WESTFIELD, NJ – Just four days remain before the Union County Tournament baseball final between top-seeded Gov. Livingston and No. 3 Westfield, but Tuesday’s game between the two rivals felt as if there were a championship on the line.
The Highlanders took round one of the series, 1-0, in early April, adding that much more intensity to the game.
With the game tied 4-4 in the bottom of the seventh, Westfield’s designated hitter Marc Luino grounded a ball off GL second baseman John Tedesco, scoring Chris Arena from second to win round two in walk-off fashion.
Jack Bunting, who took the loss in the first game, earned the victory for Westfield. Blue Devils’ head coach Rob Brewster said his starter “knows how to dig deep” when needed.
“He’s a gamer,” Brewster said. “He’s pitched twice against them and did a great job. He lost 1-0 the first time and this time he got the 5-4 victory. Our kids just don’t know the word quit. They know how to battle right from the beginning of the game.”
Gov. Livingston doesn’t know the word quit either. After taking an early 1-0 lead in the top of the second, Highlanders starter Steve Duda allowed four unanswered runs between the second and fourth innings.
The Blue Devils strung together six consecutive base runners in fourth inning to put three runs on the board. Chris Hogge, Dan DoCampo and Anthony Perconte each drove in a run during the frame to put Westfield ahead 4-1.
However, the Highlanders fought back with two runs of their own in the fifth. Starting catcher Barron Natali drove in both on a double of the left centerfield wall.
Trailing 4-3 in the sixth, Gov. Livingston loaded the bases with nobody out, but failed to score following two strikeouts and a flyout.
The Highlanders later tied the game in the seventh inning, but had an opportunity for more runs but had a runner thrown out at second trying to take an extra base on Mike Falk’s game-tying sacrifice fly.
“They’re a quality team, a team ranked in the top 20, you just can’t make mistakes against them,” GL head coach Chris Roof said. “Its high school baseball and they’re going to make mistakes and there are going to be innings where you chase a ball out of the [strike] zone. This is a loss we’re going to learn from.”
Gov. Livingston reliever Victor Candeloro gets credited with the loss. He replaced Duda in the sixth inning, allowing a run on three hits.
Both teams view the other as a perfect match in terms of physical play heading into Saturday’s final. Ethan Frohman will get the ball for Gov. Livingston in the game, he defeated Westfield 1-0 on April 9. The Blue Devils have not announced a starter for Saturday’s contest.
First pitch for the Union County Tournament final is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. The game will be played at Kean University.