West Windsor, N.J. - The Mercer County Community College (MCCC) baseball team is rich with winning tradition. The last two seasons alone have seen the team post winning records—27-21-1 in 2018 and 48-14 in 2017—with the 2017 squad making it to the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Division 2 Championship game.
Thus, expectations for the 2019 season were quickly set at the Vikings’ annual First Pitch Dinner. As members of the team enjoyed pasta and meatballs, they listened to former Viking and professional pitcher James Pugliese and former MCCC baseball Coach Kevin Kerins, who provided inspiration for the coming season.
Pugliese, who was drafted by the Chicago Cubs in 2011 and advanced as high as their Double-A affiliate, the Tennessee Smokies, led the night with talk of physical and mental toughness. “As a former player here at Mercer, I know how grueling the season can be,” he said. “But being ready when your number is called is a battle you have to win every time.”
Kerins followed with a similar tone, albeit inviting the team to challenge itself to reach its former greatness. “Last year this team missed out on making it to the World Series,” Kerins recalled. “That should sting for every sophomore in here. This is your last chance to make history at Mercer.”
Though Kerins was at the helm the last time Mercer reached the NJCAA championship, he is confident that Mercer’s new coach is equipped to lead the team through 2019. Fred Carella, who has been with Mercer’s baseball team since 2003 as an assistant coach, was promoted to lead the program in July 2018.
Carella has served as assistant coach for Mercer teams that have earned six Region 19 titles, four Northeast District titles, and four trips to the NJCAA World Series. During that time eight Mercer players were named as NJCAA All-Americans, and six were chosen in the Major League Baseball Draft. In 2018, nine Viking baseball players were named to the Region 19 All-Academic Team.
Still, Carella isn’t basing his first season as Head Coach on past successes. Instead he looks to his current group of players to help turn 2019 into a season to remember. “We have seven captains this year—Domenic Boselli, Steve Gebre, Mark Saponara, Collin Sheehan, Dave Stec, Ronnie Voacolo and Trevor Wagner. They are a veteran group of sophomores who will be hungry to take the next step,” Carella said.
Carella pointed to Boselli as one of the team’s top all-around talents. Last season, Boselli connected on eight home runs as a freshman while posting a .323 batting average through 50 games.
Collin Sheehan was also on Carella’s shortlist of players to watch. Currently committed to Seton Hall University, Sheehan played 48 games as a catcher and first baseman for the Vikings last year. “He is one of our best overall players heading into 2019,” Carella said.
Ultimately, Carella is excited and ready to lead Mercer’s competitive baseball program. “I had a lot of responsibility coaching under Kerins. Coupled with this group of returning and new players, we’re ready for whatever challenges come our way,” Carella said.
After beginning the season with a pair of wins over University of Connecticut Avery Point, the Vikings will resume play on March 1 against Westchester (NY). Mercer Baseball will have its home opener on March 6 against Suffolk County Community College at 3:00pm.