UNION, NJ - In a Union County Tournament (UCT) Final that featured the county’s two best teams, the top-seeded Governor Livingston Highlanders baseball team suffered a tough 3-1 loss to the second-seeded Cranford Cougars on Saturday at Kean University.. This is the second straight year Governor Livingston fell short in the UCT Final.
Governor Livingston was led offensively by Mike Falk (2 Hits) and Dan Serretti (1 Hit, 1 RBI). Ryan Zucker and Ethan Frohman also had hits.
Cranford received strong contributions at the plate from Ryan Bakie (2 Hits, 2 RBIs, 1 Run), Joseph Norton (1 Hit, 1 RBI), Garrett Forestal (2 Hits, 1 run), Pat Knight (2 Hits), and Mike Smith (2 Hits).
Saturday’s game featured three outstanding pitchers: Cranford’s Knight, who will pitch at Rutgers next season (3.2 IP, 4 SO, 1 BB), and Chris Labera (3.1 IP, 3 SO, 0 BB) and Governor Livingston’s Frohman (7 IP, 7 SO, 0 BB). And throw in the fact that Knight and Frohman happen to be two of the state’s top pitchers, Saturday’s game was a pitching matchup many looked forward to and it’s safe to say the matchup didn’t disappoint.
“This was the type of game we expected,” Cranford head coach Dennis McCaffery said. “We knew it would be a low scoring affair because of the pitchers that would be on the mound. Frohman is a quality, quality pitcher and we knew we’d have our hands full with him today.”
McCaffery’s squad actually got the better of Frohman in the game’s early going. The Cougars were able to muster up three hits off the Lehigh-bound ace and converted those hits into two early runs. The first run came off a Bakie triple and the second came off a Norton single.
While Labera made quick work of Governor Livingston’s batters in the first two innings, Frohman settled down himself after Cranford’s early run and showed the “stuff” everyone expected to see from him. Frohman held the Cougars to just four combined hits over the game’s next three innings and most importantly didn’t allow a single run during that span.
“I wasn’t surprised at all at Ethan’s performance today,” Governor Livingston head coach Chris Roof said. “He’s gritty, has a lot of heart, he’s resilient, and he’s one of the best pitchers to ever come through this program. Ethan gave us everything we wanted today and kept us in the game.”
Saturday’s game wasn’t the best of games offensively for Governor Livingston. The Highlanders worked hard to get on base and were able to find ways to do so. The bigger issue for Governor Livingston was finding ways to get those base runners home. The Highlanders uncharacteristically left a total of seven runners on-base.
“The ball just didn’t bounce our way today,” Roof said. “With the game being 2-0 for a while, we certainly had a chance to win. But good teams make the good plays in close games like today and Cranford made those plays. There’s a reason they’re 17-3.”
The Highlanders were able to crack the scoring column in the bottom of the fourth when Serretti hit an RBI single with the bases loaded. The bases were still loaded after Serretti’s hit as the Highlanders looked prime to take the lead with just one out.
And with Ian Lynch, one of Governor Livingston’s best players, stepping to the plate, it was a “shoe-in” that Governor Livingston would score more runs in the inning. But as tough luck would have it, Lynch hit a ground ball near third base that the Cougars turned into a double play. The double play to end the fourth was one of three for the Cougars on Saturday.
Cranford’s last two double plays came in the fifth and sixth inning after the Cougars responded to Governor Livingston’s run with a run of their own at the top of the fifth (a Bakie RBI double to extend the lead to 3-1).
The double plays proved to be “backbreakers” for the Highlanders as all three ended their respective innings. “I guess it wasn’t meant to be for us today with all the double plays,” Roof said. “For Cranford to have three double plays in a game, you have to tip your cap to them.”
A hat should also be tipped to Labera-Knight duo for combining to hold the Highlanders to just five hits. Knight’s nasty curveball proved particularly tough for the Highlanders to hit. “We couldn’t get the big hit in the big spot today,” Roof said.
“Chris and Pat both did a great job today,” McCaffery said. “We knew no matter who we put on the mound today, they’d do a good job as long as they threw strikes. But it was overall quality pitching from both teams today.”
McCaffery also made sure to commend Governor Livingston. The Highlanders may have lost but it takes a good team to advance to a Union County Final. And making the county final in two consecutive seasons is no small feat considering the quality of competition throughout the county.
“Governor Livingston is an outstanding team and Coach Roof is as good as they come,” McCaffery said. “They put a lot of pressure on us today. Today was an overall well-played game.”