Mercer Baseball is now two wins away from the Junior College World Series after winning the Region 19 Championship 17-3 over rival Lackawanna on Sunday.
The Vikings begin the Super Regional Tournament today at home in West Windsor with two games against Region 20 Champion Cecil College of Maryland (34-22) who swept a doubleheader from ninth ranked Frederick College to advance .
Cecil is the last team standing between the Vikings and a trip to the Junior College World Series in Enid, Oklahoma next weekend, with their best-of-three series beginning today with Game 1 at 11 a.m. and Game 2 at 2 p.m. If a third game is necessary it would take place tomorrow with the time to be determined.
The region championship-clinching win came after an emotional loss to Lackawanna in 12 innings on Saturday 7-5 after Mercer took a 3-2 lead into the top of the 9th.
Head Coach Kevin Kerins talked about his team’s resilience, “I think it shows character,” Kerins said of the bounceback win, adding, “we lose an emotional championship game in extra innings and then come back and play our best game of year in the biggest spot.”
Mercer enters the Super Regions with confidence after the release of the ALL-Region team listed five Vikings players including first teamers Heath Fillmyer (sophomore), Ben Stine (sophomore), Dave Osnato (freshmen), and Joe Santospago (freshmen) with Eddie Ashley (freshmen) voted the second team.
Third year Head Coach Kevin Kerins was named Region 19 Coach of the Year.
Heath Fillmyer will start the first game today with Ben Stine starting Game 2.
Fillmyer, the ace of the Vikings pitching staff, won Region 19 Player of the Year after posting an 8-0 record with the best earned run average (ERA) in the nation at 0.69 with 73 strikeouts (Ks) in 52 innings pitched (IP).
Although Fillmyer is the clear no.1 starter, sophomore right-hander Ben Stine has played the role of 1.A. masterfully. Stine is 7-1 this year with a 2.34 ERA with 51 Ks and five complete games in 61.2 IP. Stine committed to D-1 Virginia Commonwealth University this week where he will play next season on an athletic scholarship.
The Vikings won two out of three regular season matchups against Cecil with Fillmyer and Stine earning the two victories in a doubleheader played on March 10. Fillmyer went five strong innings allowing only two hits while surrendering no runs with 8 Ks in a 12-0 Vikings win.
Stine matched Fillmyer’s strikeout and inning totals allowing five hits and one earned run in a 2-1 win. The future VCU Ram gave The VOICE his scouting report for today’s opponent, “This team likes to club it around the park so we have a big field and a great defense behind me so making them put the ball in play and no free passes are key,” Stine said.
Stine has better than a 2-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio this season with 23 walks. He told The VOICE he will continue to manage hitters by keeping his pitches on target, “Location is important and if you get a head on these guys and put them away you should be effective,” Stine said.
Coach Kevin Kerins is impressed by all the accolades his Vikings have earned this year, but he cautions that not all goals have been met, “I am very happy for our players and its nice to be acknowledged, however our focus is on getting to the world series,” Kerins said.
Freshmen Joe Santospago doesn’t want the series to make it to a third game, “We want to win both games today, “ Santospago said, adding “we really don’t want to let it go to tomorrow, but we are going to take it game by game.”
The Vikings continue to play well after losing their best offensive producer Dave Osnato to a broken finger in the regular season finale against Lackawanna. The freshman catcher hit .434 in 2014 with 6 home runs and 33 runs batted in. Kerins said of Osnato’s status, “Dave is most likely out for remainder of season, but he will be reevaluated on May 24.”
May 24 would be the day the JUCO World Series is slated to begin, weather permitting.
Freshmen Greg Santora has stepped up in Osnato’s place, providing solid defense behind the dish and he added an RBI at the plate in the championship win over Lackawanna.
With arguably the most talented roster top to bottom in school history the Vikings need all hands on deck today against Cecil.
Kerins stated that his team would not get wrapped up in personal recognition, “individual accolades are nice but we want our players to have the experience of competing in the biggest stage in JUCO baseball. That is our main focus.”