After suffering another disappointing loss in the Region 19 tournament last May to Lackawanna College 4-3, the Mercer Baseball program is continuing to stockpile talent.
With the team still hunting for it’s first region title since 2008, Coach Kevin Kerins and his staff have brought in over 20 new recruits to the college’s West Windsor Campus for the upcoming 2014 season.
“Recruiting is one of the most important parts of my job.” Kerins said, “you are always going to lose talent, it’s the coaching staff’s responsibility to get that talent back”.
In the 2014 recruiting class there are three All-State players expected to lend a large contribution to the pursuit of a Region 19 championship crown this spring.
The first of which is Dave Osnato, a catcher, who at Hamilton West set the all-time hits mark for a career with 144, passing former Vikings baseball coach Matt Wohlski’s 15-year old record. Osnato is expected to compete for the catching job this season.
Another All-State player and Hamilton West recruit is Brandon Kirk, an infielder who hit nine home runs in his senior year. Kirk is expected to fill in at shortstop.
The third All-State recruit is Eddie Ashley of Steinert High School. Ashley is expected to see some time in the outfield.
Returning Sophomore Heath Filmeyer (.270 Avg., 18 RBIs, and 25 runs scored in 2012) was drafted in the 28th round by the Colorado Rockies in this year’s Major League Baseball Amateur Draft, but did not sign his contract offer. He will be returning to Mercer for the 2014 campaign. Filmeyer played mostly at shortstop in 2013, but Coach Kevin Kerins expects to use him much more on the mound this season.
“Sometimes these kids don’t get the offer they are looking for,” Coach Kerins told the VOICE, “with Heath [Filmeyer] pitching more this season, his draft stock should improve”. Filmeyer features a fastball that reaches 93 MPH.
The Vikings also strengthened the pitching depth with Freshman lefties Zack Sharpe and Joe Burgund. Sharpe is a Bucks County native and Burgund comes to West Windsor from Staten Island.
These arms are expected to assist standout Ben Stine who finished last season with a 3.24 earned run average and has a fastball clocked by the coaching staff at 88MPH. “Ben is going to be our moose [workhorse] this season”, said Kerins, “he is a great kid, who works his ass off. Once he realizes who he can be, and who he is, and he takes the mound with that presence, I think doors are really going to open up for him.”
Jimmy Rice, an infielder from Immaculata High School in Bridgewater, turned down a D-1 scholarship from Wagner to study and play ball at Mercer. Kerins describes Rice as “a great kid, who I think is going to be a real nice player for us”.
Kerins told the VOICE, “with Heath [Filmeyer] getting more time on the mound this season I think he [Rice] will have an opportunity to grab that shortstop role and second base role”.
Another key returning player from 2013 is Mark Tomei, a newly minted Captain for the Vikings who had a .380 batting average in 2013. Coach Kerins told the Voice that Tomei is beginning to get some draft looks of his own.
The other new captain is Steven Todd, who is returning at first base. The Hunterdon County native is expected to provide good defense and a solid bat along with the leadership his title.
“All these players come from competitive high school programs”, Assistant Coach and Pennsylvania Recruiting Coordinator Fred Carella told the VOICE adding, “their presence will help create the atmosphere needed to make everyone better”.
The 2014 recruiting class has talent in spades, and the Vikings will need it to contend for a Region 19 title.