BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - The Gov. Livingston baseball team rode a barrage of home runs on their way to a lopsided 13-3 victory over conference rival Scotch Plains -Fanwood, Thursday afternoon in Berkeley Heights. Four different players, Danny Serretti, Drew Compton, Stephen Reid, and DJ Gonnelli all went deep as the Highlanders have now clubbed seven homers in their last two games.
Gov. Livingston pitchers John Grill (1-0) and Liam Hulbert combined on a one hitter to compliment the offensive explosion as the Highlanders won for the seventh consecutive time, raising their season mark to 10-2-1.
The victory over UCC- Watchung division leader Scotch Plains (10-4) avenges a 6-5 early season loss to the Raiders and has the Highlanders firmly in contention for another UCC-Watchung division title. The baseball week wraps up when Gov. Livingston hosts Linden in the first round of the 65th Union County Tournament Saturday morning at 11 a.m. in Berkeley Heights.
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Scotch Plains coming off a dramatic 7-5 come- from- behind win against Westfield sent big right hander Jake Friedman out to face Gov. Livingston in this crucial conference matchup. Coming into yesterday's game Friedman has been spectacular this season, pitching to a 4-0 record and a 1.15 ERA. Friedman who sports a mid-80s fastball and a nasty off speed out pitch was given the task of shutting down Union County's best lineup.
Gov. Livingston Coach Chris Roof handed the ball to John Grill, who became game eligible this week after transferring to Gov. Livingston this past fall. Roof showing great confidence in Grill, who made five starts for New Providence last year as a sophomore, gave the junior left hander the critical start in what would be his first appearance as a Highlander.
Grill and Friedman both worked quickly and easily through the first inning. Grill gave up a leadoff walk but then got a ground ball double play and Friedman more impressively put the Highlanders down with a pair of strike outs and infield pop up.
Gov. Livingston got on the board in the second inning without the benefit of a hit. Friedman issued two walks in the inning and the Highlanders stole a run when Ty McCulloch (1-2,2BB) who was on first got caught in an intentional rundown with DJ Gonnelli ((1-4, HR) on third. Scotch Plains catcher Matt Syversten threw down to second in an effort to nail McCulloch, but the ball got away from SS Sam Schetelich allowing Gonnelli to score the game's first run.
The Highlanders pushed their lead to 3-0 when Friedman now facing the top of the lineup for the second time issued a one out walk to Danny Serretti before Stephen Reid (2-4, HR) sent a 1-2 pitch over the centerfield fence for his fifth homer of the season. Reid has led the recent Highlander power surge hitting home runs in four of the teams last five games.
Scotch Plains, just like they did against Westfield on Tuesday, clawed their way back against Grill to tie the game at three in the top of the fourth. Unfortunately for Grill, he was his own worst enemy issuing three walks to load the bases with one out. After a ground out scored a run, Schetelich (1-2, RBI) lined a base hit to left scoring the Raiders second run. Scotch Plains got the equalizer on an errant pickoff by a throw by Grill, before Schetelich was erased trying to take an extra base of the play to end the inning.
DJ Gonnelli wasted no time putting his team back on top when he hit his first homer of the season to open the bottom half of the inning. McCulloch, Jack Pedini (2-3, 2b) and Andy Serretti all singled to load the bases with no outs. Sam Pile just missed blowing the game open when he drove a 2-2 pitch up against the centerfield fence for a long out but his sac fly scored McCulloch from third. Friedman (3.1, 8R, 6h, 3 HR) then got knocked out of the game by Danny Serretti, who whacked a three run homer to the right expanding the lead to 8-3.
Raider Coach Joe Higgins went to his bullpen bringing in lefty Derek Cappadoccia, whose first pitch was hit far over the left center field fence by Drew Compton for his fifth round tripper of the season.
Grill gave way to Liam Hulbert (2 IP, 0 ER, and 0 H) in the top of the fifth inning. He finished his Highlander debut and first live action of the season with a gutsy performance giving up only two earned runs and one hit in earning his first career win at Gov. Livingston. Hulbert would then hold the Raiders hitless and scoreless over the next two innings. Meanwhile, Gov. Livingston added a single run in the fifth and then ended the game in the sixth when Pedini ripped an opposite field double scoring the Highlanders 13th run giving them the 10 run differential they needed to end the contest.
Danny Serretti, Compton, and Reid batting 1-2-3 in the lineup have been on a tear at the plate, with the trio combing for 14 homers this season. The rest of the lineup is doing their job as well, consistently getting on base for the big bats. Opposing pitchers have found no soft spots in this year's lineup one through 9.
The win over Scotch Plains also marked Gov. Livingston's fifth win in row over a Group 4 school as the Highlanders have captured a ton of state playoff power points in that short stretch. During this win streak, the team has surged to the top seed in the Central Jersey, Group II Section with two weeks to go before the seeding cutoff on May 11th.