BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - Gov. Livingston senior Josh Katz has been named the Delicious Heights Highlander Athlete of the Week for producing multiple key hits which led Gov. Livingston to the school's first ever Union County Baseball Championship and three wins for the week.
Leadoff man Katz batted .400 in four games, but his two biggest hits came in the UCT semis and finals when his team desperately needed them. In two pressure packed at bats this past weekend, Katz came through with two out base hits driving in key go ahead runs. The first big hit was a 9th inning game winner against Westfield and the second being a 5th inning go ahead RBI single in the Championship game.
For the week, in addition to his .400 average (6 hits), he drove in five runs and played an outstanding centerfield as GL won three games raising their season mark to 16-7.
In Saturday afternoon's semifinal game against Westfield, GL had surrendered a two run lead in the bottom of the 7th which pushed the game into extra innings. In the top of the ninth, GL loaded the bases with no outs. In what appeared to be a chance for the Highlanders to put up a big inning and regain the games momentum, it did not materialize as Westfield pitcher Corey Hiltz retired the next two hitters. Senior Katz then stepped to the plate and after taking a first pitch curveball for a strike, guessed right on a fastball and rapped a single into leftfield putting GL back on top.
"I told myself that I need to get a hit here because the bases were loaded with two outs," said Katz. "The momentum for us was right there. Before I got into the batters box I took a huge deep breath. Before every at bat I do that because Coach Roof says that calms our whole body down and it definitely has been helping me. Once I got the hit to take the lead, I was so pumped."
The Highlanders pitcher Brian Cranston made sure Katz's big hit stood up by closing out Westfield on just seven pitches to end the game.
In Sunday's Championship game against SPF, in the 5th inning, Katz, again, came to the plate with two outs with the Highlanders desperate for a run to break a 1-1 tie. For the second consecutive game, Katz came up with the big two out hit driving a pitch up the middle scoring the critical run GL needed. In helping GL baseball take their first Union County title, Katz batted .533 (8-for-15) with 6 RBI in the four UCT games played over the past three weeks.
"Not only were those big hits, but they might be considered some of the biggest hits (in magnitude) in GL baseball history," said Coach Chris Roof. "And the reason is because we've never won that tournament."
In addition to making history, what made the wins more awesome was the fact that they lost to Westfield and Scotch Plains during regular season. "They're both great teams led by great coaches," said Katz. "It truly is awesome being on the first GL baseball team to win a county final. Everyone did not expect us to be in that position and doubted us because of our youth. There is nothing better than showing everyone that we are the best team in the county."
When Katz walked to the plate, he had the same approach as every other at bat. "Hit a line drive or a hard ground ball through a hole," Katz had told TAPinto. "Their pitcher was ahead of me with a 0-2 count but I still felt confident to deliver for us. Coach Yezza told us since day one to never fear having two strikes on you. I take that to mind every time I have two strikes on me because Coach Yezza was one of the best two strike hitters during his time he played."
Katz can also credit his newly found confidence. "All the coaches have made me a much more confident player which leads me to have a much more confident approach at the plate," said Katz. "Baseball is a mental game and once you get tense and nervous, you're done."
Roof agrees that confidence takes you a long way in baseball. "Josh in my eyes is a different player this year. He has a lot more confidence," said Roof. "Josh plays the game the right way, hard!" Roof went on to praise Katz's training. "He's faster and stronger this year. He has a good throwing arm from the outfield. The biggest difference from this year is that in his head, he knows he can be a standout player," said Roof. "Last year, I'm not sure that was the case all the time."
Roof looks to his seniors to show the underclassmen what it means to wear the uniform. "Josh is a kid who's definitely bought in to how/what we do in the GL baseball program," said Roof.
Below are comments from Katz regarding his past, present and future:
You now have been part of a State and County championship. What do you think it takes for a team to reach those goals?
Katz: A team that does not get along will never be able to achieve a championship. The teams that Coach Roof puts together always seem to have that special bond because of the way he runs the program. The team this year is especially close. We have each other's backs and show faith in one another both on the field and off. I am very lucky to have friends and teammates like them. Every single player last year and this year have played huge parts for our success because they bought in to Coach Roof's philosophy.
After the first few games this season you became the leadoff hitter, how do you like it?
Katz: I love leading off games. It means a lot to me that Coach Roof has a ton of confidence in me to start the offense up. Coach Roof has known me since I was a kid and if it weren't for him, I would not be the player that I am today. He is the one that has always believed in me.
Who got you started in baseball and when did you make the commitment to play baseball exclusively?
Katz: My father got me started in baseball because he played until college and loves the game. I started up with tee ball and ended up quitting in second grade. I took a year off and realized how much I missed it and played PAL and realized that I can play travel ball as well. Mr. Doren, Vin Doren's father was my head coach for about four years and was my first legit head coach. Mr. Doren and my dad definitely helped me mature as a ball player. During my freshman to junior years I ran winter track to keep in shape for baseball but then when winter came my senior year I started to box and I really have been enjoying that a lot.
What are your favorite things to do when you're not playing ball?
Katz: I enjoy hanging out with my friends and family.
Where are you headed to college next year and what do you plan on studying?
Katz: I am going to Marist College next year and I am majoring in sports communications. My dream is to work for ESPN or MLB network.
Any plans on playing college ball?
Katz: Before the start of this season I had no interest in playing in college. Now, I am thinking about trying to walk on at Marist.
Delicious Heights Highlander Athlete of the Week is sponsored by Delicious Heights, a family restaurant with three locations; Berkeley Heights, Bedminster and Basking Ridge, where it is part of the Basking Ridge County Club operating a public restaurant with outdoor dining, and acting as the banquet caterer, boasting a facility with panoramic views of the sprawling golf course. Visit our website, www.deliciousheights.com for weekly specials including Wine & Whiskey Wednesdays, 1/2 Price Appetizers on Tuesdays and daily featured dinner and lunch specials. Delicious Heights....where our only limitations are yours!
Delicious Heights is located at 428 Springfield Avenue in Berkeley Heights. 908.464.3287; 285 Main Street in Bedminster. 908.234.1596; 185 Madisonville Road in Basking Ridge. 908.766.9499.