SOUTH PLAINFIELD- Suffering a close loss in a high-stakes game can put even the best of teams in a bit of a funk for their next games. The South Plainfield suffered a tough GMC tournament loss to Old Bridge earlier this week, and today, during their last regular season game, it looked like some of that negative energy was still lingering on the Tigers (16-9).
Earlier today, South Plainfield closed its regular season campaign by hosting Scotch Plains-Fanwood. While the Tigers put on decent performances on the mound and on the field, they just couldn't put it together on offense. The Raiders (16-9) took full advantage of the Tigers’ hitting struggles, and handed them a 4-1 loss that was also the Tigers’ first home loss of the season.
When asked to described his team’s performance, South Plainfield head coach Anthony Guida said his players’ hitting was “completely flat.”
“I thought the kids were a little lazy today,” the coach said. “I’m pretty shocked we came out as down as we were. I was expecting a lot more. We’ve got to practice tomorrow to get our minds right for Monday. It’s not a good feeling heading into that tournament game.”
The main recurring issue for the Tigers today was their inability to get and move runners when they needed to. That shortcoming became particularly apparent in the second inning.
Back to back singles by Dylan O’Connor and Billy Keane followed by a walk on Jared Marks gave the Tigers a no-out bases loaded situation in the bottom of the inning, while the game was still scoreless. The next two at-bats resulted in fielded outs, and Raiders pitcher Danny Wilkinson picked up a strikeout to end the inning.
“Right now, anyone could’ve come in here today and beat us; that’s the way I feel about how we hit,” said Guida. “We pitched very well, and had decent defense but no offense to (Scotch Plains-Fanwood’s) pitchers...but we just couldn’t hit the ball. A lot of the stuff we’ve been preaching all year we just didn't do at the plate today. I’m shocked and upset.”
South Plainfield got on the scoreboard first as Connor Adams stole second, third, and eventually home after getting on first off a bunt in the third inning. In the fourth inning, Colin McAlindin tied the game with an RBI double and Spencer Vaughn drove McAndlin home for the go-ahead run off a single. Peter Yarem hit an RBI double for the Raiders in the seventh inning.
Chris Shine struck out two and gave up three hits in three innings on the plate for South Plainfield. Dave Tavarez also picked up a strikeout for the Tigers, while pitching for two innings.
The Tigers’ final run of the season will begin on Monday, when South Plainfield takes on New Providence in the first round of the NJSIAA Central, Group 2 tournament. As the number two seed, the Tigers are expected to make something substantial out of their postseason opportunity. To make that happen though, Guida says his players will need get their heads straight during this weekend's practice.
“Being the two-seed our expectations are to make a nice deep run,” Guida said. “We’d like to win a few, but based on the way we’re playing right now, I’m not taking anything for granted. I think whoever comes in on Monday, it being New Providence, has a chance to beat us. We’ve got to be able to come in and play good baseball and put the ball in play. It’s up to myself and coach Batista to get their heads on right and have a good practice tomorrow. I hope we can do that."