SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ - The South Plainfield High School varsity baseball team jumped out to a four run lead in the bottom of the first inning on the strength of six hits, and pitcher Jean Sapini made those runs stand up in the Tigers’ 4-0 victory over the Colonia Patriots Monday afternoon.
Sapini, the ace of the South Plainfield pitching staff, finished with eight strikeouts and scattered just two hits en-route to his first complete game shutout of the season. The senior also walked two Patriots and hit one batter.
“I felt very good,” Sapini said of his second win of the young season. “Even when I was warming up in the bullpen my arm felt probably the best its felt all year, so I was just trying to go out there and throw strikes.”
When he wasn’t fanning batters, Sapini forced eleven Patriot groundouts while staying in control the entire way. “I knew from my last start I was getting up in pitch count in the early innings so this game I was focusing more on pitching to contact, mixing in my changeups more,” Sapini said.
Sapini said getting the complete game meant a lot to him. “Yes, absolutely, that’s my goal every time I go out to pitch, to pitch all seven innings.”
“He was up [in the zone] early, throwing hard and they were swinging at it but he was able to settle down,” said Head Coach Anthony Guida of Sapini’s performance.
Late in the game, there was no question inside the dugout that Sapini would finish what he started.
“I think it was the fifth inning where Coach Bautista and I said ‘I think this is going to be his game,’” Guida said. “And pitch count wise, he ended up in the 80s and that’s where he was last year. He’s been a complete game pitcher for me for three years now.”
Offensively, The Tigers came out of the gates strong in the bottom of the first against freshman pitcher Nick Nielson.
Second baseman Roberto Gonzales, catcher Jared Marks and shortstop Mike Stanczak all singled to load the bases to start the frame. With one out and the bases still loaded, Chris Shine grounded a ball to the third baseman who fired home for the second out, a force, but the Colonia catcher sent an errant throw to first base that allowed all three runners to advance and gave South Plainfield a 1-0 lead.
Sapini came up to the plate and watched another Patriot miscue as a passed ball allowed outfielder Dyaln O’Connor to score from third base. The Tigers were up 2-0.
Later in the at bat, Sapini would lace an RBI single up the middle, scoring Shine and putting the Tigers up 3-0. First baseman Billy Keane followed up Sapini with a base hit to center of his own to set the table for sophomore Mikey Marrero.
With runners on the corners and two men out, Marrero, the third baseman, lined a single along the right field line to score Sapini’s courtesy runner and extend the lead to 4-0.
“We were an errant throw by maybe half a foot from them getting out of that inning and it being 0-0,” said Guida of the pivotal play during Shine’s at bat. “It was a groundball to third base and they went home for two outs and then they went to first and it hits off our leg and we’re able to score a run,” Guida said. “But then we got a couple nice two out hits which was really nice.”
“We knew we had some confidence going into this game,” said shortstop Mike Stanczak, who had two hits including a second inning double to left field. “And honestly we were just looking to hit the ball, play some small ball, get some runs up so we could have our starter get some 1-2-3 innings,” Stanczak said.
Guida said he would still like to see more clutch two out hitting, noting a few situations later in the game when his team couldn’t plate any more runs.
He was very complimentary, however, of the Colonia team defense. “They’re a team that plays on turf and we hit maybe 15 groundball outs and they made every play. So hats off to them for playing great defense,” he said.
The team (3-0) has looked good in its first week and is 2-0 within the GMC White Divison. Guida hopes the win over Colonia will give them confidence for the road game against them Tuesday and he is still looking to reschedule the home game against Sayreville to complete the season series against the Bombers. “Starting off 3-0 isn’t a big deal to me,” Guida said. “It’s about winning the division games that’s most important.”
Billy Keane is expected to make his first pitching appearance of the season Tuesday afternoon at Colonia, where the Tigers will look to sweep the home and home series.