2010 Season Preview: MCCC Baseball


WEST WINDSOR, N.J. - There's value in 6 a.m. practices on a Saturday morning. And, as Mercer County Community College baseball players learn, it extends way beyond throwing strikes, hitting pitches and fielding grounders.

"I demand a lot," Vikings fifth-year head coach Matt Wolski says, "and when they start to demand nearly as much of themselves as I do, then it becomes easy."

That is the team identity Wolski seeks as MCCC prepares for the 2010 season.

The Vikings, who finished 27-15 in 2009, already have a focus - pitching. "Our arms are going to carry us," says Wolski, though he wouldn't mind if his offense tries to catch up.

Baseball players helped out at the NJCAA soccer
tournament, held at Mercer in November. Seated, left to right,
are Luis Alvarez, Anthony Gambino, James Page,
and Matt Hill. Standing, left to right, are Steve Giambrone
(who transferred to Kean Uni.) and Shawn Reindel.

Sophomore right-handers James Page (Lawrenceville, N.J.) and Russ Stupienski (Mansfield, N.J.) have each signed a National Letter of Intent with Saint Peter's College for the fall. The strapping 6'4" Page fronts MCCC's rotation and Stupienski is at the back end as the team's closer. In addition, freshman right-hander Brian Sigle (West Windsor, N.J.) joins the roster from nearby West Windsor-Plainsboro North, and sophomore right-hander Shawn Reindel (Ringoes, N.J.) returns after missing the 2009 season because of surgery. As a freshman in 2008, Reindel went 5-1 and started an elimination game for MCCC when it won the Region XIX Tournament.

"He understands what to expect," Wolski says of his set-up reliever. "It's nice to have that. It's different at this level to have guys for three years. You don't usually get that. Usually they're gone before they even get it. Half of the kids call him a coach."

The lineup will feature a number of freshmen, but two sophomores could fuel the offense. Last season, third baseman Matt Hill (Robbinsville, N.J.) batted .369 with 24 RBIs. He will hit out of the No. 2 hole, right in front of Stupienski, who as a freshman batted .304 with two home runs, 21 RBIs and a .440 on-base percentage. Stupienski will be the regular designated hitter.

The sophomore class includes shortstop James Lauer (Hamilton, N.J.) and left fielder Brandon Martin (Hamilton, N.J.). Freshman Blake Yong-Park (Neptune, N.J.) steps in as an all-around catcher. His classmates include first baseman Joe Leone (Hamilton, N.J.), second baseman Ryan Brydzinski (Hamilton, N.J.), right fielder Luis Alvarez (Hamilton, N.J.) and center fielder Franklin Armstrong (Trenton, N.J.). Sophomore Matt Crank (Howell, N.J.), a catcher and outfielder, adds a key lefty bat to the lineup.

"It's going to be scrappy, it's going to be small ball, which I'm all for anyway," Wolski says. "The way I look at it, you put the other teams in bad situations and a lot of times you come out on top. It's worked in the past."

Wolski has put together another excellent schedule for the Vikings, whose home opener is set for March 3 against Rutgers-Newark. In mid-March, the Vikings will return to the Myrtle Beach (S.C.) Invitational, where last year they pushed Parkland College (Ill.), the eventual National Junior College Athletic Association Division II World Series champion, to 10 innings in a scheduled seven-inning game. All of the regular season games lead up to the Region XIX Tournament, which begins May 8.

"I'd rather see us lose 5-3 at (traditionally strong) Brookdale than beat somebody 20-2. Because the Brookdale game is going to mean more for me when we're playing at the end of the year. I think a lot about being in games that, one, lift expectations, but, two, lift confidence."

Wolski has a 95-69-1 career record. He is assisted by coaches Fred Carella and Kevin Kerins.

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