CLARK, NJ -  Errors and missed opportunities plagued the Arthur L. Johnson High School Crusaders varsity baseball team Thursday afternoon, ultimately leading to an 8-4 loss against the Union High School Farmers.

The trouble began early in the game after Union junior Richard Jones walked and then advanced to second following a hit-by-pitch. He took off for third base for the steal, but the throw from Johnson senior catcher Vin Crisafi went over the head of Crusaders junior third baseman Kevin Metz. Jones scored, putting Union on top 1-0 at the outset.

Later in the inning, Union sophomore Zach Fernandez drove in senior Nestor Conforti with an RBI single, to give the Farmers a 2-0 lead.

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Union senior Quincy Bryant cashed in with runners on second and third base in the top of the second inning with a long hit for a two-run double and would come in to score on another throwing error by Crisafi, as the lead became 5-0 Union over Johnson.

“Just staying in the game, everybody kept their heads up,” Bryant said of the Farmers’ efforts. “Everybody played hard and made the plays, getting key hits and pitching strikes and just grinding through everything.”

ALJ freshman Max Carmino drove in junior Zach Thornton to put the Crusaders on the board in the bottom of the second. They closed the inning down 5-1.

Union responded by putting up another run in the top of the third inning, as freshman Dren Gocaj drove in senior Marco Vitale.

“We just had good hits and were getting on base,” Gocaj said.

The Johnson Crusaders would get back in the game in the bottom of the third inning, as Thornton connected for an RBI single, scoring junior Joe Turek to cut the Farmers’ lead to 6-2. Metz would get in the mix, connecting for a long hit, scoring Johnson pinch-runner sophomore Brett DeCosta to make it a 6-3 game.

Freshman Max Carmino drove in a run on a ground-out to make the score 6-4 before the inning came to an end.

Despite the Johnson rally, Union kept their focus.

“We just kept grinding, kept battling and we came out of here with a victory,” Union head coach Angel Navarrete said.

The Crusaders’ next major scoring opportunity came in the bottom of the fifth inning. After the Farmers recorded the first two outs of the inning, Thornton would get on base with a single. Metz would walk, putting the tying run on base for the Crusaders. However, they weren’t able to drive home any runs, as Carmino grounded out to end the inning.

On the mound, Union freshman Andrew Sanborn pitched into the bottom of the fifth inning, allowing two earned runs (four runs) as the bullpen took care of the second portion of the game.

The score remained 6-4 with Union out in front as the game moved into the top of the seventh inning, where the Farmers looked to cash in on insurance runs.

Following back-to-back walks to open the inning, a sacrifice bunt put runners on second and third base with one out.

Gocaj cashed in on a run-scoring single, giving his team a 7-4 lead.

With two out, the Crusaders were within reach of an inning-ending strikeout.  However, the ball got away from Crisafi on the third strike and went out of play, allowing another Union run to score.  With an 8-4 lead, Union cruised the bottom half of the inning to a win.

In total, the Crusaders left seven runners on base, giving up key chances to score in the third and fifth innings.  Of the team’s three errors, two led to runs scored on wild throws.  

Johnson sophomore pitcher Nick McCaffery struggled early on, allowing six runs. He was relieved in the third inning by senior Mike Sot.

“I just think of how we approached the game today,” Johnson head coach Dave Kennedy said. “We need to do a better job of approaching each and every game. We’ll be better, we’ll be alright. Until something changes on that end, it’s going to be tough, but we’ll grind it out.”

The Johnson Crusaders (1-4) will try to rebound from their loss when they take on Iselin Kennedy HS (Edison) on Saturday morning at 11:00 a.m.

The Union Farmers (3-1) return home to take on Madison HS Saturday morning at 11:00 a.m.

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