In a back and forth contest that saw each team overcome a three-run deficit in the final two innings, the No. 8 Union Farmers outlasted the No. 4 Scotch Plains-Fanwood Raiders 10-8 in eight innings.
Chris Ciccarino started the game for the Raiders and went five and a third allowing four runs before being relieved by Chris Gibbons who finished out the sixth inning giving up an earned run of his own.
Trailing 5-2 the Raiders responded with a six-run rally that put them three outs away from a spot in the county finals. Scotch Plains loaded the bases with a leadoff walk from James D’Angelo (2 R, 2 RBI), a single to right center from Kevin Maxwell and another walk by pinch hitter Dylan Sands.
Union starter Mike Meola seemed poised to escape the jam unscathed after striking out the next two batters bringing Kevin Raska to the plate. Raska, representing the go-ahead run, responded with an RBI single to pull the score to 5-3. Meola walked Ryan Henkles and Anthony Krajscik, both with the bases loaded, to even the score.
Will Sangster, who relieved Meola after playing shortstop, threw a wild pitch that scored the go-ahead run for the Raiders. D’Angelo contributed again in his second at bat of the inning, driving in last two runs on a short fly that just stayed inside the line to give the Raiders an 8-5 lead.
With their backs to the wall, Union responded with a three run-rally off of reliever Brad Alleman (1-2, 2 R, 2 IP 1 ER). That stretch started off with a Jon Zimmerman walk and finished off with a Devin Zimmerman RBI single to knot the game at eight.
Scotch Plains threatened the Union lead in their last licks but could not capitalize with Christian Zazzali in scoring position. Zazzali stole two bases after he got on with a two-out single but was stranded at third to send the game to extras.
The Farmers pulled ahead in the top of the eighth inning on Doug Carter’s two-run line drive single to center field giving them a 10-8 lead that they would never relinquish.
Scotch Plains was unable to put together a rally in the bottom of the inning as Sangster retired the side 1-2-3 to send Union to next Saturday’s championship game.
Their opponent will remain in limbo for another night, as the clash between No. 3 Westfield and No. 7 Dayton was postponed till Sunday afternoon. Scotch Plains is back in action on Thursday when they host St. Joseph Metuchen.
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Union 0 0 0 2 0 3 2 2 10 Scotch Plains-Fanwood 1 1 0 0 0 6 0 0 8