SPOTSWOOD, NJ - Where else would a group of baseball dads be on Father's Day? At the ballpark of course and the outcome couldn't be a better Dad's Day present; a U11 USABL championship title to cap off an undefeated season.
The Spotswood Youth and Softball League's U11 travel baseball team finished up the 2019 spring season without a loss, defeating North Brunswick 2-1 on Sunday. What's special about the U11 team that also claimed the 2018 title for the spring for U10, is the majority of the players on the team have been playing together since they were seven years old.
Matt Saracino has been coaching the boys since their U7 season. He was joined in the dugout this year with fellow coaches Bill Buchan, Mike Palumbo, Roy Newhard, Joe Ohollaran and Jay Mate. Dan Lennan is the team dad.
This year's spring team had two additions while the core remained the same. Derek Mate and Riley Gorman are both from Milltown and joined Sebastian Saracino, Gavin Romeo, William Buchan, Hunter Krainski, Shawn Lennan, John Lubin, Mikey Palumbo, Stephen Barnacz, Andrew Newhard and Joey Ohalloran to round out this year's roster.
Sunday's championship was the third for the group and the second in a row though it was the first time the boys have gone undefeated for an entire season.
"The semifinals and championship games were nail biters," Saracino said.
The semifinal game ended with Krainski tagging out an opposing player attempting to steal home. The win put the team in the finals against the North Brunswick Raiders on Father's Day.
"A complete team effort in the championship with great pitching from William and game-winning hit from Shawn Lennan," Saracino said of Sunday's final win. "When the final out landed in Gavin Romeo's glove the celebration was on!"
Next summer, the majority of the team will be heading to Cooperstown for a "Field of Dreams" baseball adventure.
“Cooperstown is one of the largest youth baseball tournaments in the country attracting teams from almost every state in the country,” Saracino explained. “Most towns have been sending teams annually for many years now and continue to send a team every year. You do not have to qualify to play. It is an open tournament for 12 year old teams. Spotswood has never sent a team there before and I asked myself, why not us? So I approached the team and parents and our league and everyone was on board to give the kid's an experience of a lifetime.”
The team has been fundraising all year long in preparation for next summer's trip to Cooperstown. In addition to a baseball tournament played in Dreams Park, the Cooperstown experience includes an opening ceremony, skills competition, closing ceremony, a championship game, closing ceremony fireworks and rings. All of the players will also be inducted into the American Youth Baseball Hall of Fame.
Spotswood finished first in the Central Division with 11 wins and 33 points. The North Edison Blue Devils were second in the division with a 9-3 overall record.
"I would like to thank all my parents for their dedication, the SYBSL board for all their support and the whole community for always supporting our team," Saracino said. "There were close to 100 people at each of our playoff games."
"We always have the best crowds," Saracino added. "Truly an amazing season!"