SCOTCH PLAINS, NJ — The buzz saw that has become Westfield payed a visit to Scotch Plains in the state sectional semifinal Wednesday and only grew sharper.
Westfield (10-11) was far from the scariest team in Union County this season, as the Blue Devils finished second-to-last in the Watchung Conference, lost in the first round of the Union County Tournament and entered the State Tournament as the No. 8 seed with a losing record. But Westfield is defending North 2, Group 4 sectional champion, and ever since this year’s tournament began they have been making a stunning surge to repeat.
Westfield’s latest state shocker came at the hands of archrival and No. 4-seeded Scotch Plains-Fanwood, 3-1, behind timely hitting and the right arm of Michael Carlone. Through its first three tournament games, Westfield has stunned Union, top-seeded, Top 10 state-ranked and Hudson County champion Bayonne and now Union County champion Scotch Plains-Fanwood (18-9).
Andrew Caminiti scored two runs and Matt McIntyre had the only RBI for Westfield, which scored its first two runs off errors. The Blue Devils plated a run apiece in the sixth and seventh to stretch a once 1-0 lead off Villanova-bound lefty Danny Wilkinson (6 2/3 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 4 BB, 8 K) who took a no-hitter into the fourth inning.
“Scotch Plains is a good team and they are well coached and always play hard,” said Westfield Coach Bob Brewster. “We played them twice before, and each team won in the bottom of the seventh.”
“We're not the best hitting team, but we did just enough to win,” Brewster added. “Danny Wilkinson is one of the best pitchers in the state. We hit just enough to win.”
Brewster praised his pitchers, Michael Carlone, who gave up one run in 5 2/3 innings with 1 walk, 6 K's and 1 HBP, and Michael Catanzaro, who needed just 10 pitches to get four outs to lock down the save.
Westfield broke the ice in the fourth, when Caminiti singled to breakup the no-hitter, stole second and scored on an error. Caminiti then walked and made his way home after errors in the sixth, then McIntyre, a Rutgers commit, drew a bases loaded walk in the seventh to make it 3-1.
After Carlone spun five dominant innings to begin, Scotch Plains-Fanwood started to solve the righty in the sixth. Dean Kirian ledoff the inning with a double to the warning track in dead center, and scored when next batter Michael Dieu singled to make it 2-1. The Raiders then loaded the bases, still with no outs, when Tyler Stines and Angelo DiNizo then followed up with consecutive singles.
Kirian stood at third as the tying run, but it was not to be for the Raiders. Carlone recorded two huge strikeouts, then Catanzaro came on and induced a groundout to end the inning and strand the bases loaded. On the groundout, Josh Canavan appeared to beat the throw at first, but was ruled out much to the Raiders’ dismay.
Stines and Dieu — both seniors — each had two hits on the afternoon. The Raiders out-hit Westfield, 8-3.
How does a coach console a team that has just lost its final game of the season, a game that for many players would be the last of their careers?
“I told them that they shouldn't be thinking about this game and they should focus on how much they accomplished this year and the great turnaround we had,” Coach Joe Higgins said after the game. “This is the nicest group of kids, they really care about each other. We are fortunate to be able to coach a bunch of kids like them.”
Westfield advances to visit No. 3-seeded Ridge in the sectional semifinals on Friday. Scotch Plains-Fanwood’s first banner year since 2009 finishes at 18-9.