After falling short of the region 19 championship last season, the Mercer Baseball team is returning a lot of talent to and make another run this season. Kevin Kerins’s Vikings had five players listed in Collegiate Baseball Newspaper’s Top 100 Junior College Players in the nation.
The list includes Captain Heath Fillmyer. A sophomore and criminal justice major was drafted in the 28th round of the MLB Amateur Draft last year and chose to return to school to improve his draft stock by enhancing his skill set.
Fillmyer split time last season between shortstop and the mound, but this season he will spend less time on the infield so he can focus on pitching. Kerins told The VOICE, “We expect Heath to lead us on the bump, at the dish as a DH, and off the field.”
Fillmyer, a 6’1 190lb righty, hit 95 MPH on the radar gun with his fastball when he worked out for scouts at the Vikings annual Scout Day last summer. According to his coach, “he has interest from every Major League team.”
Another notable player on the list is Mark Tomei, a Sophomore outfielder, Captain and liberal arts major, who returns for the 2014 season off a career year in 2013. Tomei at 5’8 175 lbs showed off his speed last season swiping 16 bases, good enough for fifth in the region. Tomei also hit .379 and had an on base percentage of .432.
Kerin’s said of his Captain, “Mark was huge for us hitting in the 3 spot last year. We expect him to have another big season leading off this year.”
The other three players who made the list are right-handed pitcher and Captain Ben Stine, right-handed pitcher Joe DiGiovanni, and Catcher Andrew Immordino. Immordino has left the team for personal reasons and is “no longer a part of our program unfortunately,” said Kerins.
Stine, listed at 6’3 and 215 lbs., has gained 15 lbs of muscle and grown nearly two inches since arriving at MCCC in the fall of 2012. “Doctors told me I was a late bloomer,” Stine told THE VOICE, “Coming out of high school I was 6’2, maxing out (his fastball) at about 80MPH, now I’m 6’3 and a half, topping out at 89MPH,” he said.
In 2013 Stine started 8 games with a won/lost record of 4-3, striking out 22 hitters in 45 innings pitched, posting an even 3.00 ERA. The sophomore Captain expects big things from his team this year saying, “this is the most talented team I have ever been a part of,” adding “we want to play it one game at a time, but there’s no question we want to make it to Oklahoma,” the site of the Div. II World Series.
Stine has received offers from Div. I schools including George Washington, Rider, and University of Alabama-Birmingham, in addition to Westchester, Div. III national champ in 2012, and University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
DiGiovanni, or “Big J” as he’s known to his teammates, is a “power pitcher” according to Stine, attacking hitters with his fastball. DiGiovanni explodes off the rubber aided by his low-center of gravity, packing 235lbs into his 6 foot frame, uncoiling every ounce as he moves toward home plate.
5-0 last year for the Vikes, DiGiovanni appeared in 12 games in 2013, starting 7 of those, with a 2.23 ERA that ranked in the top 60 in the nation. The sophomore Communications major throws in the upper 80s and is expected to be slotted toward the top of the starting rotation this season according to the Vikings coaching staff.
“Joe has big game experience,” his skipper told The VOICE, referring to DiGiovanni pitching in the Region 19 tournament last season, “he has proven he can handle pressure situations well,” Kerins said.