WESTFIELD — As far as the seedings go, this was not an upset in the first round of the North 2, Group 4 state sectional tournament. But with the way both No. 9-seeded Union and No. 8 Westfield’s seasons have gone, this was certainly a jolting result.
A young Westfield team — which is defending a sectional title — has spent most of the season enduring growing pains, including one of its earliest exits from the Union County Tournament (opening round loss) in program history. Union, on the other hand, entered the state tournament with plenty of experience, and arguably the strongest pitcher in the entire section in Zach Fernandez.
But Westfield is still dangerous as anyone come postseason time, and that showed on Monday, when the Blue Devils rallied to defeat Union, 4-2. A home game for Westfield, the Blue Devils have now won six straight state tournament games at Bob Brewster, Sr. Field, dating back to 2016.
Jalen Bryant was on fire for Union, going 3-for-4 with a double and run scored, while Rody Martinez and Matt Silvestre turned in RBIs, but the Farmers were unable to hold on to the 2-0 lead that they had built going to the bottom of the fourth.
After Westfield rallied to tie at two apiece in the bottom of the fourth, the Blue Devils jumped ahead in the fifth on a two-run double off the bat of Victor Coustan. Westfield lefty Michael Catanzaro (3 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 2 K) held the lead, turning in three scoreless inning in relief of Michael Carlone (4 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 2 K) to secure the victory.
Christian Pansini drew a bases-loaded walk and Matt McIntyre singled in the tying run in Westfield two-run fourth to knot it up at two apiece.
Union came out on fire from the onset, as Bryant ledoff the game with a stand-up double and scored on a run-scoring fielder’s choice by Silvestre. Starter Andrew Sanborn (3+ IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 3 BB, 3 K) held that lead through the first three innings and helped his own cause by reaching base in the fourth and working his way around the bases to eventually score on an RBI single from Martinez.
But Westfield loaded the bases in the bottom of the fourth before Zach Fernandez (4 IP, 2 H, 2 ER, 5 BB, 5 K) entered and limited the damage in that inning to just those two runs.
McIntyre and Andrew Caminiti each had two hits for the Blue Devils. Coustan drove in a pair of runners while McIntyre and Pansini added an RBI apiece. Coustan, Dan Kohler, Christopher Ho, and Sean Flynn accounted for each of Westfield’s four runs.
Westfield advances to play top-seeded Bayonne in the next round, and will have Catanzaro available to pitch, as he only threw 38 pitches Monday. Union’s run in the state tournament is over, though the Farmers do have a regular season game scheduled against Millburn for Saturday afternoon.