BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - On Saturday afternoon, the Gov. Livingston baseball team traveled down to North Brunswick Community Park to play in the Autism Awareness Challenge for something more important the winning a ball game.
The 40 high schools from 13 different counties participating in the challenge all shared one common goal, that being -- bringing awareness to Autism.
Nearly a decade ago, Mike Garlatti, the event founder and passionate baseball professional, brought 8 teams together in Middlesex County soley to raise awareness for autism which affects one in 45 children (on the spectrum) in New Jersey, 62 percent of whom are boys, including Garlatti's son. Garlatti's has used his passion for baseball in combination with his desire to educate the public about autism.
This year's event has brought great teams, individual stars, professional scouts, and baseball fans from all over the state who are contributing to this event in their own unique ways.
The Highlanders were matched up against J. P. Stevens and got out to an early three run lead before falling to the Hawks, 4 - 3, on a walk off opposite field single in the bottom of the seventh.
For the week, the Highlanders won three and lost three, with all three losses coming the final inning of each game. The young Highlanders, who opened the game with Drew Compton and Dan Baroff hitting back to back home runs in the first inning. The loss dropped their season record to 9-5.
Keep in mind that this was more than just a baseball game. All homers in these games came with much more than individual recognition. The home runs hit by Compton and Baroff in the first inning provided a donation, made by the United Teamwork Foundation, in the players names to the family of Middlesex High School athletics director and former Blue Jays head baseball coach Mike O’Donnell, whose 14-month-old son, Shane, is batting cancer. The foundation also will make a donation to the family of a baseball player from the Woodbridge program, who was recently diagnosed with a brain tumor.
Brian Cranston took the mound for GL and pitched another solid game. Cranston went six innings yielding only two earned runs on 8 hits. In his last two starts Cranston pitched 13 innings while giving up only three runs.
After going up two in the first inning on the homers by Compton (1-for-2) and Baroff (1-for-3), Nick Cocchia (2-for-4) put GL up three zip with an RBI single in the third. The Hawks came back with two of their own to trail by a run.
Unfortunately for the Highlanders, Hawk pitcher Alex Zilli kept them off the board giving up only four more hits before leaving the game after six strong innings.
Meanwhile, the Hawks tied the game in the sixth. Zack Marzano, who pitched the 7th, put the Highlanders down in the last inning without a threat before Zilli provided the walk off base hit in the bottom half of the inning.
The Highlandrs will be back in action when they travel to Drew University on Monday, April 25 to take on Madison. The big Union County Tournament game against Elizabeth at home on Wednesday is next up before closing the week at home Friday against Rahway. A win against Elizabeth on Wednesday will send then to Kean University on Saturday to play in the Union County semi-finals