Sports

Baseball: Scotch Plains-Fanwood Rebuilds for 2016 with New Leaders

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From the dugout, the Raiders watch closely as their team takes on Ridge in a scrimmage on March 29. Credits: Michael Bruchert
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Vin Conti takes the mound in a scrimmage against Ridge on March 29. Credits: Michael Bruchert
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Fielders prepare for Vin Conti's delivery. Credits: Michael Bruchert
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Pete Warren makes contact with a pitch while at bat for the Raiders. Credits: Michael Bruchert
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SCOTCH PLAINS-FANWOOD, NJ – After bidding farewell to a majority of its roster in June, the Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School varsity baseball team will return to the diamond this week with some new faces in new places.

The Raiders finished the 2015 season with an impressive 21-8 record under the supervision of first-year head coach Joe Higgins. With a roster primarily consisting of power-hitting seniors, the team amassed a seven-game win streak early on, but fell short in the Union County Tournament and lost a thriller against Ridge in the State sectional semifinal.

After the bittersweet send-off, Coach Higgins and Assistant Coach JR Luccarelli are returning with unwavering optimism in 2016.

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“We get excited about trying to make the most out of what we have. There will be years when that will mean more wins than others, but there is always a challenge, always something to learn. We want to give our kids the best experience we can,” Higgins said.

Leading the charge for the Raiders are seniors Jack Defouw (P), George Leichtling (OF), Tyler O’Brien (IF), and Vin Conti (P), along with the duo of juniors Pete Warren (SS) and Peter Yarem (C).

As the only non-senior pitcher for Scotch Plains-Fanwood last year, Defouw went 5-2 in 40 innings pitched and will now serve as the game-one starter following a consistent month of scrimmages, according to Higgins.

“He pitches with the confidence of a leader,” Higgins said. “Warren and Yarem are serious baseball players who set a good example for the other guys. We are counting on Vin Conti to be a workhorse. Timmy Geissel, a junior left-handed pitcher, has improved and we are excited about what he has shown us.”

Despite beautiful weather and countless scrimmages, the Raiders’ coach believes his team still has a lot of work to do, however. Rehashing his favorite motto from last year, Higgins’ first says the 2016 season will be taken one game at a time.

“Of course it is a cliché, but we don't prepare more or less for any particular game.  We have to maintain a short-term focus and be in the present at all times. We know that in our division, and on our schedule in general, every game is a challenge. We need good habits, and the way we want to promote that is by working one day at a time,” Higgins said.

“Last year was a tremendous learning experience for me. As a head coach, I realized that sometimes it's about learning from your players. I want to promote certain values and fundamentals to the players that I want them to strive for. But I also know that understanding what works and what doesn't work with different kids can be invaluable.”

The 2016 baseball regular season will begin on Friday, April 1 as the Raiders take on the Westfield Blue Devils in Westfield at 4:00 p.m.

2016 Varsity Roster

No. Player Year
3 Charles Butler Junior
9 Jake Canavan Junior
24 Vince Conti Senior
21 Jack DeFouw Senior
33 Anthony DiNizo Sophomore
6 Matt Fox Junior
42 Tim Geissel Junior
15 George Leichtling Senior
18 Colin McAlindin Junior
7 George Mueller Junior
40 Matt Newman Junior
5 Tyler O'Brien Senior
44 Marc Occhipinti Junior
34 Sam Schetelich Sophomore
22 Nick Stone Senior
11 Spencer Vaughn Junior
20 Peter Warren Junior
32 Danny Wilkinson Freshman
25 Peter Yarem Junior
10 Ryan Yawger Junior

COMPLETE SCHEDULE:

Friday, April 1, 4:00 p.m. – Away vs. Westfield
Saturday, April 2, 11:00 a.m. – Away vs. Union City
Monday, April 4, 4:00 p.m. – Home vs. Governor Livingston
Tuesday, April 5, 4:00 p.m. – Home vs. Cranford
Thursday, April 7, 4:00 p.m. – Away vs. Elizabeth
Saturday, April 9, 11:00 a.m. – Home vs. Union
Tuesday, April 12, 4:00 p.m. – Home vs. Union Catholic
Thursday, April 14, 4:00 p.m. – Away vs. Linden
Saturday, April 16, 11:00 a.m. – Home vs Westfield
Tuesday, April 19, 4:00 p.m. – Away vs. Governor Livingston
Wednesday, April 20, 4:00 p.m. – Away vs. West Morris Mendham
Thursday, April 21, 4:00 p.m. – Union County Tournament Preliminary Round TBA
Thursday, April 21, 4:00 p.m. – Away vs. Bridgewater-Raritan
Saturday, April 23, 11:00 a.m. – Union County Tournament First Round TBA
Tuesday, April 26, 4:00 p.m. – Home vs. Arthur L. Johnson
Wednesday, April 27, 4:00 p.m. – Union County Tournament Quarterfinal Round TBA
Saturday, April 30, 11:00 a.m. – Union County Tournament Semifinal Round TBA
Monday, May 2, 4:00 p.m. – Away vs. David Brearley
Tuesday, May 3, 4:00 p.m. – Away vs. Cranford
Thursday, May 5, 4:00 p.m. – Home vs. Elizabeth
Saturday, May 7, 7:00 p.m. – Union County Final at Kean University
Tuesday, May 10, 4:00 p.m. – Away vs. Union
Wednesday, May 11, 4:00 p.m. – Away vs. Watching Hills Regional
Saturday, May 14, 11:00 a.m. – Home vs. Madison
Tuesday, May 17, 4:00 p.m. – Away vs. John F. Kennedy Memorial
Wednesday, May 18, 4:00 p.m. – Home vs. Hillsborough
Friday, May 20, 4:00 p.m. – Away vs. Columbia

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