SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ - The South Plainfield High School varsity baseball team came home and exacted some sweet revenge on North Brunswick Tuesday evening with a 10-0 mercy rule victory in five innings. The win came one day after a tough walk-off loss on the road to the Raiders.
The Tigers mashed North Brunswick pitchers Mike Scimone and Christian Petrillo around for a total of 16 hits in the win. Pitcher Billy Keane was effortless while earning the shutout, striking out four while scattering two hits and forcing ten ground ball outs while walking one.
Standout offensive performances came from left fielder Connor Adams (3 for 4, RBI, stolen base, two runs scored), shortstop Mike Stanczak (2 for 4, three RBIs), center fielder Dylan O’Connor (3 for 3, a stolen base, two runs scored) and DH Jean Sapini (1 for 2, a walk, three RBIs).
“It’s exactly what we needed to do,” said Head Coach Anthony Guida after the contest. “As a team all the way around, it’s a tough time to walk off the field when we kind of blew a five run lead yesterday, but we did exactly what we were supposed to do [today]. I’m real happy. We pitched and played defense,” he said.
“Both pitchers [for North Brunswick] were almost exactly the same from yesterday to today and we didn’t make the adjustment yesterday. We scored five runs and then all of a sudden we just fell asleep, got underneath, popping the ball up,” Guida said. “Today we stayed back, we got on top, and we drove the baseball. So we did make an adjustment from yesterday to today, so it was nice to see that.”
Just like they’ve done all season, the Tigers jumped out in front early with a massive rally in the bottom of the first. Second baseman Roberto Gonzalez set the table with a single to right and Adams hit a fielder’s choice grounder to second base that was scooped up by the Raider defender, but the throw to second to get the lead runner was delivered too late.
With runners on first and second and no outs, Stanczak hammered a bases clearing, two RBI double deep to the left center field gap. Stanczak was thrown out while attempting to stretch the hit into a triple, but the score was already 2-0.
Still with only one out, O’Connor and catcher Jared Marks both singled to left and Sapini drew a walk to load the bases for third baseman Chris Shine. Shine blooped a ball to shallow right that the second baseman-- running quite a distance-- got his glove on but couldn’t come up with. Hustling with two outs, O’Connor and Marks would come across home plate to make the score 4-0 for South Plainfield before the inning was over.
That was more than enough scoring for the Tigers pitcher.
“I felt good. All my pitchers were working, my off-speed was working and I was just hitting my spots,” Keane told TAPinto. “I was looking to pitch to contact. I know I’m not going to strike out everybody, but if I mixed up the speeds I knew they were going to hit ground balls,” he said.
Keane finished strong as three of his final six recorded outs came via the strikeout. He seemed to be having fun out there. “Of course it’s fun,” he said. “Later in the game I was really feeling it.”
“It’s what we want to see,” Guida said of Keane’s performance. “We’ve been waiting to see that Billy because we know he’s there. Just haven’t seen him throw with some confidence. We finally got a lead and then all of a sudden, I think his best inning was the fifth. Obviously every pitcher wants some run support but it was nice to see him pitch with some confidence,” said Guida.
“We pitch to contact and have confidence in the defense. He pitched to ground balls, we fielded the ground balls and threw them out, and [the fifth] was a quick inning.”
Speaking of ground balls, Keane’s middle infielders, Gonzalez and Stanczak, both flashed some leather throughout the game Tuesday for a few spectacular defensive put-outs. “Nice plays. I think some really nice plays,” Guida said. “It was really nice to see, and when pitchers see that, they have a lot of confidence.”
Both teams went quiet in the second but South Plainfield would tack on two runs in each of the home third, fourth, and fifth innings to put the game away for good while Keane sailed.
In the third, Sapini found himself up at the plate with runners at the corners and nobody out. The senior alertly grounded to the right side of the infield for a sacrifice RBI that scored O’Connor and advanced Mikey Marrero (pinch running for Marks, who singled) to second. The next batter was varsity newcomer TJ Massaro, who scorched a grounder to first that took a nasty hop over the shoulder of North Bunswick’s Danny Reardon. The hit was good for an RBI and a 6-0 Tiger lead.
In the fourth, Sapini would once again find himself up with two men on. This time it was second and third with two outs. Sapini blasted a single to left, good for two RBIs and an 8-0 Tiger lead.
For the tough-luck pitcher of Monday’s game, it was a nice way to rebound 24 hours later.
“I was seeing the ball very well,” Sapini said. “I know the last couple games I’ve been lunging a lot, trying to get out front, so this game I was making sure I was staying back, waiting for my pitch. And to have that two out single felt really good,” he said.
“This game made me feel a lot better from yesterday, especially because our team got the 10 run win. So that’s what was mainly important to me,” said Sapini.
The final two runs came in the bottom of the fifth when Petrillo entered on the hill in relief of Scimone. Senior Kevin Soper drew a one out walk while pinch hitting for Ricky Pellegrino, and Gonzalez singled to right. With two men on, Adams launched an RBI base hit to right field that scored Soper, moved Gonzalez from first to third, and gave the Tigers a 9-0 lead.
One batter later Stanczak initiated the mercy rule by knocking an RBI single to left for the 10th and final South Plainfield run.
“If we came out of this game with a loss, it would have devastated us,” Dylan O’Connor said about bouncing back from Monday. “I mean, you have to have a short memory. That’s how baseball is. You have to have a short memory and come out with another win,” he said.
“Its baseball,” Guida said to sum up Tuesday’s game. “We understood what happened yesterday and made sure it didn’t happen today, and it was fun to see. The kids had fun today.”
After splitting the two-game series with the Raiders, South Plainfield stands at 6-3 overall and 4-2 in the GMC White Division. The team will travel to North Hunterdon on Thursday at 4PM and then head back to North Brunswick to play in the Autism Awareness Baseball Challenge against Millburn on Saturday.