SCOTCH PLAINS-FANWOOD, NJ – In the quarterfinal round of the Union County Tournament, the No. 10 seed Summit Hilltoppers visited the No. 2 seed Scotch Plains-Fanwood Raiders on Wednesday in a game that ended up being an absolute nail-biter.
Summit eliminated the Raiders with an 8-7 victory.
Both teams were consistent at the plate, but ended up leaving countless men on base. Kyle Brown of Summit was the first to open the scoring, cracking an RBI double in the third inning.
Scotch Plains-Fanwood matched Summit with a run in the third inning when Zach Lipshitz scored on a fielding error.
Summit took advantage of the Raiders’ sloppy defense, blowing the game open in the fourth inning. All nine Hilltoppers would bat, scoring five more runs before Brendan Kelly took the mound for the Raiders, replacing ace Chris Gibbons.
“I think Brendan was our next best available guy,” said SPF coach Joe Higgins. “Chris has just been out there a long time. He had a long inning and did not have his best stuff.”
Pete Warren and Christian Isolda keyed a Raider rally in the bottom of the inning, each earning an RBI and narrowing the score to 6-3.
In the fifth inning, Summit’s Brian Cantillo hit an RBI single with the bases loaded to extend the lead. The Raiders continued to inch closer, scoring two runs on a JT Beirne RBI and a sacrifice fly from Pete Warren.
The back-and-forth battle continued as Summit took an 8-5 lead in the top of the sixth inning. In their last chance at bat, the Raiders opened up against reliever Cam Fuoti, a pitcher they faced earlier in the season. Alex Eckert, Beirne and Warren each reached on base hits.
Lipshitz cracked a single to right for an RBI, closing the scoring gap and giving the team hope. Summit pitcher Fuoti then gave up a walk to allow the Raiders to advance runners and score another run.
With the bases loaded and two outs, Summit got a groundout to end the game.
“The hard thing about these tournaments is that they are so exciting, but when you don’t do well, people look back and say, ‘Scotch Plains didn’t win the county this year.’ Meanwhile, we’ve had a great year and we have a long way to go,” said Higgins, whose team will still earn a high seed for the upcoming state tournament next month. “When you lose here, you can lose a bit of perspective about what you’ve done.”
The Scotch Plains-Fanwood Raiders are now 13-3 on the season and play at Randolph Thursday at 4 p.m. Summit advances in the tournament and will face No. 3 seed Cranford on Saturday. Johnson and Gov. Livingston will play in the semifinal round on Saturday as well.