Armiger, Dajani, Ireland, Wright inducted

WYE MILLS – Chesapeake College inducted its 10th Athletic Hall of Fame class Thursday night with a quartet of newly minted legends.

Baseball players Justin Armiger and Brett Ireland, who were teammates on the 2005 team that finished fifth in the NJCAA Division II World Series, came into the Hall of Fame together as part of the foursome.  They were joined by Jordan Wright, who helped take the 2009 women’s softball team to the Division II World Series, and Mohamad Dajani, who led the 2009 men’s soccer team to the best winning percentage in program history.

Armiger played third base on the 2005 World Series team and holds Chesapeake’s career hits record (126) as well as season records set in 2005 for RBIs (57), runs (65) and hits (77).  He went on to earn NCAA Division III third-team all-American status at Salisbury University, where he was 2008 Capital Athletic Conference co-Player of the Year.

“He was probably one of the best clutch players we ever had,” said Chesapeake head baseball coach Frank Szymanski, recalling that Armiger nearly broke the World Series record for hitting in 2005.  “Justin was just a relentless competitor.”

The self-deprecating Armiger talked about a baseball career that culminated in the “big contract I signed with the Texarkana Gunslingers for $47.50 a week. . . . I think they left some zeroes off that contract.”

More seriously, he thanks his parents and siblings for always supporting his baseball career and noted his grandfather “knew I’d be a baseball player from the day I was born.”

Ireland, a North Caroline High graduate whose grand slam homer in the regional tournament opener started the 2005 baseball team on the road to the World Series, was named first-team all-Region XX and second team all-state in 2005.  He returned to the area to teach and coach at Colonel Richardson High, where he is currently athletic director and head boys’ soccer and girls’ softball coach.

Szymanski lauded Ireland as “a great player, person, student and teammate” and a person with “an impeccable work ethic.”  Szymanski noted Ireland “had a game plan – he wanted to coach, teach and be an athletic director” and he did what he needed to do to achieve those goals.

“Chesapeake helped me get where I am today,” said Ireland, who thanked his mother for foregoing summer vacations “because we were always playing ball” and his father for routinely pitching batting practice to help Ireland improve his skills.  He also praised Szymanski’s vision for that 2005 championship team.

“He said all you have to do is get to the regional Final Four and anything can happen – and he was right,” recalled Ireland.  “We got there, we won it, and we went to nationals.”

Wright led the Skipjacks to their first region softball title in 28 years in 2009, finishing fifth in the nation in hitting and earning National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) all-American honors in the process.  The North Dorchester High graduate went on to post a 14-4 record as a senior pitcher at Frostburg State University.

Chesapeake head softball coach Durrie Hayes praised Wright as “not only one of the best athletes I’ve had the honor to coach, but the best softball player I’ve ever coached. . . My dream would be to have a team of nine Jordans.”

Hayes recalled the first regional tournament game the Skipjacks played during the 2009 championship season when pitcher Jill Piasecki was hit with a line drive in the face that ended her season.  Hayes wasn’t sure how Wright – who preferred playing in the field to pitching – would react to replacing a pitcher “who just had four teeth knocked out on the mound.”

“I was looking for Jordan and I didn’t see Jordan in the dugout,” recalled Hayes.  “Then I saw she was already behind the dugout warming up to go out and pitch.  And she pitched us all the way to a region championship and the World Series.”

“I couldn’t have been happier during my two years at Chesapeake,” said Wright, who is now head softball coach at North Dorchester High.  “Chesapeake is truly a great place that holds so many wonderful memories for me.  And I want to thank my family for their unconditional love, support, and all of the money and time they spent to help me become the best player I could.”

Dajani finished second in the state in goals (16) and third in points (38) in 2009, earning first-team all-state and all-region honors along with being one of three Region XX nominees for all-American.  Chesapeake went 8-5-1 in 2009 – one of two winning men’s soccer seasons for the Skipjacks since 1993 – as the program rebounded from a winless season.

“Mohamad always had his priorities in order,” said Chesapeake head soccer coach Mark Dennis, who coached Dajani at Cambridge-South Dorchester High.  “He’s a person of values and commitment – someone I am proud to present for induction into the Hall of Fame.”

Dajani called the 2009 season “one of the highlights of my soccer career” and talked about the transformation that came over the team while going through a season that included a seven-game unbeaten streak.

“I’ll never forget the first day of practice – we didn’t like each other because we had played against each other in high school,” said Dajani, who noted those rivalries quickly dissolved.  “Each day our commitment to each other became stronger – we realized we needed each other, and we wanted to win.”

Dajani thanks his family for their unwavering support.

“My father’s work ethic is what drives me and my mother has always been my biggest supporter,” said Dajani, who also thanked his siblings for their support.

Chesapeake College President Dr. Barbara Viniar said this year’s inductees are great examples for the student athletes now coming through Chesapeake.  Looking to tables filled with current student athletes, Dr. Viniar said, “Look at tonight’s inductees – they are your role models.”

Notes:  Thursday’s induction dinner was sponsored by Medifast, a weight-loss company with a distribution center in Ridgely.