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Poland’s Bertolini turns around college program

Published: 12/3/13 @ 12:00


By Greg Gulas

sports@vindy.com

AUSTINTOWN

While Dan Bertolini was busy earning six letters in baseball and basketball at Poland High School, he was equally as busy thinking ahead to life after his competitive days.

He quietly dreamed of becoming a college head coach with the hopes of making an impact on student-athletes’ lives, both on and away from the field of play.

This spring he will enter his sixth season as head baseball coach at Mercyhurst North East University, stating how appreciative he is that his career path opened when it did while remaining grateful to be able to work with some of the area’s top student-athletes.

Speaking to the Curbstone Coaches during Monday’s weekly luncheon at Luciano’s Restaurant, Bertolini said his team has improved each year since that first season in 2009. He said players from the Youngstown area comprise nearly a third of his overall roster.

“We’re a junior college that provides both educational and athletic opportunities for our student-athletes,” Bertolini said. “We have 10 players from the local baseball ranks on this year’s roster and continue to heavily recruit players from the Class B League.

“We’ve had at least five or six area players on the roster every year since I took over and that’s not by accident. I recruit players from this area because I know they are well-coached, always well-prepared and hard workers that give their all both in the classroom and on the diamond.”

Bertolini knows first-hand the dedication necessary in order to succeed in both areas.

A three-time Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference all-academic selection, he was also a two-time league selection at shortstop/second base while earning Mercyhurst’s first Rawlings Regional Gold Glove Award.

His 256 games played, 252 starts and 156 consecutive games played remain school standards.

“We give players the opportunity to move on to the next level of play,” Bertolini said. “As a branch campus of Mercyhurst University, we are a feeder system to the main campus and have had players earn scholarships to various Division I programs as well,”

With 24 partial scholarships, Bertolini added that he is able to help players out financially, noting that 30 roster members share in the programs’ financial appropriations.

“Non-revenue sports need to be financially creative, yet remain fiscally responsible in the way they can help a student-athlete,” he said. “With partial scholarships available, we become attractive to recruits when selecting a college they wish to attend.”

When Bertolini took over the Saints’ baseball program they were coming off a 16-40 season.

Four years later he transformed his squad into a Division II, Region 3 champion with 43 wins and a No. 8 national ranking.

That season they were three outs and a grand slam in the bottom the eighth inning away from advancing to the National Junior College Athletic Association World Series.

The Saints are combined 73-29 overall the past two years.

“We lost a heartbreaker that year but grew stronger in the process, realizing exactly what it would take in order to compete at the next level,” he said. “We grew as a team, set higher goals and have really come together as a program. Everyone is really excited to get started as we eye our spring schedule.”

Next week, John Caparanis, sports director of Warren’s WHKZ, 1440-AM will be the guest speaker.


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