UNION, NJ - Early summer high school baseball kicks off locally when the underclassmen All-Stars from Union County take on their counterparts from Essex County on Monday, June 20th, at Kean University's Jim Hynes Baseball Stadium, slated for a 6 p.m. start. Gov. Livingston head coach Chris Roof, who seven years ago was one of the originators of this annual diamond classic, will again be joined by New Providence varsity baseball coach Chris Brodeur in the dugout this year.
Local underclassmen selected to play for Union County squad will include pitcher Nick Cocchia (2017), catcher Dan Baroff (2017) and infielder Drew Compton (2019) from Gov. Livingston and infielder Will Faucher (2017) and outfielder Max Rivkees(2017) from New Providence. Coach Roof will also be assisted by GL bench coach Dan Mondelli who along with Mike Abate (Dayton) and Joe Higgins (SPF) round out the UC staff.
Mondelli, a Berkeley Heights native, has a long association with Union County baseball which spans four decades, first as a Highlander player (1982), followed by coaching stints at Elizabeth and Linden where he served as varsity coach and now as a valued assistant to Roof at GL.
Gov. Livingston junior Nick Cocchia arguably had the best all-around season of any player in Union County this past season. Cocchia combined consistent dominance on the mound with a clutch bat in helping the Highlanders win 21 games. The crafty left-hander posted a 5-2 record while pitching into the 6th inning of all but one start. He struck out 58 batters in 55 innings of work and posted an outstanding 1.65 ERA. At the plate Cocchia batted .375, collecting 34 base hits,17 RBI scored 16 runs, and had a .418 on base percentage. If he wasn’t getting a big hit his superb situational hitting provided his team with numerous additional scoring opportunities. A versatile defender, Cocchia played all three outfield positions and first base when he was not on the hill.
In the preseason Coach Roof was expecting some big things from his first year catcher Dan Baroff, and Baroff didn’t disappoint his coach. The junior catcher, who Roof sees as an Ivy/Patriot League recruit, handled his team's pitchers and defense with command and confidence. His leadership, strong arm and ability to block pitches in the dirt saved multiple runs throughout the season. Baroff, a lefty bat provided power in the middle of the lineup producing 27 hits, including 10 for extra bases. He led the team with two homers and 20 RBI to go along with a solid .423 on base percentage. Durable Baroff caught almost every inning over the Highlanders 31 game season.
Freshman Drew Compton made the most of an early season opportunity and never left the lineup. The switch hitting Compton quickly worked his way up to the top of the lineup after going 8-for-11 in a torrid four game stretch in early April. For the season Compton batted .364 with 32 hits which included 1 homer and 19 RBI. His .462 on base percentage enabled him to score 21 runs. Compton who was the GL third baseman for the majority of the season is a versatile defensive player capable of playing first base or the outfield. In addition to being named the only freshman on the Union County All Star team, Compton was also selected to play in the prestigious Garden State Underclass Games at Diamond Nation.
The New Providence Pioneer's used a late season surge to finish the season with a winning record at 12-11, and juniors Will Faucher and Max Rivkees had a lot to do with that. Faucher and Rivkees were consistent performers throughout the season and both starred in the Pioneers two biggest wins of the season against Metuchen and Gov. Livingston.
Early in the season, the Pioneers defeated 2016 Union County Champs Gov. Livingston in a dramatic 6-5 win with Rivkees going 3-4 with 5 RBI and Faucher reaching base four times, scoring three runs including the game winner. When the Pioneers defeated the much higher seeded Metuchen, 4-1, in the first round of the state tournament, Faucher and Rivkees both collected two hits and drove two runs in support of winning pitcher Peter House, which guaranteed a winning season.
Outfielder Max Rivkees hit safely in all but two of the Pioneers 23 games. Rivkees led the team with 28 hits and 17 RBI while batting at a .389 clip. He also put up a .458 on base percentage and a .486 slugging percentage.
Infielder Will Faucher rapped out 24 hits, good for a .364 batting average. He led the team with 10 extra base hits which included eight doubles, a triple and a homer. Faucher came across to score 19 times, stole 12 bases, and struck out only five times in 86 plate appearances. On the mound, Faucher worked 23.1 innings including the last inning of the GL win.
A local connection on the Essex Roster will be Berkeley Heights resident Jack Zyska (18), who plays for Seton Hall Prep. Super soph Zyska had an incredible season for SHP helping the Pirates capture the NJSIAA- NPA championship, the Essex County championship, and the No. 1 final ranking in the state. Zyska hit .500, ripping 33 hits with three homers, eight doubles and 19 RBI. He scored 37 runs and had a .570 on base percentage. In the 2016 state tournament, he was 8-for-15 (.533) with 4 RBI and five runs scored. Zyska will be patrolling the outfield for the Essex team.
The Union County All-stars will look to get back in the win column after losing last year's contest 12-7 .The series has Essex County on top with a 4-1-1 record.
Union County Roster
#, Name High School, Ht. Wt., B/T Pos., Grad.
1 Gordon Graceffo Cranford 6’1 165 R/R P 2018
2 Waldy Arias Plainfield 5’8 155 R/R Inf. 2018
3 Quincy Bryant Union 5’10 155 R/R Inf. 2017
4 Will Faucher New Providence 5’11 155 R/R Inf. 2017
5 Jesse Concalves Brearley 5’11 165 R/R OF 2017
6 Nick Cocchia Gov. Livingston 5’10 175 L/L P 2017
9 Alex Pansini Westfield 6’1 165 R/R P 2017
10 Eddie Torres Elizabeth 5’11 185 R/R P 2017
11 Will Schaffer Summit 6’0 183 R/L P 2017
12 Dan Baroff Gov. Livingston 6’0 190 L/R C 2017
13 Drew Compton Gov. Livingston 6’1 175 S/R 3B 2019
14 Victor Cruz Westfield 6’0 195 R/R 3B 2017
15 Joe Turek Johnson 5’11” 195 L/R 1B 2018
16 Max Rivkees New Providence 5’11 170 R/R OF 2017
17 Joe Kastner Dayton 6’0 180 R/R OF 2017
18 Vin Crisafi Johnson 5’10 180 R/R DH 2017
19 Matt Fox Scotch Plains 6’1 200 R/R 1B 2017
20 Jake Vall-Llobera Westfield 6’2 210 L/R C 2018
21 Ryan Cole Backie Cranford 6’3 205 R/R OF 2017
23 Peter Yarem Scotch Plains 6’2 190 R/R C 2017
#, Name, High School
7 Mike Abbate Dayton
8 Joe Higgins Scotch Plains
22 Dan Mondelli Gov. Livingston
24 Chris Roof Gov. Livingston
25 Chris Brodeur New Providence