Gov. Livingston Baseball Advances to UCT Championship Game, Defeating Johnson in Semifinals 5-3

Senior Pitcher Dan Belfer pitched a full seven innings in the 5-3 victory over Johnson in the UCT semifinal. Credits: Anne Hardina
DH Ethan Frohman's 2-RBI fifth inning triple led the momentum for the 5-3 victory over Johnson in the UCT semifinal. Credits: Anne Hardina

ELIZABETH, NJ - No. 1 Gov. Livingston baseball won a thrilling 5-3 victory Saturday against No. 4 Johnson to advance to the Union County Tournament championship against No. 3 Cranford on Saturday, May 8 at Kean University in Union at 2:30 p.m. (Cranford beat Westfield, 4-2, to advance to the championship.)

Coach Chris Roof and his Highlanders' baseball program has a long standing history winning the state and sectional titles, however, they have never captured the Union County Title, falling short in last year's final, losing to Westfield, 5-3.

Ready for retaliation, still feeling the wounds from their recent 12-4 loss to Johnson, GL was well aware of the strengths behind this Crusader team. 

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Johnson's strong fielding was able to deny GL's batting efforts through the fourth frame of this semifinal battle. Trailing 2-0 in the bottom of the fifth, senior SS Ryan Zucker led off with a single, which was followed by a 1st pitch single by freshman OF Will Jennings

Trusting his senior DH, Roof made a critical coaching decision that paid off big time. Instead of going with conventional wisdom and bunting the runners over,  Roof trusted senior powerhouse Ethan Frohman to swing away. Frohman drilled a  3-2 pitch over CF Horvath's head for a game-tying 2-RBI triple. 

After another walk to senior 3B Ian Lynch (his 20th of the season), senior 1B Mike Falk brought Frohman home with a fielder's choice ground out to the pitcher that gave the Highlanders a 3-2 lead. 

Sophomore Nick Cocchia knocked Mike Falk in with a single for a 4-2 lead after five innings.

Senior pitcher Danny Belfer continued to do his job and got Johnson out in order in the top of the 6th inning to maintain the built up momentum.

GL managed to get an insurance run in the bottom of the 6th inning as Zucker led off with a double right down the left field line and was moved over to third base on a perfectly executed sacrifice bunt by Jennings. Frohman then got his 3rd RBI of the game via a sacrifice fly to CF which scored  Zucker giving GL a 5-2 lead.

A tiring Belfer gave up a leadoff double at the top of the seventh. With a runner in, cutting the lead to 5-3,

Johnson had the tying runner on 2B and 3B with no outs, Roof made a critical coaching choice for an intentional walk of Johnson's best player Weisensee to load the bases and trust Belfer's control.   Again, a GL senior rewarded the coach's decision by retiring Johnson's O'Donnell on a fly out to CF Josh Katz to end the game and set off a GL celebration as they head back to the UCT championship.

Belfer threw for a complete game in Saturday's semifinal scattering 8 hits and walking only 2, while striking out 5 -- pitching out of trouble from shaky fielding throughout the game.

Key contributors: 

Dan Belfer (winnning pitcher, 7 innings pitched, 8 hits, 3 runs, 5 strikeouts, 2 walks), Ethan Frohman (1 for 2 with a walk, game-tying triple, 3 runs batted in, 1 run scored), Ian Lynch (3  hits and a walk), John Tedesco (2 walks and a lineout), Ryan Zucker (2 for 3, including a double and 2 runs scored), Will Jennings (1 for 3, run scored, key sacrifice bunt in bottom of 6th inning that led to 5th run), Nick Cocchia (2 for 3, 1 run batted in).

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