PISCATAWAY - The South Plainfield High School varsity baseball team wrapped up their 2017 season on Wednesday, June 14th during the team’s annual dinner and award ceremony. The event was held at Piscataway’s Spain Inn and was attended by players, coaches and family members from the varsity, junior varsity and freshman levels at SPHS. The event was put on by the team’s Parents’ Association.
Head Coach Anthony Guida kicked off the evening with an introduction and a series of remarks about the season that brought the team all the way to the Central Jersey Group 2 sectional final. Senior captain Jared Marks delivered an invocation, and then a video presentation featuring photos and videos from throughout the season was viewed.
After dinner, freshman team Head Coach Steve Weiczorek introduced his team one by one and gave out awards. He was followed by junior varsity Head Coach Mike Stallone, who did the same before an emotional farewell message to the entire South Plainfield baseball community. Stallone is entering the next chapter of his life and will not stay on to coach next year after about two decades of playing and coaching in his hometown.
Then the main event came. Guida and Assistant Coach Mike Battista introduced each player on the varsity level and handed out letters, pins and a series of awards.
Left fielder Connor Adams went home the big winner, grabbing team MVP honors. Adams was also recognized for earning a spot on the GMC All-Conference and All-White Division teams in addition to gaining entry into the 40 Hit Club after his 45 hit campaign (good enough to move him into third place in SPHS history for hits in a season). Adams, at .506, had the third highest batting average in one season in school history, and was the first player to hold an average of .500 or better since Chris Stallone batted .519 in 2006.
Senior co-captain Jean Sapini took home the award for Pitcher of the Year for the second consecutive season. Sapini finished the year with a 1.69 ERA and 6-2 record in nine appearances on the mound. He threw five complete games and struck out 71 batters in only 58 innings. He completed his high school career with a 13-4 record and 144 strikeouts in three varsity seasons.
Jared Marks was the runaway choice for Defensive Player of the Year. The other senior co-captain never made an error in 188 chances as catcher. He had 21 assists and nearly played every inning of every game behind the plate (Niko Vasquez caught four innings in a loss at Montgomery on April 13). Both Sapini and Marks were selected to play in the GMC senior all star game.
Guida made some news during the dinner by naming shortstop Mike Stanczak and first baseman/pitcher Billy Keane captains for the 2018 season. Keane was awarded Comeback Player of the Year after turning in a fantastic season offensively and defensively and overcoming an injury in 2016 that could have ended his baseball career.
Second baseman/pitcher Roberto Gonzalez narrowly beat out Mikey Marrero and Chris Shine for Rookie of the Year, and Ricky Pellegrino was the recipient of the Coach Bill Mosca Award.
The night ended with a 50/50 raffle drawing and a presentation of gifts to the senior players, followed by a gift presentation by the players to Coach Battista who is preparing with his wife to have twins.
“It’s a night to celebrate the players. It’s a night to recognize the season, and when you step back and you watch the video, and you get a couple pictures of the kids when they were little, you realize it’s just a game,” Guida said while taking in the evening.
“I think it’s a great night and it’s amazing that we’re able to continue to do this every single year. The parents do a tremendous job, you know, and when we have successful seasons it’s just very gratifying that we have a great community here in South Plainfield that we’re able to do something like this every year and just celebrate the season. Even if it’s a bad season, just celebrate, and we honor the seniors and honor each player, we recognize them. It’s really nice, a beautiful night,” Guida said.
Complete List of Varsity Awards:
All-GMC White Division: Billy Keane, Jean Sapini, Jared Marks, Chris Shine, Connor Adams, and Mike Stanczak
All Conference: Connor Adams
GMC Senior All Star Game: Jean Sapini, Jared Marks
GMC Underclassman All Star Game: Connor Adams, Billy Keane, Chris Shine
30 Hit Club: Dylan O’Connor (30), Billy Keane (31)
40 Hit Club: Connor Adams (45)
Team MVP: Connor Adams
Rookie of the Year: Roberto Gonzalez
Defensive Player of the Year: Jared Marks
Pitcher of the Year: Jean Sapini
Coach Mosca Award: Ricky Pellegrino
Comeback Player of the Year: Billy Keane