With the smell of the spring air and the first flowers of the spring almost upon us, the Mercer Baseball team already has the bats cracking and the mitts popping in West Windsor as they prepare for the 2013 campaign.
After being defeated in consecutive Region XIX Championship games, the Vikings look to overcome their past this season.
In his first full year as Head Coach, Kevin Kerins says he believes that team chemistry is a key to a successful season in 2013: “Working out in the offseason and playing together in fall ball brings the team closer together and we think that will translate to wins on the field.”
Kerins took over as interim Head Coach after the departure of Matt Wolski in January 2012. He told The VOICE he is very pleased with his new recruits.
“Recruiting is an important part of the process for any baseball program and for incoming players to have a comfort level with one coach without having to deal with any transitions causes less distractions for the team,” Kerins said.
One of those recruits is standout Mark Tomei, a Freshman outfielder and Liberal Arts major,who was a high school All-American in South Plainfield and the Middlesex County Player of the Year.
Tomei, along with returning sophomore Liberal Arts major Dan Denton, are intended to fortify the middle of the lineup.
Denton, an outfielder and Council Rock alum, batted .344 in 2012 with 24 runs batted in and 14 doubles while earning 1st team ALL-PSAC honors.
“I expect the team to continue to work hard to achieve our goal of winning a Region XIX Championship,” Denton said, adding: “I’m willing to do whatever I can to help the team improve.”
Mercer Baseball has three other key returning players in 2013: center fielder Steve Spadifino, pitcher Paul Piromalli and weekend starter Matt Owleand. Coach Kerins is also expecting contributions from four first-year players.
Steve Spadifino is expected to provide strong defense up the middle. Spadifino says, “My speed is my best attribute. It helps me track the baseball and get good jumps on balls off the bat”.
The Vikings center fielder also believes in building chemistry on an off the diamond, “Team chemistry is important because it creates a level of trust between players. The training and practice schedule Coach has put together keeps us all on the same page,” Spadifino said.
Pitcher Paul Piromalli, the Captain is a Liberal Arts major and graduate of Hamilton West. Piromalli is a lanky left-hander who will Kerins indicates will be toward the top of the Vikings’ starting rotation. In 2012 Piromalli had 55 strikeouts in 64 innings while staking a 6-3 record.
Piromalli has an above average fastball that is clocked from 83-87 MPH; he works aggressively in the strike zone and he uses three pitches to get outs.
At 6’9” Piromalli is the tallest in the region according to official Region XIX rosters and he uses his height as an advantage to keep hitters off balance.
“With the downward plane on the ball when it leaves my hand hitters are not used to seeing pitches come in from that sort of angle so it gives me a little more of an edge on hitters who are used to facing pitchers of average height” Piromalli said.
Piromalli’s out pitch is his fastball because, he says, “It’s the first pitch you learn and one you must rely on to get outs.”
Weekend starter Matt Owle, a Business major from Nottingham High, is back off his strong 2012 season. Owle led the region in earned run average with 2.28 ERA during the regular season and he led the Vikings in wins posting a 6-1 record with just 17 walks in 59 innings.
Owle’s fastball fluctuates from 80-84 MPH, but it is his changeup that he relies on as his outpitch.
“Matt has one of the best changeups I have seen in my 8 years at Mercer,” Coach Kerins said, “It’s like he is throwing a wiffle-ball”.
Newcomer Heath Filmeyer, a Criminal Justice major, will split time between shortstop and the mound where his fastball reaches 93 MPH.
Other newcomers include Exercise Science major and first baseman Steve Todd, a transfer from East Stroudsburg, and Ben Stine, also an Exercise Science major and a pitcher from North Hunterdon, who throws three pitches, but uses a sharp 12 to 6 curveball as his outpitch.
Playing in the climate weather in the Northeast has not affected the Vikings training schedule according to Coach Kerins.
He says, “We utilize what we have at our disposal be it indoors, turf, pool, or weight room and study hall. Our intense fall schedule allows us to acclimate the players to the weather conditions so that by the time January rolls around the team can balance the rigors of college athletics with their studies.”
Kerins has confidence in his team and he has the Vikings poised to take the next step to win a Region XIX Championship, saying, ”We have brought in a lot of talented kids this season,” Coach Kerins says, adding, “having the benefit of the players knowing only one coach has helped to develop a level of continuity.”