Former Watertown Wizards Rene Solis (front) and Donald Walter (above) are both on the watch list for the 2013 Tino Martinez Award. (Photos courtesy Watertown Daily Times).
Six players with ties to teams in the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League have been named to the initial watch list for the 2013 Tino Martinez Award. The award is given to the most outstanding player in NCAA Division II baseball. The PGCBL sextet includes Cal Poly Pomona’s Donald Walter (Watertown 2012), Chico State’s Blake Gibbs (Albany 2009), Franklin Pierce’s Calvin Graves (Watertown 2012), Mount Olive’s Mike Mercurio (Glens Falls 2010), Rene Solis (Watertown 2012) of St. Mary’s University and West Florida’s Austin Southall (Watertown 2011).
According to a press release at TinoMartinezAward.com, initial nominations for the award were made by baseball sports information contacts, coaches and media members. The initial watch list for the award includes 152 Division II players.
Donald Walter, a senior outfielder at Cal Poly Pomona, was an All-California College Athletic Association second team selection in 2012. He topped the Broncos with a .345 batting average, five sacrifice hits and 13 stolen bases. Walter socked 61 hits, including five home runs, and scored 41 runs in 48 regular season appearances. He totaled five home runs, 32 RBI, 15 doubles and 16 multi-hit games. Walter was the CCAA’s Player of the Week on Mar. 6 after hitting .611 (11-for-18) with five RBI and six runs scored in a four-game series with nationally-ranked Chico State.
Last summer, Walter was tapped second team All-PGCBL as an outfielder for the Watertown Wizards. He led the PGCBL in HBP (15), finished second with 43 runs scored and ranked among the league’s top 10 with a .338 batting average. Walter paced the Wizards in hits (53), runs scored, total bases (83), slugging percentage (.529) and HBP. He also drove in 24 runs and stole 10 bases.
Blake Gibbs, a senior outfielder at Chico State, was an NCAA Division II All-West Region honoree and second team All-California College Athletic Association selection. He helped the Wildcats advance to the NCAA Division II World Series; the team finished the season with a 40-19 record. Gibbs, an Oregon State transfer, led the team in home runs (seven), runs batted in (44), doubles (18), runs scored (52), slugging percentage (.523), walks (33), HBP (21), on-base percentage (.455) and stolen bases (15). Gibbs reeled off 17 multi-hit games. He played and started all 59 regular season and playoff contests.
Gibbs, a native of Bellevue, Wash., was a member of the inaugural Albany Dutchmen squad in 2009. The former Oregon State swinger slugged six home runs and posted 19 RBI, as well as a .271 batting average, in an injury-shortened season in which he appeared in just 20 games.
Calvin Graves is a junior outfielder at Franklin Pierce University. He was an All-Northeast-10 Conference second team choice in 2012. Batting as the Ravens’ number-nine hitter, Graves posted a team-high .371 batting average, which also ranked second in the conference. He finished among the top 50 nationally with 25 stolen bases. Graves swatted 66 hits in 53 games, scored 37 runs and drove in 24. The Boston, Mass., native had a .423 on-base percentage and finished the season with multiple hits in 21 games. Franklin Pierce won 38 games overall and advanced to the NCAA Division II Regionals.
The Franklin Pierce product made a brief appearance with the Watertown Wizards last summer. Graves played in five games for the Purple and Gold.
Mike Mercurio is a senior shortstop at Division II powerhouse Mount Olive College. Mercurio earned third team All-America accolades from the National College Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA) in 2012. In addition, Mercurio was named first team All-Conference Carolinas, NCWBA All-South Region first team and Conference Carolinas All-Tournament Team. Mercurio, a High Point transfer, appeared in all 54 regular season and playoff games. He batted .345 and collected 76 hits, 63 runs, 56 RBI, 35 walks, 25 stolen bases, 19 multi-hit games and 14 doubles. Mercurio racked up a .468 slugging percentage and a .453 on-base percentage. His best performance came in February versus Lenoir-Rhyne in which he blasted a grand slam, drove in seven runs and finished with four hits in six at-bats.
The Brewster, N.Y., native appeared in 20 games for the Glens Falls Golden Eagles during the summer of 2010. He totaled 16 hits, 13 runs and 10 walks in limited action.
Rene Solis, a junior pitcher at St. Mary’s (Texas) University, was a finalist for the Tino Martinez Award in 2012. He ranked second in NCAA Division II in victories (13) and finished among the top 20 with 117.1 innings pitched. Solis went 13-3 with a 1.69 earned run average over 16 starts. The southpaw struck out 110 batters, walked 31 and held opponents to a .193 batting average. Solis fanned at least five batters in 13 of his 16 starts. He was named ABCA/Rawlings All-South Central Region first team, NCBWA All-South Central Region second team and All-Heartland Conference first team.
The San Antonio, Texas, native was an All-PGCBL first team starting pitcher last summer. Solis tied for the league lead in earned run average (1.31) and finished among the top 10 in strikeouts (49). Overall, Solis went 4-1 over seven starts with 49 strikeouts and 10 walks. He accrued 48.0 innings for the Wizards. Rene was a twice named PGCBL Pitcher of the Week. In his final start of the summer, Solis retired 21 of the 22 batters he faced over seven innings in a 4-1 win over the Elmira Pioneers. The St. Mary’s lefty sat down 18 in a row at one point and struck out eight.
Austin Southall is a junior pitcher and outfielder at the University of West Florida. He is in his first season at UWF after spending the last two years at Chipola College. Southall, a 19th round choice of the San Francisco Giants in the 2010 MLB First-Year Player Draft, turned in an outstanding 2012 campaign for Chipola. He went 8-3 with two saves and a 2.11 earned run average in 17 appearances. Austin struck out 42 batters and walked 15 in 72.2 innings. Overall, the Chipola utilityman appeared in 51 games. At the plate, he slammed five home runs, drove in 27 runs and scored 28.
The Baton Rouge, La., native played in the inaugural PGCBL season for the Watertown Wizards. Southall made three pitching outings for the Wiz Kids and posted a 1-0 record to go along with a 4.82 ERA. He struck out 10 in 9.1 frames and held opponents to a .250 batting average.