Kerins took over as interim head coach after the departure of Matt Wolski in January 2012. He notes he is very pleased with his new recruits.
“Recruiting is an important part of the process for any baseball program. When incoming players have a comfort level with the coach, it causes less distractions for the returning players and the team as a whole,” 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 Dan Denton, also a Liberal Arts major, are expected 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 first 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.”
The Vikings have three other key returning players in 2013: center fielder Steve Spadifino, pitcher Paul Piromalli and weekend starter Matt Owle.
Coach Kerins is also anticipating major contributions from four first-year players. Center fieler
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.”
Spadifino also subscribes to building chemistry on and 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,” he said.
Hamilton West Higih School grad Pitcher Paul Piromalli, a Liberal Arts major, is the team’s captain. According to Kerins, the lanky left-hander will be toward the top of the Vikings’ starting rotation. In 2012 Piromalli had 55 strikeouts in 64 innings while earning a 6-3 record. At 6’9” he is the tallest pitcher in the region, according to official Region XIX rosters, and he uses his height as an advantage to keep hitters off balance.
“Piromalli has a fastball that is clocked from 83-87 mph. He works aggressively in the strike zone and he uses three pitches to get outs,” Kerins said.
“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. It gives me a little more of an edge on hitters who are used to facing pitchers of average height,” Piromalli said.
Piromalli’s outpitch 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 who graduated from Nottingham High, returns after a strong 2012 season. Owle led the region in earned run average with 2.28 ERA during the regular season; 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 he relies on his change-up as his outpitch.
“Matt has one of the best change-ups I have seen in my eight 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 first baseman Steve Todd, an Exercise Science major who transferred from East Stroudsburg, and pitcher Ben Stine, also an Exercise Science major, who hails from North Hunterdon Regional High School and throws three pitches, but uses a sharp 12 to 6 curveball as his outpitch.
Playing in the cool Northeast climate has not affected the Vikings training schedule, according to Coach Kerins.
“We utilize what we have at our disposal, whether we are indoors, on turf, in the pool, or in the weight room. Our intense fall schedule allows us to acclimate players to the weather conditions so that by the time January rolls around the team is used to playing in cold temperatures. They have also learned to balance athletics with their studies.”
With his confidence in his team mounting, Kerins clearly believes in this Vikings squad. ”We have brought in a lot of talented kids this season. Adding them to an already strong lineup should help us take it to the next level and hopefully recapture the Region XIX title.”
The Vikings started off the season with a 2-0 win over Cecil (MD). They will play seven straight home games from Feb. 28 through March 10. The full schedule is available here.
Note: College VOICE reporter Kevin Cox was a major contributor to this article. Cox is also the sports anchor for MCTV News.
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