Ben Iervolino believed he had shown college coaches he is capable of getting Division 1 hitters out. He simply was not getting the response he’d anticipated. Then Mount St. Mary’s coaches took the time to watch a video Ben had sent.
Back in July, Iervolino, a 5-9 lefthander with a nasty slider, performed well at the Boston Open. “The team I faced had even more Division 1 commits than we did,” Iervolino said. “I shut them down. Then no one called. I couldn’t have pitched better.”
Surely, Iervolino thought, college coaches were hung up on his height. Perhaps his fastball velocity didn’t meet their minimums. Or both. One thing was clear. Ben knew he could pitch and he could get good hitters out.
“I figured I had to just keep working harder,” said Iervolino, “and something would work out.” Shortly after, the Hunterdon Central senior sent that video to Mount St. Mary, a private, liberal arts Catholic university in Emmitsburg, Maryland, just over the border from Gettysburg, Pa.
Mount St. Mary head coach Scott Thomson and pitching coach Jeff Gergic clearly liked what they saw. The school would take another look at Iervolino during an 18U tournament at Diamond Nation in late July.
“They called a few days after the tournament and invited me to take an official visit,” said Iervolino, who’d make the trip down to Maryland with his parents on Aug. 15. “I had a tour of the baseball facilities then sat down with coach Thomson and coach Gergic. That’s when they offered me.”
The offer was something Iervolino had dreamed about for years. He had Lafayette, Rhode Island, Binghamton and Southern New Hampshire on his radar earlier.
“It’s always been my dream to play at the Division 1 level,” he said. “Coach Thomson said he sees me getting valuable innings as a freshman, especially since the team isn’t deep in lefties.”
Iervolino wasn’t necessarily looking for a small school — Mount St. Mary has fewer students than Hunterdon Central — but sometimes what a school has to offer takes precedence.
“I kind of fell in love with it,” said Iervolino. “The architecture is incredible. I was looking for a school where, academically, I’m better suited.” Though he has yet to decide on a major course of study, Iervolino has preliminary considered Sports Marketing and Sports Management.
The baseball and academic part of the equation settled, Iervolino also found something Mount St. Mary offered that is very difficult to beat. “It really felt like a family there to me,” he said. “Everyone seems to know each other on campus. And the players I spoke to said that coach Thomson is a great guy.”
Iervolino brings an impressive arsenal of pitches with him to Mount St. Mary. While leaning on a wipeout slider, especially deadly on lefty batters, to get outs, Iervolino works in above average four-seam and two-seam fastballs. Meanwhile, he is working on improving his changeup.
It was this summer when Iervolino’s confidence elevated a few notches and his results steadily improved, all while he was facing the stiffest of competition.
“Ben had a solid summer and was our go-to first game of the tournament pitcher and set the tone for us,” said Diamond Jacks Super 17U coach Kevin Cust. “He was very reliable and kept getting better every outing. It was awesome to see it all work out for him in the end. Ben is a great kid and I’m really happy for his success.”
Iervolino has pitched varsity innings since his freshman year at Hunterdon Central, but had to wait to take his turn as a frontline starter. First Team All-Staters Alex Deegan (2018) and Joey DeChiaro (2019) have moved on to Kentucky and Old Dominion, respectively. Iervolino will get that opportunity in the spring when he’ll help steer a four-man Hunterdon Central staff complemented by senior righties Tristen Spalter and Ryan Godown and Maryland-bound sophomore lefthander Kyle McCoy.
“As a veteran pitcher, Ben will hold a major role as a cornerstone for the Red Devil pitching staff,” said Hunterdon Central head coach Kevin Cuozzi. “He has been a tireless worker over the years and has proven his ability to compete with the best in the state.”
Cuozzi believes his Hunterdon Central teammates have the make up required to make another run at postseason hardware in 2020.
“We don’t have that superstar like the past few years, like Deegan, DeChiaro or Matt Toke (Seton Hall University), but we have a lot of talented kids and a good staff,” said Iervolino. “I know a lot of people aren’t expecting much from us but we are going to be right there. Pete Ciuffreda (‘19) would always say, ‘Why not us?’ No one wanted to win more than Pete. Our goal is to win states. I want to be part of making that happen. We want to get another one.”
Hunterdon Central was in three straight NJSIAA Group 4 championship games (2016, ‘17 and ‘18), winning state titles in 2016 and ‘18. The Red Devils also won Group 4 championships in 1987, ‘08 and ‘09.