussex teammates key to Pacer’s diamond success


Eric Tomkins, Jason Aikens, Shaun Hynes, and Ryan Pelle pose for a photo before a game. The four men were previously teammates at Sussex County Community College along with Brandon Decker who is absent from the photo.

Shane Ostroski, Sports Co-Editor

The Marywood Baseball team has improved every season since Head Coach Jerry Davis took over the program in 2008. A large part of that success has come from a group of talented ballplayers from Sussex County Community College in New Jersey.

The “Sussex Five,” as they are known on the diamond, are Eric Tomkins, Jason Aikens, Brandon Decker, Ryan Pelle, and Shaun Hynes.  All ended up here at Marywood after experiencing success at Sussex.

“Sussex is a very good program.  When we were there we played a number of nationally-ranked teams and even beat a few of them,” said senior pitcher Jason Aikens.

Sussex County Community College offers mostly associate degrees, so when the “Sussex Five” all wanted to pursue their bachelor’s degrees, they had to transfer to a four-year school.

The Marywood connection all started with senior catcher Eric Tomkins, who decided to come to Marywood after a discussion with Sussex head coach, Todd Poltersdorf.

“I sat down with him and we started talking about possible colleges that I could transfer to. He mentioned that he knew the coach at Marywood and said that they play in a competitive conference. I did some research and decided that I was going to Marywood,” said Tomkins.

While Tomkins had his mind made up with where he was going to go, Aikens also decided his next stop. “I liked Alvernia. I visited the campus and saw the facilities and I felt comfortable there,” said Aikens.

But Coach Davis continued to call Aikens regularly, checking to see how his summer baseball leagues were going and talking about the program here at Marywood. Tomkins also continued talking up Marywood to Aikens and convinced him to take a trip with him to see the campus.

“We took the visit and I was impressed with the field and all the facilities here at Marywood. Alvernia had a large team and I knew I had more of an opportunity to immediately contribute at Marywood,” said Aikens.

After his trip to campus, his mind was made up; he was going to be a Pacer, too.

With Tomkins and Aikens in the fold, the next domino to fall was Brandon Decker. Decker was a talented outfielder at Sussex and after two seasons with the Eagles, transferred to Albertus Magnus in Connecticut.

“Albertus Magnus just wasn’t the right fit for me. I didn’t really know anyone and I wasn’t happy,” explained Decker.

Once the school year had ended at Albertus, Decker contacted Poltersdorf to discuss his future.

“I sat down with him and I told him I was looking for a new school.  He told me that since it was August it would be difficult for me to get any scholarships at the Division II level. I knew Eric and Jason were coming to Marywood, so I began to do some research and on the first day of classes last year, I registered,” said Decker.

It didn’t take Decker long to know he made the right choice. Once all the paperwork was signed to begin classes, he contacted housing and asked to be roomed with Tomkins and Aikens, but since the school year had already begun, he was told there was only one room available for him.

“When I walked into the room, Eric and Jason were sitting there; by coincidence my preferred rooming arrangements were made,” said Decker.

And that made three.

Ryan Pelle was not even thinking about baseball after his freshman year at Sussex. The left-handed pitcher suffered a serious arm injury and wasn’t sure if he would even play baseball again. During his sophomore season, Pelle had surgery and began rehabilitation, which allowed him to back into baseball form. Pelle stayed at Sussex for the 2011 fall semester to earn his associate’s degree.

And, when he finished, Pelle decided to join his former teammates at Marywood.  And that made four.

Shaun Hynes, like Aikens, admitted that Marywood was not his first choice. Hynes was all set to enroll at another university. “I had decided to go to SUNY Cobleskill, but they ended up getting rid of their baseball program so I began to look elsewhere,” said Hynes.

Hynes decided to call his former teammates and they offered the assurances he needed.

“All of them told me they liked Marywood and the guys on the team and I felt more comfortable going to a place where there were some familiar faces,” said Hynes.

And that is how the Sussex Five came to be.

On the field, the Sussex boys have been productive. Tomkins started 18 games at catcher for the Pacers, giving a familiar teammate to Aikens and Pelle. At the plate, Tompkins batted in 10 runners and scored 10 runs for the Pacers. Aikens started six games for the Pacers on the hill. He pitched 40 innings and accumulated 26 strikeouts, while finishing with one complete game. Decker started 17 games in the outfield and had a .259 batting average for the Pacers. Decker batted in six, while adding a home run in his senior season.

Pelle started eight games on the mound, compiling a 6-2 record. His 2.40 ERA ranked second on the team and he was named an Honorable Mention for the CSAC all-conference team.

Hynes joins the Pacers this season and should see valuable time in the outfield for the Pacers this season.

Senior pitcher, Josh Plisko, said it’s been a pleasure playing with the Sussex Five.

“I am glad that everything worked out and they all ended up here because they are not only great baseball players but great guys and I know they are working hard to get our team goals accomplished … It was meant to be that they are part of our team,” said Josh Plisko.