SCOTCH PLAINS, NJ — The 8U W-SPF Slammers team won the 8U USABL Fall Baseball Championship with an 11-8 victory over the South Plainfield Tigers on Saturday, Nov. 7, at Booth Field in Scotch Plains.
The Slammers finished the fall season with a record of 8-1-2. The team was formed of kids from that are typically major rivals from Westfield and SPF.
"We were able to answer the two runs the Tigers plated in the top of the first," coach Chris Bates of SPF said. "To be able to rebound and score four runs in the bottom of the inning helped swing the momentum early."
After walks by Bobby Christensen and AJ Saccento sandwiched a single by CJ Bates in the bottom of the first, Liam Garrett of Westfield stepped to the plate and laced a two RBI double to right field that helped set the tone for the early part of the game. Domenic Erbafina's three RBI blast in the second inning propelled the Slammers to a 9-2 lead after two frames. Aaron Ives helped the Slammers at the plate with three RBI.
W-SPF made some key defensive stops late in the game, including Brody Henderson's pop-up catch in shallow right field and Tyler George's strong throw from third base to deflate a Tiger rally in the fifth.
Garrett and Drew Pravlik combined for only five runs over five innings on the mound to hold the Tigers in check. Bates closed the sixth inning for the Slammers after a shaky start to the inning and the Tigers plated a few runs to cut the lead to 11-8. The bases were left stranded as two of the last three Tigers struck out to end the game.
"The kids eliminated town lines and a historic rivalry to become a unified team even if it was for one fall," Coach Joe Alfano of Westfield said. "They were able to play some fall baseball games in a competitive environment. More importantly they made some lasting friendships."
"I am more impressed with the kids and how they were so eager to learn and how they were able to make new friends than any win we had this fall," added Coach Bates.
"Our fall season was a special one, not because of the championship we won, but due to the bonding with fellow Scotch Plains Fanwood kids and coaches in a great atmosphere which exemplifies team baseball," Coach Dan Ives of Westfield Baseball said.
The Slammers roster consisted of Raiders Bobby Christensen, Domenic Erbafina, Tyler George, CJ Bates and AJ Saccento and Blue Devils Liam Garrett, Luke Bracco, Aaron Ives, Drew Pravlik, Brendan Kelly, Jake Alfano, Brody Henderson, Brendan O'Connor and Grant Como.
"Fall baseball is a great opportunity for players to get extra at bats under their belt and gain valuable experience at defensive positions they may not be 100 percent comfortable with at this point in their lives," Bates said. "We were able to accomplish that developmental goal as every kid played every position at some point in time during the Fall season."
"One of my favorite books is by former Wake Forest basketball coach David Odom, 'The End Is Not the Trophy,'" Bates said. "It helps coaches and parents realize athletic development is all part of the process of life. The goal should never be the trophy at the end but the development of the player and person. If those things are handled properly the rest takes care of itself. For this fall season that is exactly what happened. I was so impressed how the kids from neighboring towns and rivals in the summer were able to gel and become friends pretty much from the first practice."
In the team photo are: Top row: Domenic Erbafina, Liam Garrett, Tyler George, Brendan Kelly, AJ Saccento, CJ Bates, Drew Pravlik, Grant Como. Bottom row: Aaron Ives, Jake Alfano, Brody Henderson, Bobby Christensen, Brendan O'Connor.
Coaches: Dan Ives and Chris Bates. (Not pictured are Luke Bracco and Coach Joe Alfano.)