BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ — Leading up to Wednesday’s game, rival teams Westfield and Scotch Plains-Fanwood had been practicing in groups but not with their entire teams until this past week.

By Wednesday, however, the COVID-19 restrictions that previously prevented play had been lifting, and Westfield bested Scotch Plains-Fanwood 7-0 in a well-attended game at Snyder Avenue Park. Blue Devils pitching struck out 11 Raiders during the game. 

“We came out here and everything worked,” said pitcher Chris Ho, a rising Westfield High School senior, who was instrumental in bringing in the win. “We played together as a team, and we got the win secured.”

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Ho, 17, said he found the most success in his slider, but also noted solid defense from the Blue Devils infield and outfield, including a fourth inning play aide by shortstop Jake Bencivenga.

“He saved the play [with] a barehanded throw to our first baseman,” Ho said.

Part of the Last Dance tournament, it was Westfield’s second game of the season, following Tuesday’s win over Saint Joseph High School of Metuchen.

The teams played with just one umpire after, in the second inning, an umpire walked off the field over a disagreement with the other.

One of them had called time during a pitch — a call the other umpire disagreed with, said Westfield Coach Brian Sloan. “They couldn’t get on the same page and we only had one umpire to finish the game,” he said.

It did not, however, stop the game — one that the teams had put in extensive preparation for.

“They really put a lot of work in to prepare for this tournament,” Sloan said. “We’re really excited that we had this opportunity. I’m really happy for the seniors that get to play again.”

Sloan had praise for Ho.

“He did exactly what we expect him to do: throw strikes, take control out there keep the team off balance, field your position — everything a pitcher needs to do,” Sloan said.

Scotch Plains catcher Ryan Beauregard, a rising junior, appeared happy just to be on the field, despite the loss.

“I love it. I’ve been training my butt off to be able hopefully get another chance,” Beauregard said. “And we’re finally able to come back out here.”

Scotch Plains coach Joe Higgins afterward noted the success of Westfield’s star pitcher.

“The biggest part of the game was Chris Ho. He did an outstanding job,” Higgins said.

As for the question of COVID-19? The players, he said, appeared to have become accustomed to the restrictions that come with playing during a pandemic.

“The kids are used to it,” Higgins said. “It’s kind of part of their life. Sometimes we have to remind them to keep their masks on in the dugout and everything, but it’s not as much as I thought it was going to be.”

The Raiders next play at 3:00 p.m. at Berkeley Heights Thursday. The Blue Devils next play at 6:30 p.m. at Berkeley Heights Thursday.