UNION, NJ -- Scotch Plains-Fanwood’s Dean Kirian and Michael Urbano represented the Union County Champion Raiders well during the prestigious Quad County Underclassmen All-Star Game on Saturday afternoon.
Kirian and Urbano, both juniors, were named to and played significant roles for the Union County All-Star Team, which battled Middlesex County to a 5-5 tie in the nightcap of a doubleheader at Kean University. Playing before a packed house of fans and college scouts, Kirian started the game in right field and notched an RBI single, while Urbano got on the mound for two innings in relief.
Scotch Plains-Fanwood head coach Joe Higgins was also part of the action. Higgins coached third base for the team led by Gov. Livingston head coach Chris Roof.
“Dean and Michael are big parts of what we did this year, and they’re going to be leaders next year,” said Higgins, who led the Raiders to a Union County Tournament championship this spring. “They both went out and had nice games. They really did a good job today. That was a lot of fun.”
Kirian, who hit .353 during the high school season, carried that into Saturday’s game and came up clutch. With Union County trailing, 5-1, entering the bottom of the 10th, Kirian got the four-run rally started with an RBI single to score Elizabeth’s Josh Ciano and make it 5-2. Kirian would soon come home to score on the game-tying, three-run triple of the bat of Johnson’s Saul Lopez, who was named the team’s MVP.
Urbano, who sported a 2.80 ERA in 20 innings pitched this spring, also shined during in the clutch for Union County. The righty preserved a 1-1 tie in the top of the ninth, stranding the go-ahead run in scoring position.
The Raiders’ dynamic duo certainly made a good impression on their team of star-studded Union County players, which first rallied from a 1-0 deficit to tie, before again rallying from down 5-1.
“It’s exciting [to play here] and I think the best part for the kids was that there was a little bit of excitement,” Higgins said. “They were all rooting for each other, and that was pretty cool to see and nice to be a part of.”
Middlesex County had jumped out to an early lead, 1-0, after the top of the first, though Union County was quick to rally and tie it back up at one in the bottom of the third. The two counties then took that 1-1 tie past the ninth inning, creating an extra 10th inning. Special to this All-Star Game format, each team began the 10th with a runner on second, which seemed to be an effective catalyst, as both teams erupted for four runs apiece in the inning.
“I told the guys: ‘During the year, we’re all trying to beat each other up, and for one day, we’re a team and we’re really fun to watch’,” said Roof, who was at the helm of the Union County squad Saturday. “It was definitely the most fun that we’ve had with this group out of all the years.”
The Underclassmen All-Star Game, now in its 10th year, is the brainchild of Roof. However, it only recently became a “Quad County” event — originally, it was Union vs. Essex, but the additions of Hudson and Middlesex counties have created two separate games on the same day.
“It gives the kids not only an opportunity to show [their talent] to the college coaches, but to show the other counties that these guys are good players,” Roof said. “It’s a lot of fun, and to see it grow to having four teams now instead of two is nice, and who knows? Maybe we’ll keep going to six teams.”