BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - Gov. Livingston senior Danny Serretti and his younger brother Andy combined for three home runs and 7 RBI as the Highlanders blasted their way past the Union Farmers 10-1,Tuesday afternoon in Berkeley Heights.
Andy Serretti hit the first of the Highlanders four home runs when he connected for a two run shot in the third inning, erasing a 1-0 Union lead. Danny Serretti followed with a solo and three run homer before Stephen Reid capped off the Highlander power display with another bomb over the centerfield fence. Gov. Livingston broke open a close game, scoring six times in the sixth inning as Reid and Serretti both went deep. Winning pitcher DJ Gonnelli (2-0) registered another quality start giving up just one run, while striking out a career high 9. Gov. Livingston (9-2-1) won for the fifth consecutive time and will now face UCC-Watchung division leader Scotch Plains-Fanwood (10-3) at home on Thursday.
Union (7-5) came to the Heights looking for a quality conference win with their sophomore ace Andrew Sanborn (2-1) rested and ready to go. Sanborn a hard throwing right hander, who also was the Farmers quarterback this past fall, was coming off a career high 13 strikeout performance against New Providence. The Farmers spotted Sanborn an early lead as they pushed across a run against Gonnelli in the first inning. Sanborn, who bats leadoff, worked a walk and moved over to second on a sacrifice. Gonnelli then gave up an infield hit and a blooper to right field scoring Sanborn as Union went up 1-0.
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Sanborn faced just six batters through his first two innings of work. Gonnelli (2-3) managed a one out base hit in the second but Sanborn got a double play ball to abruptly end the inning.
The game was quickly taking on the look of a pitching duel as Gonnelli put the Farmers down 1-2-3 in the top of the third and both lineups were having trouble figuring out the opposing pitcher. However, with one aggressive swing of the bat, in the home half of the third, the Highlanders changed that. After Jack Pedini (1-1, 2 BB) opened the inning with a hustling opposite field double, Sanborn then challenged Andy Serretti with a first pitch fastball. The junior Serretti (1-3, 3 RBI) promptly drilled Sanborn’s first offering over the right field fence for a two run homer and a 2-1 Highlander lead.
Gov. Livingston scored single runs in the fourth and fifth innings opening up a more comfortable three run lead for Gonnelli. A Union error in the fourth led to a Highlanders run and Danny Serretti added another when he hit the first of his two homers, a two out solo shot to right.
Union still in the game trailing 4-1 opened the sixth with a single by SS Dren Gocaj. Gonnelli then came up with a huge defensive play when he picked Gocaj off first base for the innings first out. Again, Union attempted to mount a rally as the next two Farmers rapped out singles bringing the tying run to the plate. After the runners had moved up to second and third on a wild pitch, Gonnelli ended the scoring threat, striking out the next two hitters to close the inning.
Stephen Reid made a slight adjustment at the plate as he led off the home half of the sixth. He had taken Sanborn’s first pitch for a strike to start his first two at bats, but this time power hitting Reid jumped on a first pitch fastball and sent a towering fly ball over the left center field fence for his fourth home run of the season. Reid’s homer seemed to unnerve Sanborn a bit as he gave up a five pitch walk and single following Reid’s big hit. Union’s third error of the game then expanded the Highlanders lead to 6-1. The Serretti’s then finished off their big day and the Farmers with both players having quality final plate appearances. First Andy Serretti laid down a perfect safety squeeze forcing in Tyler McCulloch (1-3) from third for his third RBI of the game. Danny Serretti then connected for his second home run of the game as he hammered a 2-1 pitch off reliever Gio Zuena over the right centerfield fence.
With Gonnelli (114 PIT) now having reached the maximum pitch count, Ethan Saia came on in the seventh to finish up. Saia got a quick three outs on 11 pitches to complete the 10-1 win. Winning pitcher Gonnelli finished his six innings having given up five hits and one earned run while fanning 9. Unions Sanborn (89 PIT)) took the loss surrendering six earned runs on seven hits in 5 1/3 innings.
Looks like the Highlanders will avoid Scotch Plains ace Danny Wilkinson (Villanova) in Thursday’s matchup. Wilkinson, who previously this year struck out 20 in a game against Union, threw 86 pitches in Scotch Plains 7-5 comeback win Tuesday against Westfield. Wlikinson, who beat the Highlanders earlier this year, struggled against Westfield throwing 80 plus pitches in just 2 2/3 innings. Most likely Jake Friedman (3-0) will take the mound for the Raiders and face either Liam Hulbert (4-0) or Ryan Monroy (2-0) for the Highlanders.
Prior to Tuesday's win over Union, Gov. Livingston received the three seed in the upcoming Union County Tournament. The Highlanders will play Linden in the first round of the tournament on Saturday at 11 am in Berkeley Heights.