BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - The Gov. Livingston baseball team was dealt a season ending blow by Metuchen as the Bulldogs upset the No. 1 seeded Highlanders 8-3, Tuesday afternoon in Berkeley Heights.
After Gov. Livingston had taken a 2-0 first inning lead, Metuchen scored five second inning runs and never looked back as they now advance to play Raritan in the finals of the Central Jersey, Group II sectionals. Gov. Livingston’s season ends with a 22-4-1 record, a Union County Tournament Championship, and a UCC- Watchung division title.
Gov. Livingston starter Liam Hulburt (6-1), who was the winning pitcher in the opening round game, gave up a leadoff double to Mike Lapczynski before he struck out two of the next three batters. Will Hronich then hit a ball into left which was fielded by Tyler McCulloch, who threw out Lapczynski trying to score from second for the third out of the inning.
Metuchen sent out sophomore right hander Jay Harry to face a Highlander lineup that has been on a tear all season long, scoring an average of 10 runs a game. Harry a Penn State recruit as a short stop has also worked some productive innings this season for the Bulldogs. He came into the matchup with Hulbert with a 3-1 record but more impressively he had yielded only three earned runs in 27 innings the mound.
Gov. Livingston's Drew Compton greeted Harry with his 11th home run of the year with one out in the first to put the Highlanders up 1-0. Stephen Reid followed with a base hit, DJ Gonnelli was hit by a pitch, and McCulloch reached on an error to load the bases. Harry looked like he was going to have a short afternoon as he walked Will Jennings to bring in the Highlanders second run, but he got a big strikeout for the second out of the inning. Andy Serretti the eighth batter of the inning then lined out, but the Highlanders, like they have done all season, made an opposing pitcher work hard, as Harry's pitch count hit 36 in the first inning alone.
Hulburt quickly got in trouble to open the second. He gave up three consecutive hits with Sean McCadden and Lapczynski driving in runs as the Bulldogs grabbed a 3-2 lead. After Matt Volpe was hit by a pitch to load the bases, Highlander coach called on reliever Ryan Davey to try to limit the damage. Davey who had been untouchable in relief this season gave a run scoring base hit and then walked in two more runs, before the inning ended. Metuchen had sent 11 hitters to the plate in the second to now open up a 5-2 lead. The five runs Metuchen scored was the most in any one inning against Gov. Livingston this season. Actually, the Gov. Livingston pitching staff had only allowed five or more runs in four games all season long.
With a potent lineup that scores 10 runs a game and had hit 49 homers on the season, the Highlanders could just not break through against Harry. The young hurler continued to put runners on but managed to make the big pitch to get out of jams. Harry got out of back to back bases loaded innings and the Bulldogs momentum stranglehold could not be broken. Harry used his breaking ball effectively to stay just far enough off the plate to keep the big bats from making solid contact. Despite putting six base runners (5 walks 1HBP), he skillfully spotted his fastball, complimenting his off speed stuff to get the big inning ending out.
Meanwhile, Lapczynski (3-4, HR, 3 RBI) had struck again as he hit a two run homer as the Bulldogs lead was stretched to 7-2.
Harry (5 IP,4H, 2 ER)) gave way to reliever Gavin Abrams (2IP,2H,1ER) after his pitch count had reached 106 after five innings of work. Harry then moved over to shortstop and concluded his big day with a solo home run to lead off the seventh, to pad the Bulldogs lead. Gov. Livingston's ace this season DJ Gonnelli had come on in the fourth and was brilliant once again, pitching the last four innings of the game, giving up only 1 hit, Harry’s home run.
Gov. Livingston did load the bases against Abrams in the seventh but managed only a single run as their season came to a disappointing end. Too many missed opportunities at the plate against both Harry and Abrams left the Highlanders stunned as they came up short of their quest to be the only team in school history to win both a County and state title in the same year.
Twenty win seasons have become common place as Gov. Livingston did so once again this year despite losing their entire pitching staff from the year before. The Highlanders will be graduating 12 seniors but things still look bright for Gov. Livingston baseball as a solid core of players will be returning next season.