West Windsor, N.J. - Mercer County Community College (MCCC) baseball Head Coach Fred Carella had his hands full to start the season. After Kevin Kerins stepped down from the role after seven seasons, Carella was appointed to lead the Vikings.
To say Carella had big shoes to fill would be an understatement. Kerins, led the Vikings to four National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Region 19 titles and three NJCAA Division II World Series while helping his players win a trove of individual awards.
Still, Carella was well prepared, having served as an assistant coach for the Vikings since 2003. The Vikings were every bit as driven this year as they were in seasons under Kerins. A 3-1 start gave way to eight straight wins at the Cal Ripkin Experience tournament in Myrtle Beach in March.
That success continued when the Vikings entered Region 19 competition. Mercer went 11-3 against teams in the region, earning them the second seed and a bye in the first round of the region tournament.
“We needed to win double-headers on consecutive days to secure that seed,” Carella said. “We traveled two-and-a-half hours to play Delaware Tech on Saturday [April 27], winning 6-2 and 10-6, and then drove two more hours on Sunday to play Sussex County where we won 7-2 and 7-0.” Carella praised the team’s hustle and determination that weekend, calling it the best moment of the season.
In the Mercer-hosted Region 19 Tournament, the Vikings showed similar levels of fortitude. After dropping the first game to third-seeded Lackawanna College 6-3, Mercer fought back, toppling Rowan College at Burlington 1-0 and Morris County 8-6 to earn a trip to the title game.
Though the Vikings fell in the championship rematch against Lackawanna, the team’s efforts earned regional and national praise. Five Vikings earned All-Region 19 Team nods: outfielder Domenic Boselli, infielder Aaron McLaughlin and catcher Collin Sheehan made the first team while infielder Nick Mancuso and pitcher Trevor Wagner landed on the second team.
Six Vikings also placed on the Garden State Athletic All-Conference (GSAC) team: Boselli, Mancuso, McLaughlin and Sheehan made the first team while Wagner and pitcher Ronnie Voacolo were chosen for the second team.
Even more players qualified for the GSAC or Region 19 All-Academic Teams: Beau Breithaupt, Brian Chaballa, Christopher Cote, Alexarmando Diaz, Brian Edgington, Steven Gebre, Samuel Irvin, Andrew Mormile, Mark Saponara, Jared Schram, Collin Sheehan, Matthew Shenot, David Stec and Ryder Tallent.
“Our players deserve a lot of credit,” Carella said. “It’s not easy to compete on the field and work hard in the classroom, but our guys are great examples of what Mercer expects from student athletes.”
Topping off the 36-16 season was Boselli’s selection to the NJCAA Division II All-American team. Originally from Ventnor City, Boselli is the 19th baseball All-American in Mercer history. Boselli’s selection comes three years after his brother Anthony earned the same distinction.
Additionally, for Boselli and some of his graduating teammates, Mercer is only the beginning of their baseball careers. Fourteen players have committed to playing at four-year institutions, including six who earned athletic scholarships: Boselli (George Washington University), Diaz (University of Rhode Island), Edgington (Elon University), Mark Saponara (Manhattan College), Collin Sheehan (Seton Hall University), and Voacolo (Faulkner University).
“I enjoyed my first season in charge,” Carella said, adding that the team picked up where it left off in 2018. “It was a challenge having added responsibility in terms of off the field responsibility – scheduling, helping players graduate and transfer, those sorts of things. But I welcomed all of it.”
That said, Carella isn’t settling for anything less than a trip back to the NJCAA World Series. “Ultimately, we did not accomplish what we wanted to, which was extremely disappointing. But you can bet I’m looking forward to getting back to work in the fall and helping Mercer back to Oklahoma for the World Series.”
Carella was assisted by David Brown, Phil Hawkes and Matt Zegari.