SCOTCH PLAINS/FANWOOD, NJ – As graduation approaches, TAPintoSPF is taking a look at the spring sports seasons that were supposed to take place but never did because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Today we honor the 2020 Baseball seniors.

The season is over before it even started – a devastating loss for senior members of the Scotch Plains-Fanwood baseball team and other sports.

Coach Joe Higgins has paid tribute to his graduating players, including seniors who made the varsity squad for the first time, but sadly never got to take the field in a Raiders uniform for a competitive game.

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“Thank you to our seniors who gave us so much over the last four years. They did not get the ending they deserved, but they’ll be part of the family forever,” said Coach Higgins, whose squad remains the defending Union County Champions.

“This pandemic has been a difficult adjustment for everyone. As a teacher, it's been a challenge to strike the right balance of challenging the students while understanding their differing situations. As a coach, I just can't stop thinking about the kids who lost their seasons, especially the seniors,” he added.

Among the group of seniors this year were five players were cut from the program at some point and then persevered. They were all set for their first varsity seasons this year: Jacob Bottomly, Danny Decker, Jake Hahn, Dom Romano, and Zach Zaller.

“High school athletics are such a special experience and a big part of the growing process. To lose that opportunity is something I couldn't have fathomed for myself, and I feel for these kids,” the coach told TAPintoSPF.

Congratulations and best of luck to the first time varsity athletes and returning players Matt Delgado, Dean Kirian, Nolan O’Connor, and Michael Urbano. Coach Higgins had words about each:

Jacob Bottomly, Catcher, improved greatly during his time with the Raiders. He is the ultimate team guy, and we wish we could have shared the 2020 season with him. Jacob will attend Union County College.

Danny Decker, P/IF, did it all at tryouts and proved he belongs on the field. He’s shown poise and versatility and figured prominently in our pitching plans and IF depth. Danny has also assisted brother Josh (P/‘06) in coaching one of the middle school teams. 

Matt Delgado moved up to varsity last year and quickly showed his value.  He started games at 2B, SS, and 3B for the county champs.  He hit .333 with 7 RBI, highlighted by 3-3 day in a 7-6 win over Cranford. Well-liked and respected by his teammates, will play at Union County College.

Jake Hahn was a key member of the JV County Champions.  An athletic OF and P, Jake delivered the walk-off hit in the County semifinal to put the Raiders in the championship game. After a strong summer, he was pushing competition in OF and the mound. Jake will attend UC-Santa Barbara.

Dean Kirian, OF/2B, lost parts of two varsity seasons to injury, but still hit .410 43H 4 2B 4 3B, 1 HR 25 RBI 15 SB. A great competitor and teammate, Dean will go to Rowan University.

Nolan O’Connor was a key pitcher on the ‘19 Union County championship Raiders team.  He is pictured here in an impressive relief performance in a win against Cranford. Nolan will attend Penn State.

Dom Romano came out throwing bullets this year and figured to make a big push for innings on the mound.  A great example of perseverance, it would have been his first year on varsity. Dom will join Romano Landscaping, the family business, highly respected on the circuit.

Michael Urbano had a breakout junior season last year with a 2.41 ERA, one win and two saves, including the Union County final in 21 innings pitched. A fun kid to coach – a great mix of competitiveness and confidence. Mike will pitch for New Jersey City University next year. He was the recipient of the Scotch Plains-Fanwood Baseball League Gene DeCavalcante Memorial Scholarship at SPFHS's (Virtual) Senior Awards Banquet last week.

Related: Joint Motion Physical Therapy Athlete of the Week: Baseball's Michael Urbano

Zac Zaller helped pitch the JV Raiders to a Union County title in ‘19.  Without exaggeration, over the past 6 years he’s possibly improved more than any player I’ve seen.  He may just be getting started. Zac will pitch for Union County College.

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