By Stephen Valenti
The Seton Hall baseball program has been one of the more successful schools in the northeast producing Major League players such as Craig Biggio, Rick Cerone, Mo Vaughn and John Valentin. Currently, there is one former Pirate playing in the majors, while 11 are in the minor leagues.
Ryan Harvey became the latest to join profession baseball after being drafted this past summer, joining Joe DiRocco who made the move to the professional ranks last season.Two other former Pirates playing in affiliated minor league baseball are Dan Merklinger and Sean Black. Keith Cantwell and Isaac Pavlik are currently teammates playing for the New Jersey Jackals, Sean Gusrang plays for the Traverse City Beach Bums, while Ray Navarrete is suiting up for the Long Island Ducks. The Jackals, Beach Bums and Ducks are Independent League franchises. Jason Grilli is the lone former Pirates to be playing in the Major Leagues this season, pitching out of the bullpen for the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Jason Grilli - Pitcher, Pittsburgh Pirates
Grilli, a member of the Seton Hall baseball team from 1995-97, holds both the single-season and career strikeouts record with 125 in 1997 and 256 in his career. After his junior season, Grilli was drafted fourth overall in the 1997 MLB Amateur Draft by the San Francisco Giants. Now in his 14th season playing professional baseball, Grilli was one of the Pirates go-to guys out of the bullpen with 64 appearances this season. Despite having a 1-6 record, he led the Pirates with 32 holds and had a microscopic 2.91 ERA in 58.2 innings pitched. Showing tremendous control, Grill struck out 90 batters with just 22 walks.
Dan Merklinger - Pitcher, Colorado Springs Sky Sox (Colorado Rockies AAA)
Merklinger played baseball at the Hall from 2005-07 and earned NJCBA First Team All-State honors as a sophomore and Second Team All-State honors as a junior. Following his junior season, he was drafted in the sixth round by the Milwaukee Brewers. Merklinger started the 2012 season with the Milwaukee Brewers AA affiliate, Huntsville Stars, before being signed by the Colorado Rockies on Aug. 23 and assigned to their AAA team, the Colorado Springs Sky Sox. With just 12 games remaining in the Sky Sox season, Merklinger made three appearances including two starts, allowing no runs in 7.0 innings including four strikeouts. For the year combined, he had a 4-7 record and a 5.84 ERA, bouncing around between being a starter and a reliever, making 24 appearances and 10 starts.
Anthony Seratelli - Second Base, Omaha Storm Chasers (Kansas City Royals AAA)
A four-year member of the baseball program from 2002-05, Seratelli finished his Pirate career seventh in career at-bats with 656 and ninth in games played with 193. Being undrafted, Seratelli played a year of Independent ball before getting a tryout with the Royals and eventually signing. This past season, he spent the entire year with the Omaha Storm Chasers, the Royals AAA affiliate, hitting .299 on the year with 66 RBIs and 64 runs scored. The Storm Chasers won the Pacific Coast League North Division with an 83-61 record and advanced to the league championship game with Seratelli batting second, but lost to the Reno Aces, three games to one.
Tim Pahuta - First Base, Harrisburg Senators (Washington Nationals AA)
One of the better hitters in Seton Hall history, Pahuta is the school's all-time leader in career doubles and ranks ninth on the Pirates' career hit list. A two-time All-BIG EAST performer, he led Seton Hall in all three triple crown categories in 2004 and narrowly missed doing it again in 2005. Pahuta was drafted by the Washington Nationals in the 18th round of the 2005 MLB Amateur Draft and has played all seven of his minor league seasons for the organization. Most recently, he has spent the last 2+ seasons with their AA affiliate, the Harrisburg Senators. This summer, Pahuta led the Senators in games, at bats, runs, doubles, home runs, walks, total bases and was second by one RBI.
Sean Black - Pitcher, Tampa Yankees (New York Yankees High A)
Black, having been drafted out of high school by the Washington Nationals, decided to instead play for the Pirates from 2007-09. During his three seasons, Black made 43 appearances and 31 starts for the Pirates picking up 10 wins in the process and earning Second Team All-BIG EAST honors as a junior. In 2009, he was drafted by the New York Yankees in the seventh round of MLB's Amateur Draft. Playing with the Tampa Yankees all season, Black started the year in the starting rotation before being moved to the bullpen by year's end. In 25 appearances with eight starts, Black finished with a 2-6 record and a 6.61 ERA in 62.2 innings, on a team that finished fourth in their division.
Ryan Harvey - Pitcher, Spokane Indians (Texas Rangers Low A)
Harvey a pitcher on the Pirates baseball team from 2010-12, earning Second Team All-BIG EAST honors this past season, spent his summer playing in the Texas Rangers farm system after being drafted in the 18th round of this past June's MLB Amateur Draft. Signed on June 11, Harvey made his first professional appearance in the first game of the season for the Rangers Low A affiliate, Spokane Indians. In that game, Harvey pitched the ninth inning of an 8-1 loss, picking up a strikeout and allowing one run in the process. On the season, he appeared in half of the team's 38 games, going 1-1 with a 6.21 ERA while striking out 44 batters in 33.1 innings. Late in the season Harvey found his form, allowing only three earned runs in his final nine appearances and no earned runs in his final six appearances, pitching 12 innings during that final span. A pitcher who has had some difficulty with his command in the past, he finished with an impressive, 44-to-10 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Joe DiRocco - Pitcher, Everett Aqua Sox (Seattle Mariners Low A)
DiRocco, finished his Seton Hall career with one of the best seasons for a Pirate pitcher, earning First Team All-BIG EAST honors, Third Team All- American honors and being named the BIG EAST Tournament Most Outstanding Player his senior season. Along with those honors, DiRocco left the Hall with the most career starts with 49 and has the most career shutouts with five. This past season he did not pitch in the Mariners farm system after suffering an injury. Last year, his first in the minors, DiRocco went 1-3 with a 5.13 ERA in 16 games pitched for the Aqua Sox, making four starts. He is looking to get healthy to return to the mound next season.
Corey Young - Pitcher, Frisco RoughRiders (Texas Rangers AA)
Young was a dominant starting pitcher for the Pirates from 2006 through 2008. He is tied for ninth all-time at Seton Hall with 34 career starts. Named NJCBA Pitcher of the Year in 2008, Young led the team in wins and strikouts. He was drafted in the 12th round of the 2008 MLB Amateur Draft by the Texas Rangers and has spent parts of the last five seasons in their farm system. Most recently, Young has pitched with the Rangers' AA team, the Frisco RoughRiders.
Ray Navarrete - Second Base, Long Island Ducks (Independent Baseball)
Navarrete, a member of the Pirates baseball team from 1997-2000 currently sits second in the program's record book with 51 career doubles. This season for the Long Island Ducks of the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball, Navarrete led the team in two of two of three triple-crown categories with a .309 batting average and 90 RBIs. His 18 home runs was second-best on the Ducks. Navarrete also got the chance to face former Major Leaguer Roger Clemens on Sept. 7 and picked up a single in the fourth inning against the 11-time all-star. Navarrete has played six seasons with the Ducks and is the franchise leader in both home runs and doubles.
Sean Gusrang - Infielder, Traverse City Beach Bums (Independent Baseball)
A 2011 graduate who helped lead Seton Hall to its third BIG EAST title, Gusrang played four years for the Pirates and led the team in batting average, RBIs and slugging percentage his senior year. Gusrang, affectionately known as "Goose," played first base and batted third in the Pirates' BIG EAST Tournament lineup. After playing in just five games as a rookie, this summer he played in 86 games for the Traverse City Beach Bums and batted .266. Goose's 53 RBI's were third-best on a team that qualfied for the Frontier League playoffs.
Keith Cantwell - Pitcher, New Jersey Jackals (Independent Baseball)
Isaac Pavlik - Pitcher, New Jersey Jackals (Independent Baseball)
Cantwell and Pavlik were two key members of one of the best pitching staffs in the Can-Am League this season. The duo helped lead the Jackals to a berth in the championship series.
Cantwell pitched for Seton Hall from 2006 through 2009 and was a First Team All-BIG EAST selection in his final year. This season, the 6-foot-6 right-hander was the dominant closer of the Jackals, finishing fourth in the league with 17 saves. In 47.2 innings, Cantwell struck out 44 batters, while walking just eight and pitched to an impressive 1.88 ERA.
Pavlik was Seton Hall's closer from 1999 through 2002 and was instrumental in delivering the 2001 BIG EAST Championship to South Orange. The Paramus, N.J. native was named the Most Outstanding Player of the championship tournament and left Seton Hall as the school's all-time leader in appearances and saves. For the Jackals, Pavlik was the team's ace starting pitcher and finished second in the league in wins and strikeouts and third in ERA. He went 12-2 this season and struck out 114 batters, compared to just 25 walks.
(Stephen Valenti is the managing editor of The Setonian and an intern with Seton Hall's Office of Athletics Communications.)