Georgia Highlands College is welcoming two new coaches to head the Chargers new baseball and softball programs, which will be headquartered at the Cartersville campus.
At a Thursday press conference, Athletic Director Phil Gaffney introduced men's baseball coach Mike Marra and women’s softball coach Melissa Wood. Both say they expect their teams to play to win in every game, including the first season.
During this academic year, they'll recruit players for the first competitive team, which will begin competitive play in the spring of 2014.
Georgia Highlands College Athletics Director Phil Gaffney has named Mike Marra as men’s baseball coach. Marra comes to GHC from New York State, where he taught physical education for 22 years and coached for 12 in a high-school environment. Most recently, he coached baseball at Sullivan County Community College in New York, where he resurrected the college’s baseball program, which had not fielded a team since 1986.
In creating that program he outlined a three-year plan for success. In the program’s second year the college’s team reached the National Junior College Athletic Association Region XV Final Four, then won the NJCAA Region XV championship the following year. Marra also served as assistant director of athletics and as an adjunct instructor in the physical education department at Sullivan County Community College.
While coaching high-school teams, Marra was named the 2004 American Baseball Coaches Association Region I High-School Baseball Coach of the Year. He was named coach of the year three times by the Kingston Daily Freeman and once by the Times Herald Middletown Record. He was also recognized by his peers as the as the American Baseball Coaches Association NJCAA Region XV Baseball Coach of the Year in 2008.
The GHC team will also be part of the NJCAA as well as the Georgia Collegiate Athletic Association.
Marra holds a Master of Education from the State University of New York at Cortland and a Bachelor of Science in physical education from SUNY Brockport. He and his wife Ann will reside in Cartersville.
Georgia Highlands College has appointed native Georgian Melissa Wood as women’s softball coach. She comes to GHC from North Idaho College, where she served as assistant softball coach and physical education instructor. While there, she helped the team break the home run record with 79 in one season. She also coached four National Junior College Athletic Association all-conference team members and a NJCAA all-region team member.
Before going to Idaho, she coached as a graduate assistant softball coach and assisted with intramural experiences at Berry College while she was earning her Master of Education degree. Despite her challenging schedule, she graduated with honors from Berry. She also helped build the Viking team from the ground up for its inaugural season in 2009. By its second year, Berry’s team had its first winning season, improving in a number of statistical categories, including batting average, slugging percentage, on-base percentage, fielding percentage, walks and stolen bases.
She began her college career in 2004 playing for the Florida State University team, where she was a two-year starting catcher for the Top 25-ranked Seminoles. She was ranked in the top seven in the Atlantic Coast Conference in seven different offensive categories during league games. She tallied five game-winning hits and threw out 11 attempted base stealers in route to a Super Regional runner-up finish against Arizona State and a Number 15 final ranking in NCAA Division One.
After her sophomore year, Wood transferred to the University of Georgia, where she played for two seasons with the Bulldogs as a catcher and first baseman. She led the team in RBIs in 2007 (46) and home runs in 2008 (11). She was awarded the UGA Defensive Player of the Year in 2008. That same year she earned her Bachelor of Science in sociology from the institution.
After graduation in 2008, she played professional softball in Austria for the Dornbirn Sharx when that team won the Gold Medal in the Austrian League and the Silver Medal at the European Championships in Prague. She was named Most Valuable Player at the European Cup after starting in all 10 games. The next year she returned to defend the Gold Medal in Austria and take the Gold Medal at the European Cup in Legnano, Italy.
Wood will build the GHC women’s softball team from the ground up for a competitive start in Cartersville for the 2013-2014 academic year. She will also coordinate the institution’s intramural sports.