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Baseball Team Has Unforgettable Season Capped by Appearance in NJCAA World Series


West Windsor, N.J. – Getting to the 2014 NJCAA Division II World Series in Enid, OK, was a thrilling accomplishment for the Mercer County Community College baseball team. It's a trip the Vikings have not made since 2003.  And, the team’s 40-8 final record is the best in MCCC baseball history.

So, while getting eliminated in their third game of the double-elimination tournament hurt deeply, this season and these players will enter the MCCC record books with well-deserved accolades. 

According to Head Coach Kevin Kerins, the Vikings’ amazing season was capped off by a stellar time in Oklahoma. “The World Series was an extraordinary experience for our players.  The fanfare and exposure to other schools from across the country were unmatched,” Kerins says. All the games were streamed live from the NJCAA TV website, allowing fans back home to watch the action.

The MCCC baseball team at the World Series in Enid, OK.

Photo by Susan Glasgow.

MCCC Athletics Director John Simone, who accompanied the team on the trip, says the entire community of Enid made the Vikings players and staff feel welcome.  “We were greeted by a group of volunteer hosts who were all wearing MCCC tee shirts,” he said.  “They helped us get around town and opened their facilities to us.”  Kerins recalled the opening ceremonies for the tournament's 10 teams that included a banquet dinner and laser light show.

Kerins’ belief in his team is unwavering.  “Though our goal was to win our final game in the national championship, this year’s team accomplished so much – setting a school record for the number of wins and earning a no. 2 ranking nationally.  They learned how to deal with the pressure of Major League and four-year college scouts coming to every home game.”

Kerins also believes the 2014 squad has established a stepping stone for excellence that will help the Vikings build towards a national championship in the future.

The team included stellar pitching by Heath Fillmyer and Ben Stine and a roster full of other talented players. Catcher Dave Osnato, who sustained a season-ending injury two weeks before the end of the regular season, was selected to the NJCAA Team USA squad at the National Baseball Congress World Series in Kansas this summer. Fillmyer and Osnato were named First Team All-Americans.

The post-season excitement began to build with the Region 19 double-elimination tournament. For the second straight season, MCCC entered the tournament as the top seed, followed by Lackawanna College, the region’s winner for the past five years.  (In 2013, the Vikes dropped two straight games after having leads in both.)

Going into the regional tournament, the team was hitting a remarkable .351, with eight players batting over .300 and two over .400: Joe Santospago (.421), Eddie Ashley (.392), Mark Tomei (.354), Brandon Kirk (.342), James Rice (.333), Fillmyer (.321) and Steven Todd (.313). Greg Santora took over behind the mound for the injured Osnato.

Kerins says that his players, especially the sophomores, were acutely aware of last year’s early exit and had no plans for a repeat.  “We took nothing for granted as we prepared physically and mentally for the tournament,” he said.

Still, there was plenty of drama as the Vikings clinched the title. The Vikings lost their first game against Lackawanna 7-5 in 12 innings on May 10, and then came back the following day to trounce the defending champs 17-3.  Freshman pitcher Matt Gall was named the tournament MVP after striking out seven players in eight innings in the deciding game.  Kerins was named Region 19 Coach of the Year.

The Vikings headed into the District championship with a 37-5 record.  It was a best-of-three tournament, but the Viking needed only two games to earn their place at the World Series.  With more than 20 Major League scouts watching, Fillmyer skillfully pitched a 1-0 shutout in the opener, followed by a great pitching performance from Stine for a 3-2 win in the second game.

The Vikings entered the World Series on May 25 hitting .337 as a team (ninth in the nation).  In their opener, they lost a tough contest to Pasco-Hernando (Fla.) 3-2 in 10 innings.  They got back on track with a 5-2 win against Vincennes University on May 27.  Then, on May 28, they once again played Pasco-Hernando, which had a great day of baseball, while the Vikings did not.   Pasco-Hernando got out ahead early and the Vikings were never able to establish a rhythm, going down 13-3.

“There were great teams from across the country,” Kerins says of their competition at the World Series.  “It comes down to who can play the best baseball on the national stage.”

But Kerins says nothing can take away from the magic created by this year’s squad.  “They have made us all -- their coaches and their college -- so proud of them.”

Click here for game recaps.

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