When John Muller took over as head baseball coach at Mount Saint Vincent last season, he said he wanted to transform the program from the ground up. And for a program that hadn’t had a winning overall record since 2009, there really was nowhere to go but up.
So with his first recruiting class, Muller wanted to bring in winners — players from top programs who had a track record of success. So that’s what he did, finding 24 players in what is believed to be the largest recruiting class in school history.
“I wanted a big recruiting class because I wanted to bring in more players who would make us more competitive in the conference,” Muller said.
Muller plans on having a varsity roster of 30 to 40 players next season with the rest competing on the junior varsity level, acting as a feeder system to the varsity. It’s just another step in Muller’s complete rebuild of the Dolphins’ program.
“I think we had some success last year,” Muller said. “I think the guys worked extremely hard and bought into what we were trying to do. We could have done better. I think we lost five or six games in the last inning or extra innings. So if five or six games had gone the opposite way, we make the playoffs.
“But now, by bringing in good baseball recruits who have had success at the college and high school level, the expectation is that we will continue to grow.”
More than 20 of Muller’s new recruits will be freshmen next season, with three coming in as transfers from junior colleges. And while he is high on the class as a whole, Muller is particularly excited about the top tier, which includes the likes of Matt Dinorica, Tyler Paulino, Joseph Matos, Shane McHugh, Ross Bartziokas, Matt Albert and Alex LeBeau.
Dinorica is a shortstop who made quite the name for himself in his native Florida.
“He’s a guy who is going to be able to come in and play right away,” Muller said. “He’s a shortstop but he can play pretty much anywhere on the field. He has a laundry list of things that he’s done. He was the Florida State AA Player of the Year. He was named to the All-State team. He was the Naples News All-Area First Team, and he led the state of Florida in hits, runs and fewest strikeouts.
“Obviously he is going to be a big part of our incoming class.”
Paulino is a local kid out of Randolph High School in Manhattan.
“He’s a middle infielder, and he was the team captain and team MVP last season,” Muller said. “He can also play centerfield. He a very good athlete.”
Like Paulino, both Bartziokas — out of Minisink Valley High School — and Albert, who played for Moore Catholic on Staten Island, were team captains, the kind of leadership Muller looked for in his recruiting.
“These guys have all been in championship games,” Muller said. “They‘ve all been leaders, and they know what it takes, and they’ve bought into what I’m trying to do here.”
Muller is depending on the other three top recruits to fortify the pitching staff as Matos, McHugh and LeBeau are all right-handed pitchers.
Matos, out of Passaic County Tech in New Jersey, had a 1.58 ERA this past season, Muller said. “He was a Big North (Conference) honorable mention and a Rawlings All-Region Third Team pick.”
McHugh is another product of New Jersey, having played his prep ball at St. Joseph Regional.
“He was a part of the Big North League champions, and he was also named to the Big North All-League team,” Muller said.
LeBeau hails from Queens and played his high school ball for Townsend Harris.
“He had a lot of success last year,” Muller said. “He owns the school record with 26 career wins and 238 career strikeouts. He was also the team captain and the team MVP last season.”
With a new home field coming next season — the first in school history — things are looking up for the Dolphins baseball program. If year one of the Muller Era was about laying the foundation, year two will be about instilling a winning culture.
“In this class the players we got are very talented,” Muller said. “They are going to come in and compete. They are also excellent students and they’re good people.
“They’re coming in here wanting to work hard and wanting to change things here.
“They know the past few records the school has had and they understand what it’s going to take to reach the level we want to get to, to win a Skyline (Conference) championship. They’re willing to do what it takes. They’re hungry, and they can’t wait to get on campus and start getting to work.”