EAST BRUNSWICK, N.J. – Ben’s Battlers completed a two-game sweep over Shane’s Sluggers with a 8-7 victory in the 2016 Frank Gavigan Greater Middlesex Conference Baseball Coaches Association Senior All-Star Game at award-winning Raymond J. Cipperly Field at East Brunswick Vo-Tech. Sunday afternoon.
The Battlers topped the Sluggers 6-5 in the GMCBCA Underclassmen Showcase prior to the upperclassmen game.
The two teams are named after Ben Lepisto and Shane O’Donnell, and the doubleheader featured nearly 90 players showcasing their talents. Lepisto is a freshman student-athlete at Woodbridge High School who recently had a cancerous tumor called medulloblastoma removed from his brain. O’Donnell, a 17-month-old baby is the son of former Middlesex High baseball coach and current Athletic Director Mike O’Donnell. Baby Shane is battling pediatric cancer and was diagnosed with Stage IV high risk Neuroblastoma at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia in January. Results of CT scans have been encouraging, but O’Donnell faces a difficult battle with many rounds of chemotherapy and radiation coming up.
As fans entered, they were greeted to free admission, but were encouraged to donate some funds to benefit Lepisto and O’Donnell. Exceeding expectations, a total of $3,290 were donated by the fans, and an additional $3,000 was raised as charitable campaigns by South Amboy High School and St. Joseph’s of Metuchen added $1,500 each for a grand total of $6,290.
And as for the special nine-inning game itself, the Senior All-Star game featured immensely-talented players split up and drafted by well-known high school sports writers Greg Tufaro and Gregg Lerner including 2016 MLB Draft picks in pitcher Robbie Peto of Monroe (Angels) and shortstop Michael Wilson of Colonia (Red Sox).
In addition, the slick-fielding Wilson was named the GMC Player of the Year.
Heading into the top of the ninth with the score knotted at 7-7, J.P. Stevens’ Zachary Marzano’s RBI single to the left side put Ben’s Battlers on top and they held off the Sluggers in the bottom of the ninth notching a game-ending double play.
Down the whole game since the top of the second, Ben’s Battler’s took their first lead at 7-6 in the top of the seventh as Piscataway’s Dan Tricarico recorded a two-RBI single.
The potential heroics were short-lived as the Sluggers tied it up in the home half of the eighth as Alex Slawinski of Carteret reached on a walk and came around to score a couple batters later to tie it at seven apiece before the Battlers scored in the next half inning.
And while Ben’s Battlers proved to be the two superior teams on the day, the real winners are the Lepisto and O’Donnell families, as they received not only financial support, but community support for everyone involved in every capacity in the GMC.
According to the program, “Throughout the whole ordeal, Shane has been nothing short of a champion,” Mike O’Donnell said. “He’s the happiest kid I know and revels in the opportunities he has to spend time with his sister and his cousins. He is very active and loves to play baseball and basketball every chance he gets. With the help of some of the greatest doctors in the world and lots of love and support, Shane will continue to thrive and amaze.”
Contact writer Chris Nalwasky on Twitter @ChrisWasky.
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