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Former MCCC Pitchers Finding Success in Professional Baseball


James Pugliese

Former Vikings pitcher James Pugliese, now with the Tennessee Smokies in the Chicago Cubs minor-league system, is 6-2 thus far in the 2017 season with a 0.87 ERA (Photo by Ken Inness/

Heath Fillmyer

Heath Fillmyer, who earned national Pitcher of the Year Honors while at Mercer, is 5-3 with a 3.41 ERA as a starter for the Midland RockHounds, the Double-A affiliate of the Oakland Athletics (Photo by Matthew Barnett).

WEST WINDSOR – After finding success as starting pitchers for the Mercer County Community College (MCCC) Vikings baseball team, two former Mercer hurlers are blazing a path through minor league baseball as key contributors to two Double-A affiliates of Major League Baseball (MLB) clubs.

James Pugliese, a member of the Vikings 2011 squad, and Heath Fillmyer, a pitcher for the 2014 Mercer team, are catching the attention of their respective parent clubs at the halfway mark of the minor league season. Pugliese was an 18th round selection by the Chicago Cubs and now plays for the club’s Double-A Tennessee Smokies; Fillmyer was taken in the fifth round by the Oakland A’s and now starts for the team’s Double-A club, the Midland RockHounds.

“Watching all our recently drafted players develop and compete in the Minor Leagues is something very, very special,” said MCCC Head Coach Kevin Kerins. “To watch these young men continue to grow and develop and pursue their lifelong dream is the reason our coaches coach.”

Fillmyer is in his first season starting at the Double-A level, where he is 5-3 with a 3.41 ERA over 89.2 innings with 65 strikeouts. He is ranked as the no. 12 prospect in the Oakland system by MLB Pipeline. Fillmyer earned his spot on the Midland roster after a late-season call-up from Single-A ball last year. In eight starts in 2016, Fillmyer was 2-0 with a 2.54 ERA for the RockHounds.

In Fillmyer’s sophomore season at Mercer, he went 9-0 with a 0.68 ERA and 94 strikeouts in 66 innings. The Vikings reached the NJCAA Division II World Series that season and Fillmyer earned First-Team All-American honors, in addition to being named the NJCAA Division II Pitcher of the Year and the Region 19 Player of the Year.

Fillmyer has been throwing very well this season for the RockHounds, including an impressive 6-0 victory June 23 against the South Division leader, the San Antonio Missions. In the win, Fillmyer struck out seven in 7.1 innings, allowing just three hits and two walks. In his last three starts, Fillmyer is 2-0 with a 0.47 ERA, allowing just one earned run and striking out 17.

Meanwhile on the other side of the country, Pugliese is 6-2 with a 0.87 ERA and 37 strikeouts in 51.2 innings with the Smokies. Last year Pugliese spent the season with Myrtle Beach Pelicans – the Cubs Single-A affiliate – and contributed to the team’s second consecutive Carolina League Championship. In the championship game, Pugliese struck out seven in 4.1 innings as the Pelicans beat the Lynchburg Hillcats, 5-3.

In 2013, Pugliese earned a spot on the South Division All-Star team for the Northwest League as a member of the Boise Hawks, the Cubs’ Short Season team. In that same summer, Pugliese also earned Northwest Pitcher of the Week Honors in July.

In a June 25 outing, Pugliese combined with two other Smokies relievers for five shutout innings in a 2-1 win over Mobile, snapping the team's six-game losing streak.

While at Mercer, Pugliese was named an NJCAA All-American and the Region 19 Player of the Year in 2011.

“Pugs and Heath have paved the way and set the standard for future Vikes,” Kerins said. “We very much appreciate how the two of them have successfully represented our program, and how they continue to develop relationships with our players.”



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