SPOTSWOOD, NJ - While the Spotswood High School varsity baseball team was putting together a winning season, the Chargers' junior varsity team wasn't far behind. The junior varsity team finished the 2017 campaign with an impressive 15-5 overall record. However, the biggest highlight for the young team came last week as they took home the Greater Middlesex Conference Junior Varsity Tournament title. Seeded fourth out of a field of 21 teams, the Chargers knocked off Sayreville High School, Piscataway High School and South Brunswick High School's junior varsity squads to face off against East Brunswick in the finals.
After a scoreless three innings, the Bears drew first blood, putting the Chargers down two runs in the fourth. Chance Fee led off the fourth for Spotswood with a single. Sophomore Eddie Rogers brought him across the plate with a game-tying two-run homerun. In the sixth, Spotswood took a one run lead on a hard single to right field by Matt Amador that scored Fee. However, the Bears immediately tied the game up at their next at bat.
A combined series of walks, misplays and a line drive to centerfield by Dominic Vincelli gave Spotswood a two-run lead going into the bottom of the seventh inning with the junior varsity championship on the line. Evan Scarduffa stepped onto the mound with one out and the bases loaded with Bears. The sophomore struck out the first batter for the second out. Then, second baseman, Jack Andrulewich made a game-saving, spectacular catch on a bloop single over the first baseman's head.
Andrulewich is normally a third baseman for the Chargers, but was filling in at second due to an injury. The sensational catch by Andrulewich capped off a fabulous season for the Chargers' junior varsity team and gave them the tournament trophy.
The GMC JV Tournament winning team was comprised of the following players: Derek Buhl, Chance Fee, Evan Scarrduffa, Roger Dantoni, Dan Bottiglieri, AJ Chasan, Matt Bohinski, Jack Welsh, Eddie Rogers, George Guyette, PJ Prasch, Jack Andrulewich, Jon Lauro, Dominic Vincelli, Matt Amador and DJ Shaffer.
"This team went from a bunch of individuals with talent to a family really quickly," junior varsity baseball coach Vincent Vizzi said in a recent interview. "They gelled and motivated one another to compete at a high level. Our biggest strength was finding a way to put ourselves in position to win ball games. Early on we had some miscues in the field, but once we cleaned that up we became a quality team."
The top three hitters this season for the junior varsity squad were Welsh, Vincelli and Shaffer. Welsh finished the season with 29 hits, 33 runs and 31 stolen bases. On the mound, Amador, Bottiglieri and Vincelli were the three best pitchers. Amador pitched 36 and two thirds innings and finished the season with 28 strikeouts and a 4-1 record. Vincelli was 2-0 on the mound.
Vizzi was quick to point out that the success of this year's junior varsity team was a complete team endeavor, feeling the wins came with everyone's contributions not from a few standouts.
"Early in the season we had a good test to see what we were capable of against a good Monroe team," Vizzi said when asked about other season highlights for the team. "It was an early Saturday morning game on a holiday weekend and we were missing a couple key players. But this team didn't make any excuses, guys stepped up and came up clutch. We won that game 4-3 in extra innings. That game proved to me that I could call upon any guy in key situations and trust them to get the job done. We had an excellent record against our division opponents and we were also battle tested because of our difficult regular season schedule. Believe it or not I think our success in the JV tournament came from a difficult loss to North Brunswick. I think our guys learned a lot from the defeat and from that point forward we were focused every pitch until the very last."
"I truly enjoyed coaching these guys every day," the Memorial Middle School physical education teacher continued. "Part of the reason behind that was because they got along really well and listened because all of them wanted to improve both as individuals and as a team. Seasons like this you never want them to end not because of the winning, but because of how much fun this team had on a daily basis."
The success of the junior varsity team certainly bodes well for continued prosperity at the varsity level, especially since several key members of the varsity team will be graduating in two weeks.
"The varsity and junior varsity team practice together almost every day and because of the varsity's success this season I believe it became contagious and taught the younger guys how to play and prepare the right way," Vizzi said. "In an ideal world players continue to develop and improve. When it's their opportunity to play varsity, they are prepared and have great success."
For now, the junior varsity team can bask in its own success for the 2017 season; giving the Greater Middlesex Conference Junior Varsity Tournament trophy a home in the Spotswood High School trophy case.