SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ - For many on the South Plainfield High School’s Varsity Tigers Baseball Team, the love for the game began more than a decade ago on the first baseline at Kenneth Avenue’s Field 2. In June, the team captured the school’s first ever NJSIAA Group 3 championship so it only seemed fitting that a ring ceremony honoring their accomplishments for the 2015 season take place on that very same field.
On Wednesday night, a large and proud crowd that included friends, family, local dignitaries and past and present coaches gathered in the outfield and around the pitchers mound on Field 2 as the team again – and most likely for the last time –stood along the first baseline in anticipation of their rings.
“Holding this ring ceremony on this field is so meaningful. So many of these boys played here when they were just kids and tonight they are coming home to get their rings,” said Cathy Scarpitto, whose son LJ served as co-captain of the team. “This is a special night and looking back and looking forward it will be a night they never forget.”
“It’s great to being doing this on the field where many of you basically grew up and picked up that baseball and threw it for the first time when you were four or five years old,” said
Mike Pellegrino, a former All Stars coach and past commissioner of the South Plainfield Junior Baseball Club. Pellegrino, whose son Vincent was also part of the team, added, “As a parent, coach and past commissioner, I am honored to a part of this ceremony. We never crowned a South Plainfield team state champions on this field and tonight we finally have the opportunity to do it.”
The SPHS Varsity Tigers Baseball Team finished the 2015 season with a 24-8 record and, in addition to being named the 2015 group 3 State Champions also took home the White Division Champion and was named the #1 Public School Team in NJ and #5 in State. “This truly was a history-making season and the amount of work these kids put in was tremendous,” said Varsity Head Coach Anthony Guida. “They had no fear and didn't care who their opponent was and it showed.”
“We played some of the best teams in the state and our goal was to become the best team in the state and we did,” said co-Captain Chris Graves.
Co-Captain LJ Scarpitto added, “At first, we weren’t playing so well but then something happened, guys came back and suddenly we got hot. We knew what we were capable of and it showed.”
During the ceremony Mayor Matt Anesh presented members of the team with a proclamation congratulating the team, coaches and parents for their success during the 2015 season. “It is certainly an honor to be standing here with the best high school varsity baseball team in the state of New Jersey,” said Anesh.
South Plainfield’s High School Athletic Director Al Czech presented the team with a large banner that will be prominently displayed at the varsity high school baseball field and Guida presented Pellegrino with a banner that will be displayed at the Junior Baseball Club. Czech also reflected on how fortunate he was to experience the team’s win. “As an athletic director this doesn't happen too much in your life so I guess I was very fortunate that I got to stick around,” said Czech. “This is a tremendous group of young men and I enjoyed watching them play. They accomplished more than anyone could ever imagine.”
Pellegrino also reflected on the years he has been involved with the baseball club and shared how he wished the late Bill Mosca, who passed away in December 2013, could have been there to share in this accomplishment. Mosca led the SPHS Junior Varsity Basketball Team for 10 years and was Assistant Head Coach for the SPHS Baseball Team for over 30 years. “Every year, he would say to me ‘Pell, who’s coming up’ and I miss that a lot,” Pellegrino said. “I wish he was here and maybe he was. If he had anything to do with winning the state title, and I think he did, I want to say ‘thank you.’”
Guida also honored Mosca, presenting a ring to the late coach’s children Katie and JoJo. “There is no doubt in my mind that who I am as a coach is because of him,” said Guida, noting that the 2015 season was dedicated to Mosca with the number 44 adorned on the each team members hat. “He taught me so much and this championship had a lot to do with Coach Mosca,” he said. “It is my honor to present his family with a much-deserved state championship ring.”
The evening concluded with members of the 2015 State Championship Tigers Baseball Team being called to home plate to receive their ring. Congratulations to: Jake Alba, Brian Cullen, Kyle Dickerson, Tommy Dunn, Sean Erhardt, Bryan Gillen, Jack Gillis, Chris Graves, Jake Hoffman, Chris Marrero, Jared Marks, Dylan O’Connor, Vincent Pellegrino, Nick Polizzano, Brandon Rickert, Wilfredo Rivera, Jean Sapini, LJ Scarpitto, Xavier Wilson, and Zoe Falcone (stats) along with coaches Anthony Guida, Mike Battista, Carlos Ruiz, Joe Szaro and Steve Wieczorek.
Special thanks to the 2015 State Ring sponsors: The Boyle foundation, Investors Bank, the Italian American Club, SPHS Booster Club, South Plainfield Elks, South Plainfield PAL, South Plainfield PBA, South Plainfield recreation, SPJBC, Al & Debbie Czech, Coach and Mrs. Ron Koboski, Glenn and Darlene Cullen, Sally Gillis, Lisa Pellegrino and all the parents and friends.
When asked how he felt about the achievements made by the baseball team during the 2015 season, Phil Aiello – a.k.a. South Plainfield’s ‘Mr. Baseball’ – got a bit emotional. “It’s another thing off my bucket list. I hoped to see two things – a state baseball championship and one of our kids make it to the major leagues and now I have,” Aiello said, referencing the team’s success and South Plainfield’s own Brandon Downes who, in 2014, was a 7th round pick by the Kansas City Royals.
“Over the years, we have always had a good baseball club so it was mindboggling to me that we had never won a state championship before. Now we have and it is fantastic,” Aiello said.