Vikings Baseball Concludes Record Season With Trip to JUCO World Series
WEST WINDSOR – It was a record setting season for the Mercer County Community College (MCCC) baseball team, which posted an all-time high in wins for a Mercer ball club, taking their brand of baseball all the way to the semifinals of the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Division II World Series.
“This year’s team had great chemistry, toughness and was able to win games in a variety of ways with interchangeable parts,” said Head Coach Kevin Kerins. “That diversity was a big part of our success.”
In spite of numerous injuries and other setbacks, the Vikings squad steamrolled through its Region 19 schedule, finishing with a perfect 14-0 record in conference play. At one point the team strung together 19 consecutive wins en route to a 51-10 record, finishing the season with a no. 2 national ranking and entered the Region 19 Tournament as the no. 1 seed. The Vikings swept through the tournament, defeating Valley Forge, 8-4, and Morris County twice, 8-4 and 9-1 in the double-elimination contest.
In the Northeast District Tournament, Mercer crushed CCBC-Essex in a double-header, 7-1 and 25-8.
“I’m extremely proud of this group because of their unselfishness and ability to respond to adversity, and also success,” Kerins said. “We had a variety of injuries and obstacles, and they were able to respond to anything negative, as well as positive, throughout the year.”
|Members of the Vikings baseball team in Enid, Okla., for the College World Series, with the local Little League team members who served as hosts.
|The MCCC baseball team celebrates after winning the Northeast District Championship May 20.
In the NJCAA Division II World Series in Enid, Okla., the Vikings breezed through the first two rounds of the 10-team double-elimination tournament, defeating Brunswick (N.C.) and Western Oklahoma by scores of 4-3 and 8-5, respectively. Mercer would face Western Oklahoma a second time, in the fourth round, and walked away with a 5-4 victory.
But Sinclair would prove to be the undoing of the Mercer club, losing to the Ohio team 8-12 in a soggy contest with multiple rain delays, and again in the semifinals – one game away from the championship round – by a score of 1-11.
Vikings pitcher Andrew DiPiazza was a perfect 2-0 in World Series competition, and was named Pitcher of the Tournament and to the All-Tournament Team. The right-hander finished the season with a 12-1 record and a 1.50 earned run average, averaging nearly 12 strikeouts per game. He ranked second in the nation in wins, 10th in innings pitched, fourth in strikeouts, and fifth in ERA. He was named Region 19 and Garden State Athletic Conference (GSAC) Pitcher of the Year, and a first-team All-American.
DiPiazza was also selected in the 39th round of the Major League Baseball Amateur Draft by the San Francisco Giants, the fourth consecutive year a Mercer player has been drafted by a professional team.
Joining DiPiazza on the All-American squad is teammate Anthony Boselli, who was named to the third team as an outfielder. Boselli posted a .356 batting average and led the team with 52 runs batted in, tallying six home runs as part of 27 extra base hits.
In addition, MCCC Vikings comprise nearly half of the NJCAA Division II All-Region 19 team. Joining DiPiazza and Boselli is pitcher Zach Gakeler, catcher Robert Boselli, and infielder Vincent Vaccone. Infielder Austin Constantini was named to the second team. All six were also named to the GSAC Division II First Team, making up more than half of the 11-man roster. Kerins was named Region 19 Coach of the Year for the fourth consecutive season.
Considering that this year’s team was comprised of 21 freshmen – more than two-thirds of the squad – Kerins said that next year’s ball club should be in a good position to defend its regional and district championships, and make another run at the World Series.
“This year was a great run. Our team was young and they got a taste of playoff baseball, and are now playoff tested,” Kerins said. “We are expecting them to keep working hard and try to make another run next season.”
Kerins was assisted by coaches Fred Carella, Shawn Reindel, Russ Stupienski, and Matt Zegari.
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