SCOTCH PLAINS-FANWOOD, NJ – Wednesday’s rain did not halt the Raiders from playing ball, as they held on to a two-run lead to defeat the Bridgewater-Raritan Panthers.
“Before the game, I’m looking at the forecast and I’m looking at the field, and I really didn’t expect to play, but our guys were so excited to play,” said Scotch Plains-Fanwood coach Joe Higgins.
After the precipitation died down, the game was under way. Brendan Kelly (SPF) and Conlan Farrell (BW) both pitched all seven innings for their teams in what ended up being an offensive battle.
The Raiders wasted no time at the plate, as Zach Lipshitz doubled to right center in the first inning. He scored shortly afterwards when Matt Marino crushed an RBI single past the shortstop.
In the bottom of the third, Lipshitz led off again and hit a single to center. After Christian Isolda was hit by a pitch, SPF’s big hitter, Matt Marino, jammed a line drive down the third base line to take a 2-0 lead over the Panthers.
Bridgewater-Raritan answered the Raiders by scoring in the fifth after Mike Celli doubled to left field and Matt Molinari earned an RBI on an infield groundout.
With two outs in the bottom of the sixth, second basemen Pete Warren continued the Raiders scoring with an RBI single. On his fourth and final at bat, Zach Lipshitz extended the lead further with an RBI single of his own.
“I knew he was coming with the curveball. I just sat back and drilled it right over the shortstop’s head,” Lipshitz said.
Pete Warren kept the tempo up for the Raiders on the other side of the ball, laying out to grab a line drive at second base. Bridgewater-Raritan’s Mike Celli homered in the seventh, but the Panthers could not gain enough steam to overcome the Raider defense.
After the 4-2 home victory, coach Higgins highlighted his shortstop’s 4-4 performance.
“Zach batted third for us the last couple of years, we’ve moved him to the lead-off spot this year and he’s been on base all the time,” Higgins said. “He’s a big leader for us. He leads by example, sets the tone at the top of the order, and that’s why we like having him there.”
Lipshitz admits he is always looking to make the first big move for his team.
“I’m the type of guy who likes swinging at the first pitch, and the first pitch of the game is usually a fastball down the middle,” he said. “If it’s there I’m going to swing.”
The senior is looking forward to the UCIAC tournament on Saturday, and shows his love for the game through hard work.
“I’ll go hit tonight, tomorrow night after the game, and Friday. I hit every day,” Lipshitz said. “We have a game tomorrow and practice Friday. We’ll be ready for Saturday.”
The Raiders improved their record to 10-2 and will face Johnson on the road Thursday afternoon at 4:00 p.m.
The 62nd Union County Tournament is scheduled to begin on Saturday, with Oratory Prep visiting the Scotch Plains-Fanwood Raiders at 11:00 a.m. With a No. 2 seed, Scotch Plains-Fanwood may face top seeded Governor Livingston or No. 3 seeded Cranford down the road.
“It’s tournament baseball, and single elimination is unfortunately not the way baseball was meant to be,” said coach Higgins. “It’s exciting, but at the same time we just have to prepare one game at a time like we have been doing because anything can happen. Even if we’re playing well, we have to make sure we’re ready to grind it out on that day.”