The scent of freshly cut grass and the return of short sleeve shirts usually mark the beginning of spring and baseball season. But the Mercy College baseball team is already in full swing and will open up to 2008 campaign with five games at The Ripken Experience in Myrtle Beach, SC, from February 22-24.
The Mavericks will feature a solid mix of returning players and newcomers to the program. The upperclassmen will be expected to lead by example as many new faces will get a chance to contribute and develop.
"Our experience is one of our greatest strengths," said head baseball coach Bill Sullivan. "A lot of these guys now have two or three years under their belts."
Behind the plate the Mavericks have plenty of experience with senior Roberto Martinez and sophomore Marc Dern. Martinez hit .348 before he went down with an ankle injury, at which point Dern took over full-time and made the most of his opportunity.
Senior first baseman Steve Summer led the team in batting last season with a .367 average, home runs with five, and will be counted on to be a productive hitter. Also at first base will be freshman Steve Campbell and junior Joe Benedict (9-for-22, .409). At the hot corner, senior Craig Ross hit .291 and drove in 21 runs last season. Ross led the team in extra base hits with 16. Junior Jonathan Cohen is a valuable utility man who can play third base, first base, and the outfield, while sophomore Michael Grassano will also see time at third base.
Sophomore shortstop Justin Muscarella and junior second baseman Ken Mundy make a formidable duo up the middle. Mundy hit .314 and jacked three home runs last season, while Muscarella cleared the wall four times. Senior Dominick Callegari, freshmen Michael Ferrante, Christopher Goris and Alex Rodriguez, another utility player, will all contribute in the infield.
The Mavericks also tout plenty of depth in the outfield. Senior Julian Tosado started 34 games last season and scored 16 runs. Sophomore Vincent Tesoriero has tremendous speed and was successful on 16-of-18 stolen base attempts.
"He will be one of our table-setters and we expect him to continue to improve on what he did as a freshman," Sullivan said.
Freshman Matt Walsh has outstanding tools and will be counted on to contribute in the outfield and also setup the offense. Juniors Chris Pannullo and Luis Bido, and freshmen Graig Lauricella, Chris Sanchez, and Darold Martinez will also compete in the outfield.
Through strong recruiting and a tough off-season program, the Mavericks have considerably improved its pitching staff. Senior Erik Dodge, and juniors Matt Moreno, Steve Merslich and Bobby Engelhard will be counted on to provide quality outings for the Mavericks. Freshman Keith Kreig, Stephen Marsar, Dan Khederian, Anthony DiCarlo, Walsh, and Rodriguez will all get the opportunity to pitch in various roles and will be expected to make an impact right away.
Offensively, the Mavericks look poised to put up runs and constantly pressure the defense by stealing bases and putting runners in motion.
"It was one of our strengths last year and we expect to be aggressive again this season," Sullivan said.
Sullivan expects the East Coast Conference (ECC) slate to be challenging as always with top programs such as Adelphi, Dowling, New Haven and C.W. Post. Mercy also has a challenging non-conference schedule with games against UMass Lowell, Pace, Dominican, Bloomfield, Bentley, and Felician.
The Mavericks are ready to begin what promises to be a strong season. Sullivan believes that Mercy has a chance to be competitive in every game they play. "We will compete and improve everyday and we will need to finish the job. When we get ahead we have to close it out strong."