BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - The Gov. Livingston baseball team used a four run fifth inning to rally past the Summit Hilltoppers for a 6-3 victory, yesterday afternoon in Berkeley Heights. Senior Sean Savage (1-0) picked up his first win of the season going six innings while giving up only one earned run on seven hits.
DJ Gonnelli provided the innings big hit with a two outs bases loaded single which drove in a pair of runs. Stephen Reid hit his second home run of the season, a solo shot in the 2nd, and drove in a game high 3 runs. The Highlanders ranked 3rd in the NJ.Com top twenty, won their 5th consecutive game and will close out the week when they host Old Tappan on Saturday, at 12 noon. Summit dropped their 2nd in a row, after winning their first six games of the season.
Summit was still smarting from blowing a late seven run lead against Rahway on Wednesday, in a game they eventually lost on a walk-off steal of home in the 10th inning. The Hilltoppers playing for the third consecutive day turned to senior righty Ben Lim to get back on track as they were now looking for an early season signature win against the Highlanders, who are currently the top ranked team in Union County. Gov. Livingston starter Savage was making his first start of the season after closing out two Highlander wins earlier in the season.
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The Hilltoppers got on the board in the second inning with little help from the Highlander defense. Savage gave up a lead off double to Will Schaffer, who advanced to third on a wild pitch with one out. The next batter hit a ground ball which was misplayed in the infield allowing Schaffer to score from third to give the Hilltoppers an early 1-0 lead. Savage then got out of the inning when he got the next hitter to ground into a double play.
Reid quickly got the equalizer for the Highlanders in the bottom half of the second when he got under Lim’s first pitch but managed to power it high in the air over the left field wall for his second homer of the season.
In the fourth inning, the Hilltoppers again took the lead, but Savage was able to limit the damage to just one run after loading the bases with no outs. Schaffer opened the inning with a single, followed by an Andrew Miller double and a walk. Matt Reddy hit a sac fly to move Summit back in front, 2-1. Again Savage got a double play ground ball and worked out of the jam.
Gov. Livingston catcher Dan Baroff took an 0-2 offering from Lim up the middle for a line drive single to open up the home teams half of the 4th inning. Jack Pedini came in as a courtesy runner for the catcher Baroff and stole second base. Right handed hitting Reid then did some impressive hitting when he took a 1-2 pitch the other way pushing a ground ball through the right side of the infield scoring Pedini to tie the game at 2 apiece.
Once again, Summit wrestled the lead back from Gov. Livingston after some uncharacteristically poor defense from the Highlander infield. After Savage got the first two outs of the inning on just two pitches, he walked Trevor Mutolo. Mutolo’s attempt to steal second resulted in an error on the play and he wound up on third base. The Highlanders then misplayed a ground ball and Mutolo scored to put Summit back up 3-2.
It was beginning to look like it was going to be Summit’s day as Lim’s crafty pitching combined with the Highlander errors had the Hilltoppers smelling the big upset. That all changed abruptly as the Highlanders managed to capitalize on a couple of Summit miscues of their own. Will Jennings opened the 5th with a soft single to center. The next batter then hit a playable ground ball that wound up in the outfield putting runners on second and third with no outs. Lim got a tough strikeout for the first out but then hit Dan Baroff with a pitch to load the bases.
Lim was now facing Reid again, who this time up was looking to break the game open -- not tie for a third time. After Lim again got ahead on the count, Reid turned on a 2-2 pitch and drove it to the deepest part of the field. Summit centerfield Matt Murdock who was shading the right-handed Reid to left field managed to track down the drive and caught the ball as he hit off the right centerfield fence. Reid's sac fly once again tied the game and was his 11th team leading RBI of the season.
Lim, who now had one out, walked Nick Cocchia on full count to reload the basis. As Lim was about to face DJ Gonnelli, he was called for a balk which brought in the go ahead run in from third base. Lim who was nearing 100 pitches allowed Gonnelli to take a pitch up the middle for a base hit which plated two runs knocking Lim out of the game. Lim went 4 2/3 yielding 6 hits and 4 earned runs in his gutsy performance against a team that is averaging double digit runs and hits so far this season.
Savage got the first two Hilltoppers out in the sixth, but once again a misplayed ball kept the inning alive. Justin Weiss knocked a ball through the right side and the Hilltoppers were threatening. Gregg Vlass then lined a 1-1 pitch that looked like it was going through the infield but Highlander second baseman Vin Doren snatched it out of the air for the last out of the inning.
Ryan Monroy started the 7th inning in relief of Savage who had thrown 84 pitches in his six innings of work. Summit’s Grant Douglas gave the visitors one last hope when he drove a ball deep to left field but Highlander left fielder Pedini made a nice catch up against the fence. Monroy then punched out the last batter and the Highlanders remained unbeaten.
Gov. Livingston is back in action against Old Tappan on Saturday (12 noon) in Berkeley Heights. Like the Highlanders, the Golden Knights have played and won three games this week and will be looking to defeat the Highlanders for the second year in a row. Summit will host Cranford on Tuesday, April 18th ,first pitch 4 p.m.