UNION, NJ — After a spring without sports (or classes) at Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School, the senior members of the Raiders varsity baseball team on Tuesday afternoon in the so-called the "Last Dance Baseball Tournament" were finally able to play together in 2020. The Raiders did not disappoint their summer debut vs. Dayton (Springfield) "Dawgs" at they won their summer opener by a score of 5-1.
Senior Nolan O’Connor pitched 5 outstanding innings for the win. The only run off him was unearned. Senior Zac Zaller pitched a scoreless 6th and 7th. At the plate, junior Shawn Martin had two doubles and a walk.
The timing of the tournament was key for O’Connor, who would have otherwise missed the baseball season with a shoulder injury he suffered during the winter wrestling season.
“He set the tone,” said Scotch Plains/Fanwood Coach Joe Higgins. “He was really pitching with confidence. You could tell he had a sense of purpose. He definitely could have gone the whole way. We’re not prepared to do that right now with anyone, but he could have done it."
“He showed a lot of leadership, and I think that’s where it starts. In a game where we don’t hit much," Higgins added. "I think he also made our defense comfortable because he was working quickly and throwing strikes.”
Higgins also spoke about how his team utilized small ball hitting and smart base running to secure the victory.
“I think that was important,” Higgins said. “It comes back to Nolan [O’Connor] did really. We had a couple timely hits, [Dallas] Lorenzetti had a couple timely hits, a sac fly in a big spot. Shawn Martin had a couple big hits for us. But I think it made [O’Connor’s] job more important […] we had to claw for it today."
The tournament was quickly put together once Gov. Murphy's executive orders allowed sports to occur again. It is called the "Last Dance" tournament because it is enabling members of the Class of 2020 to play in their final high school games this summer after having lost the regular school season to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Raiders will play again on Wednesday against arch rival Westfield at 12:00 Noon at Snyder Park in Berkeley Hts.
For the Dawgs, Zach Gelo went 1-2 with an RBI, and Darren Texiera also went 1-2 with a walk. Starting Pitcher Tommy Saverino went five innings, allowing five runs in the start, and was relived for the final two innings by Brady Rosenstock.
"It's great to be on the field," Gelo said. It's a shame for the seniors and for everybody else in general, but the seniors, including my son Zachary, who missed out on his senior year with all the others, he's having a blast. I told him 'let's go out there, have some fun, enjoy yourself.' And they did. We lost todayl but it's okay.. It's great to be out here. It's really fantastic."
Gelo also said that the team was hitting well, they just happened to hit a lot directly at Scotch Plains players, which is something they would work on.