For three consecutive seasons Mercer has reached the Region XIX Championship tournament, only to be defeated by Lackawanna College, derailing Vikings rosters filled with top-notch talent and long resumes
Despite a student body of only 1,500 students, Lackawanna College’s Falcons baseball team has been a perennial region championship contender for the last seven seasons. Mercer County Community College’s student body by contrast sometimes reaches over 10,000 students.
It began in 2011 when Lackawanna defeated Mercer in the Region XIX Championship game 3-0, then in 2012 Lackawanna triumphed again with a 4-3 victory. In 2013 the Vikings swept a doubleheader over the Falcons which propelled them to being ranked twelfth in the nation. Lackawanna bounced back, knocking off the #1 seeded Vikings when they later met in the region final four by a score of 6-5.
That will not be the case this season according to Sophomore Captain Mark Tomei. In an interview with The VOICE the speedy centerfielder said, “I feel 100 percent confident we will beat them every time we play.”
Tomei, a liberal arts major, is a “top returning player” for the Vikings in 2013 according to his Head Coach. Tomei batted .379 with an OBP of .432, and finished 5th in the conference in stolen bases swiping 16.
“I’m hoping to steal 35-40 bases this year,” Tomei said, “I feel that I can hit those numbers.” At the Vikings annual scout day the 5’8 sophomore was clocked at 6.7 seconds in the 60 yard dash, which according to 3rd year Coach Kevin Kerins is “lightning quick.”
To draw a more familiar comparison, the 40 yard dash is a common measurable in football and Tomei’s adjusted 40 time would be 4.46. In other words, if he ran the 40 at this year’s NFL Combine in Indianapolis his time would have ranked in the top 30 players who ran, and one hundredth of a second faster than the highly touted Jadeveon Clowney according to NFL.com.
The Vikings have started off this season 2-0 after sweeping a doubleheader at Harford Community College in Bel Air, MD 2-0 and 5-1 respectively. Sophomore Pitcher and criminal justice major Heath Fillmyer had a strong first start of the year surrendering no runs and striking out three with one walk over three innings.
Like Tomei, Fillmyer turned heads at the Vikings Scout Day with his speed, the 19 year old’s fastball was clocked at 95 MPH.
After turning down a contract offer from the Colorado Rockies who drafted the sophomore in the 28th round of the 2013 MLB Amatuer Draft, Fillmyer returned to Mercer to focus more on pitching. In 2013, the 6’1 right-hander split time between the bump and shortstop, this year he will either be pitching or showing his ability at the plate in a designated hitter role.
Coach Kerins is “extremely excited” about his team for the 2014 campaign, he told The VOICE “this year is our most talented group since I have been here.” The Vikings skipper was an assistant for six years prior to taking over for Matt Wohlski in the middle of the 2012 season.
Kerins did not circle a Region XIX championship as his goal for this season, he has a bigger goal in mind.
“I expect us to play well under pressure.” Kerins said of his team.