BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - The Gov. Livingston baseball team advanced to the NJSIAA North 2 Group 3 semifinals after defeating Matawan, 9-0, behind another outstanding pitching performance from lefty ace Nick Cocchia, who scattered five hits over six innings of work for the Highlanders 20th win of the season.
For the second straight game, the GL offense rapped out double digit hits with the offensive highlight being provided by none other than Cocchia who took a 5th inning fastball deep over the right field fence for a two run homer .
The quarterfinal win has the Highlanders now traveling to meet second seed Somerville on Tuesday May 31st, game time TBD.
Sign Up for E-News
After Cocchia had easily retired Matawan in the top of the first, Will Jennings (2-3,2 RBI), with one out in the home half of the first, drove a ball past a diving Huskie right fielder for a triple. Drew Compton then brought Jennings home with the game's first run as he reached on an infield single.Tyler McCulloch (3-4) followed with a base hit putting runners on first and second, but the scoring threat ended with a double play on a sharp hit ball.
Matawan managed to load the bases on Cocchia in the second inning on an infield hit and two walks but he got a ground ball to short for a force to end the inning without yielding a run. The Highlanders scored a run in the second with 2 outs when Brian Cranston doubled over the centerfielder's head and Jace Tweeten then stroked an opposite field double bringing in Cranston for a 2-0 GL Lead. A chance for a big inning was dashed when Will Jennings, again, ripped a ball to right field with 2 runners on, but, this time the outfielder made a great diving catch ending the GL threat.
The Highlanders got things going again in the 4th inning scoring three times .Dan Baroff (2-3) got things started with a long single to right center, Matt Bruno worked a walk and Tweeten (2-3) drove in a run with an infield single. Josh Katz then laid down a perfect bunt bringing in a run. Jennings picked up another RBI with a sacrifice fly which gave GL a 5-0 lead after 4 innings.
The Highlanders put the game out of reach in the 5th when they scored 4 times. Cocchia”s long 2 run homer was followed by RBI singles from Cranston and Jennings upping the lead to 9-0. GL almost ended the game on the 10 run mercy rule but Katz was thrown out at the plate trying to score ending the 5th inning.
Cole Schneider took over for Cocchia to get some work and closed out the game by striking out all three Matawan hitters he faced in the 7th.
The Highlander defense, specifically, on the left side of the infield with Vin Doren at short and Cranston at third played exceptionally well making numerous nice plays in support of their pitcher. Baroff behind the plate has proven to be a valuable asset to his pitching staff doing all the little things catchers do that go unnoticed in the box score.
The Highlanders will be back in action Friday afternoon against Plainfield, in Plainfield at 4 p.m., for a tune up game before play resumes in the State tournament next week. Look for Roof to have arms Doren, Cocchia, Cranston, and Schneider rested and ready to go as he hopes to lead his young team to another State Sectional Title.
If the Highlanders get by Somerville in their much anticipated match up, an all Union County final is a possiblity. Cranford the 4 seed will be squaring off against Nutley, who knocked out top seeded Mendham.