SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – The South Plainfield High School varsity baseball team fought through cold conditions and eked out a victory in their home opener Saturday morning over the Spotswood Chargers by a score of 2-1.
Chris Shine delivered a solid performance on the mound, pitching five complete innings and striking out four while surrendering only one earned run on four hits. He did not factor in the decision.
Senior David Tavarez recorded what would prove to be the game winning hit in the bottom of the sixth while pinch hitting for right fielder Ricky Pellegrino when he roped an RBI single to left, scoring the speedy TJ Massaro. The hit broke a 1-1 tie that stood since the top of the second inning. For Tavarez, it was hit first at bat of the season.
Sophomore Roberto Gonzales earned the save, recording six outs over the final two innings. He finished with three strikeouts and gave up only a single.
Before the Tigers took the lead in the sixth, it looked like the story of the game would be South Plainfield lamenting the many missed opportunities they had at the plate with runners on base. “We couldn’t find a way to get a hit with guys in scoring position,” said Head Coach Anthony Guida after the contest. South Plainfield stranded runners with the bases loaded in the second and with two men on in the fourth.
Still, South Plainfield jumped out to an early 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first. Shortstop Mike Stanczak drew a two out walk and promptly stole second base while outfielder Dylan O’Connor was at the plate. Stanczak then moved to third base on a passed ball. O’Connor drew a walk with a wild ball four bouncing past the Spotswood catcher and rolling to the backstop. This allowed Stanczak to saunter home.
Spotswood responded immediately, tying the score at one in the top of the second. Nick Vincelli smashed a leadoff triple off Shine to deep left center and scored by tagging on a sacrifice fly to right field the very next at bat.
Shine recovered and was cruising well into the fifth inning when he ran himself into a jam by walking three batters with two outs. Still, he managed a strikeout to get the final out and end his day on a good note.
Guida intended for Shine to go back out to the hill for the sixth but says he was overruled by assistant coach Mike Bautista who makes most of the pitching decisions for the team. Guida credited Bautista for knowing when to go to the bullpen. “It all worked out,” he said.
The winning run was produced with classic South Plainfield small ball tactics. Leading off the sixth, Jean Sapini grounded a ball to the third baseman who threw to first low and in the dirt. The Chargers first baseman couldn’t come up with the scoop and Sapini was called safe. Fireplug Connor Adams laid down a sacrifice bunt moving Sapini to second. That’s when Massaro was inserted into the game as a pinch runner. He would advance to third when Mikey Marrero (who reached base for the first time in his varsity career in the second inning) grounded out to the shortstop. This set up the Tavarez at-bat.
Guida has to like how much the bottom of his order is producing. “Adams is getting himself on base. I’m impressed. Even Ricky Pellegrino…he’s bunting. That’s what he’s good at. He’s doing a real nice job with that,” Guida said.
Guida is starting to see his entire team buying into the small-ball mentality. “They all are. I mean, I bunted today my number three batter [Mike Stanczak]. You’re not hitting the ball, so, you know what? If you’re not gonna hit, you’re gonna bunt and move guys over,” he said. “So, it’s a good team.”
Guida said his team was “itching” to get back on the field after cancellations on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. The Tigers (2-0) will look to find rhythm in a home and home series against the Colonia Patriots on Monday and Tuesday.