BRIDGEWATER, NJ -- The Somerset Patriots hosted the New York metropolitan area's first professional baseball game of 2020 when they took on the New Jersey Blasters on Friday, July 17, at TD Bank Ballpark.
The newly created Blasters are composed mostly of New Jersey residents, including former Scotch Plains-Fanwood HS star Zach Lipshitz at shortstop, pitchers Alex Vargas of Plainfield and Ryan Williamson of Cranford, outfielder Liam McArthur of Basking Ridge and Zach Racusin of Montclair, and infielders Martin Figuero of Elizabeth and Louie Matini of Flemington. The roster has former Major League pitcher Vin Mazzaro, and the team is guided by first-time manager Jon Hunton, who was worked the past two seasons as the Patriots' pitching coach.
"It was awesome to be out there and playing the game I love, especially in front of my family and friends," Lipshitz said after the game. "It was great to win on opening night as well. Hopefully, I got all the emotions and anxiety out, and now I can relax and have fun. To be playing baseball again, when I thought I was finished, means the world to me."
The Patriots roster features outfielder Sean Guida of Summit and Adam Tricario of Piscataway, and pitcher Nate Roe, who lives in Scotch Plains. Former Major Leaguer Mark Leiter, Jr. is on the pitching staff, and the team is guided by skipper Brett Jodie, who is entering his eighth year at the helm. His career managerial record is 556-405.
Martin Figueroa scored the first ever run for the Blasters after reaching base on a walk and scored on a single by Zach Racusin off Somerset ace David Kubiak. The Patriots answered with a run of their own when Justin Pacchioli reached on a fielders choice and scored on a single by Dan Valerio off starter Vin Mazzaro.
The Blasters put up four runs in the top of the third to make the score 5-1. An RBI double by Tommy McCarthy broke the tie and started a big four-run top of the third inning for the Blasters. Rob Calabrese added to the lead with a two-run base hit, and Louie Martini made it a 5-1 ballgame with an RBI triple. The Patriots responded with a run in the bottom of the inning to make the score 5-2.
After a scoreless fourth, Racusin scored on a passed ball by Patriots catcher Jordan Jackson. The outfielder also hit a leadoff double and scored in the seventh on a single by Louie Martini.
Ryan Williamson (1-0) earned the win with a scoreless inning relief and two strikeouts. David Kubiak (0-1) suffered the loss, allowing five earned runs on four hits and four strikeouts in three innings pitched. Billy Layne Jr. pitched two scoreless innings of relief with four strikeouts.
The New Jersey Blasters victory was the first in franchise history and also Jon Hunton’s first win as a manager.
The teams are scheduled to play 12 games this series, but the number could expand, according to President/GM Patrick McVerry. The Patriots are limited to a seating capacity (500) allowed by state government and health officials for outdoor gatherings. (As those numbers change, so will the amount of people allowed at TD Bank Ballpark.)
“We aren’t making money on the games with a 500-person limit. We want to keep baseball relevant for our fans and have some continuity for next season,” McVerry said.
The teams will hook up again on Saturday, July 18, at 7:05 p.m., when Blasters’ lefty Brandon Liebrandt taking on Somerset righty Mark Leiter, Jr. The Patriots encourage advance tickets sales by clicking here, but a box office window will be open at each game. For more information, visit www.somersetpatriots.com.
Thanks to our 2020 Opening night sellout crowd of 500 for being with us tonight! While we wish we could have a full ballpark for all to enjoy, we are thankful that we can open the gates safely for a few hours to enjoy the game we all know and love. Slowly but surely we will get through this. - Somerset Patriots