Cranford’s Shriner comes through in the clutch to deliver game-winning RBI-single for Essex-Union squad; Inaugural Underclassmen All-Star Game at Kean vs. Middlesex a success

Stephen Reid of Governor Livingston bangs out two hits and drives in a run

PHOTOS BY JR PARACHINI – James Shriner of Cranford, who produced the game-winning hit with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, was chosen as the Essex-Union team’s Most Outstanding Player. He is pictured here with Event Administrator Bob Smorol.
Essex-Union coaches, from left, include Chris Roof of Governor Livingston, Joe Higgins of Scotch Plains, Joe Sorce of Belleville and Jim Whalen of Columbia.
The Essex-Union team defeated Middlesex 8-7 in the inaugural Essex-Union vs. Middlesex Underclassmen All-Star Baseball Game at Kean University.
Essex-Union coach Chris Roof of Governor Livingston poses with his 3 players – from left, Drew Compton, Danny Serretti and Stephen Reid.
Middlesex MOP Christian Biolsi of Edison receives his plaque from Event Administrator Bob Smorol.

UNION – A big part of being a Cranford baseball player is realizing what the situation calls for.

James Shriner didn’t expect to be up with the game tied and two outs in the bottom of the ninth, but he was more than ready to make something positive happen when he did.

With runners on second and third, Shriner remained patient and just waited for a pitch he could drive.

Knowing that a hit to any vacated hole straight ahead was all that it would take, the standout sophomore went the opposite way and belted a ball through the right side of the infield to drive in Columbia’s Elliot Dix from third with the winning run.

Shriner ended up driving in his team’s final two runs as the inaugural Essex-Union vs. Middlesex Underclassmen All-Star Baseball Game went to the Essex-Union squad 8-7 before a respectable Tuesday night crowd at Kean University.

Already a two-year starter in right field for the Cougars and a key member of Cranford’s last two North 2, Group 3 championship teams Shriner went 1-for-3, with the game-winning RBI-single and two RBI total.

“I wanted to get in the zone quickly and not let the pitcher get ahead in the count,” said Shriner, who was selected as the Essex-Union team’s Most Outstanding Player.

Shriner’s first at-bat, a fly out to right, was in the sixth inning. He came up to the plate three times in the final four frames. He reached base in the eighth on a 3-6 fielder’s choice where he drove in a run to make the score 7-1.

Shriner is one of Cranford’s best hitters as far as using the entire field. He has produced many opposite field hits to right during his first two seasons.

“I just try to stay back and use all of my strength,” Shriner said.

Shriner also competed for the Union team in last week’s 8th annual Essex vs. Union Underclassmen All-Star Game at Kean.

“Playing in these games means a lot to me, especially to be here with my teammate Gordon Graceffo,” Shriner said.

Graceffo started on the mound for the Essex-Union squad and retired six of the seven batters he faced. The only batter that reached base against him was the result of an infield error, with that base runner not scoring.

According to Cranford Baseball’s twitter account, Graceffo committed to Villanova this week.

“I really appreciate everything the coaches did for us,” Shriner said.

Although he still has two years of high school ball remaining, Shriner is looking to play in college and listed Seton Hall and Davidson as schools he’s looking at.

“Next week, with my Farrah team, I’ll be going to Georgia, so I’m looking forward to that, too,” Shriner said.

Both MOPS, including Edison sophomore Christian Biolsi for Middlesex, did not start. Biolsi was 2-for-2, with an RBI-double for his team’s first run in the sixth and a leadoff single in the ninth. He was the only Middlesex player with two hits.

Middlesex was held to just one run on four hits over the first eight innings. Middlesex then began the top of the ninth with six straight hits – all singles.

Middlesex produced six runs on seven hits in the ninth to tie the game at 7-7. All of its hits in the frame were singles.

Nick Vincello of Spotswood, who struck out swinging his previous time at bat in the eighth, tied the game at 7-7 with an RBI-single past the Essex-Union shortstop.

Essex-Union starting left fielder Stephen Reid of GL, who will be a junior and is committed to Georgia Tech, was 2-for-3, with a single and an RBI-double.

Essex-Union starting third baseman Drew Compton of GL, who will also be a junior and is also committed to Georgia Tech, walked in the first and led off the fifth with an opposite field shot to left that went for a triple. Compton scored on an RBI-ground out to second hit by junior Chris Walker of West Orange.

Essex-Union starting center fielder and leadoff batter Jack Zyska, after being retired his first two times up, drilled a shot to the left-center fence on two bounces that brought home Max Ruvo and Matt Ciccone, who with one out reached base on a double and a walk respectively.

The Seton Hall Prep junior slid into third with a two-run triple and was then awarded home after an errant throw got past the third baseman. Zyska’s at-bat with one out in the bottom of the fourth made the score 4-0 in favor of Essex-Union, which never trailed.

Nine different Essex-Union players produced 10 singles, with non-starter Elliot Dix of Columbia, a sophomore, collecting two.

Nine different players, including seven in the ninth inning, produced singles for Middlesex.

Middlesex pitchers: Jake Hellwig first two innings, no runs; Zach Delvalle innings three and four, five runs; Chris Michael innings five and six, one run; Nick Payero innings seven and eight, one run and Matt Volpe inning nine, one run with two outs.

Essex-Union pitchers: Gordon Graceffo first two innings, no runs; Matt Ciccone innings three and four, no runs; Danny Wilkinson innings five and six, one run; Cory Hiltz innings seven and eight, no runs; Marty Higgins inning nine, six runs.

NOTES: As stated in the game program, a special thanks for this game goes to Kean University and Kean’s head baseball coach Neil Ioviero for use of their outstanding baseball facility.

Event administrator Bob Smorol, like he does with the Essex-Union Underclassmen All-Star Game, produces a top-flight exhibition for youngsters to get noticed by college coaches, family members and friends.

“This was fun, a good time for all,” said Essex-Union coach Chris Roof, the head coach at GL since 2004. “Any time you can get this much talent on a ball field is a pretty neat thing.

“We’ll discuss adding a fourth county for next year. Kean is such an awesome facility.”





ESSEX-UNION – James Shriner, Cranford sophomore outfielder

1-for-3, with game-winning RBI-single and 2 RBI total.


MIDDLESEX – Christian Biolsi, Edison sophomore pitcher-first baseman

2-for-2, with RBI-double for team’s first run in the sixth

and leadoff single and run scored in the ninth. He was the only

Middlesex player with two hits.





Middlesex (0-1)                     0   0   0     0   0   1     0   0   6 – 7  11  3

Essex-Union (1-0)                 0   0   1     4   1   0     0   1   1 – 8  15  1


WINNING PITCHER: Marty Higgins, Nutley, sophomore RH


LOSING PITCHER: Matt Volpe, Metuchen, junior RH



Middlesex – Mike Falco, Nick Payero, Christian Biolsi, Brandon Szerszen, Kevin Reyes, David Bermudez, Jon Sot, Chris Brito, Nick Vincello.

Essex-Union – Elliot Dix (2), Chris Walker, Stephen Reid, Peter Serruto, Christian Pierre, John Sweetwood, Jake Vall-Llobera, Marty Higgins, James Shriner.



Middlesex – Christian Biolsi.

Essex-Union – Max Ruvo, Stephen Reid, Chris Walker,



Middlesex – Kyle Richards.

Essex-Union – Jack Zyska, Drew Compton.



Middlesex – None.

Essex-Union – None.




2-Christian Petrillo, center field

14-Connor Adams, right field

10-Chris Brito, shortstop

20-Mike Lapczynski, designated hitter

3-Jake Hellwig, pitcher (did not bat)

21-Matt Volpe, first base

19-Mike Falco, third base

8-Nick Payero, left field

1-Andrew Tan, second base

15-Kyle Richards, catcher



Vinnie Abene, Edison

Mike Lepore, South River

Alex Perez, Perth Amboy

Glen Fredricks, Spotswood

Mark Blevins, North Brunswick

CJ Hendricks, South Brunswick



1-Andrew Tan, North Brunswick, sophomore infielder

2-Chris Petrillo, North Brunswick, sophomore outfielder

3-Jake Hellwig, St. Joseph’s, Metuchen, sophomore pitcher

5-Carlos Marte, Woodbridge, junior pitcher-infielder

6-Zach Delvalle, Woodbridge, junior pitcher

7-David Bermudez, East Brunswick, junior infielder

8-Nick Payero, Monroe, junior pitcher-infielder

9-Nick Vincello, Spotswood, junior outfielder

10-Chris Brito, Perth Amboy, junior third baseman

11-Brandon Szerszen, South River, junior infielder

12-Kevin Reyes, South Brunswick, junior outfielder

13-Jon Sot, St. Joseph’s, Metuchen, junior outfielder

14-Connor Adams, South Plainfield, junior outfielder

15-Kyle Richards, Sayreville, junior catcher

16-Chris Michael, Colonia, junior pitcher-third baseman

17-Anthony Palmisano, Colonia, junior catcher

18-Christian Biolsi, Edison, sophomore pitcher-first baseman

19-Mike Falco, East Brunswick, junior pitcher-third baseman

20-Mike Lapczynski, Metuchen, junior pitcher-third baseman

21-Matt Volpe, Metuchen, junior pitcher-first baseman




14-Jack Zyska, center field

20-Danny Serretti, second base

12-Nick Maldonado, shortstop

6-Stephen Reid, left field

18-Peter Serruto, catcher

8-Drew Compton, third base

15-Chris Walker, right field

11-Max Ruvo, first base

10-Matt Ciccone, designated hitter

5-Gordon Graceffo, pitcher (did not bat)



Chris Roof, Governor Livingston

Joe Scorce, Belleville

Jim Whalen, Columbia

Chris Brodeur, New Providence

Joe Higgins, Scotch Plains

Scott Illiano, Caldwell



1-John Sweetwood, MKA, junior outfielder

2-Cory Hiltz, Westfield, junior pitcher

3-Elliot Dix, Columbia, sophomore infielder

4-Ryan Cardona, Livingston, junior pitcher

5-Gordon Graceffo, Cranford, junior pitcher

6-Stephen Reid, Gov. Livingston, sophomore outfielder

7-Josh O’Neill, Nutley, sophomore pitcher

8-Drew Compton, Gov. Livingston, sophomore third baseman

9-James Shriner, Cranford, sophomore outfielder

10-Matt Ciccone, Newark Academy, sophomore pitcher

11-Max Ruvo, West Essex, junior first baseman

12-Nick Maldonado, Seton Hall Prep, sophomore pitcher-infielder

13-Marty Higgins, Nutley, sophomore third baseman

14-Jack Zyska, Seton Hall Prep, junior outfielder

15-Chris Walker, West Orange, junior outfielder

16-Christian Pierre, Columbia, junior outfielder

17-Danny Wilkinson, Scotch Plains, sophomore pitcher

18-Peter Serruto, Millburn, junior catcher

19-Tyree Bradley, West Orange, junior first baseman

20-Dan Serretti, Gov. Livingston, junior infielder

21-Jake Vall-Llobera, Westfield, junior catcher