BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - An emotional game for Gov. Livingston baseball when their State Tournament journey came to an end on Wednesday, losing to Nutley, 6-2, at home.
"It's very emotional, you can tell it's a very close group. We're like family. When it ends, it's a little sad," said Gov. Livingston head coach Chris Roof.
The Highlanders had their southpaw ace, junior Ethan Frohman, on the mound going against Nutley's Nick Liaci.
Nutley head coach Robert Harbison was concerned with pitching Liaci after his performance in Saturday's game. "I was little nervous moving the game up one day, I wanted to give him an extra day of rest," said Harbison. "It's tough to practice, they've already played 26 games. We were ready."
"It's a daunting task, especially with Frohman throwing," said Harbison of playing Gov. Livingston. "We have played pretty good teams all year so we knew we could hang around with them if nothing else. As long as Nick threw strikes, he would keep us in the game."
The game remained scoreless through the first three innings. Anthony Rossi led the fourth inning with a single and stole second and third. Anthony Condito hit a single RBI to get Nutley on the scoreboard. The rally continued with a 2-RBI single by Andrew Santos for a 3-0 lead.
Harbison knew luck was on their side. "We were fortunate, the two run single wasn't hit that well, but that's what happens, it's baseball, it was the right timing," said Harbison. "They [GL] hit the ball well too, there just weren't as many people on at the time."
Junior Mike Falk would ignite a rally for the Highlanders in the bottom of the fourth. With two outs and no runners on, Falk smashed one over the center field for a double. Junior John Tedesco followed-up with a single bullet, striking pitcher Liaci's foot. The inning would end stranding both runners.
The Highlanders came alive in the fifth when senior Ryan Jennings hit through left field to load the bases. Junior Ian Lynch connected and launched the ball over center field for a double driving all three runners home.
The plate umpire made a controversial call that Nutley catcher Austin Kunz nailed Jennings out at home. The inning would end with Nutley leading 3-2.
Nutley's Nico Mercandante was prepared for Frohman's pitch in the sixth inning. "He had been pitching outside to me and I kept fouling. I knew where the pitch was coming in," said Mercandante. Mercandante hit the three-run homer over the right center wall which would be enough for the victory, sending Nutley to the semifinals.
"You have to rise up when you play a good team like this," said Harbison. "They [GL] do it every year. We were fortunate."
Nerves and emotion may have played into the outcome for the Highlanders. "They played hard, Nutley is a very good team. It didn't fall our way," said Roof. "It was 3-2 in the sixth inning. We've been doing this to teams all year. The big three run homer, it didn't go our way."
Frohman pitched six innings allowing 8 hits and walked four with six earned runs. "He made a couple of mistakes -- sometimes you can get away with it and sometimes you don't, and that is what happened today," said Roof. "He carried us and he is the reason we won 21 games. 21 and 6, I'll sign up for that every year."