CRANFORD - Jake DiClerico and Aidan Plick combined to drive in five as Cranford handed Governor Livingston its first loss of the season with a 7-4 victory on Tuesday.
Cranford's ace, Jake Van Dam, started on the mound and was faced with the challenge that is GL's lineup, which came in averaging 9.6 runs-per-game this season. The Highlanders nearly got on the board in the first inning, but Van Dam was able to strand runners on first and second.
Instead, it was Cranford that did the early damage. Plick gave Cranford a 3-0 first-inning lead with a bases-clearing triple to center after battling to a 3-2 count. Plick would come around to score on a Joseph Meola bloop single to left. The following inning, DiClerico extended Cranford's lead to 6-0 with a two-out two-run homerun.
Van Dam kept the hot GL bats fairly silent through 3 2/3 innings before allowing a two-out RBI single up the middle to Nicky Leonardis. Little by little, the Highlanders chipped away at the deficit, and after runners reached first and second with one out in the top of the sixth inning and the Cougars leading 7-4, Cranford head coach Dennis McCaffery brought in Kevin Donovan to relieve Van Dam.
Donovan loaded the bases after issuing a walk to the first batter he faced in Drew Compton, but retired the next two he faced with a strikeout and fly out to left field. He went on to sit down the Highlanders 1-2-3 in the seventh for the five out save.
Donovan has split time between the rotation and bullpen, but said he was ready for whatever coach McCaffery asked of him.
"Coach always say to stay ready," said Donovan. "He told me I was in relief today, so I just had to be ready. I knew they were good team and I had to come in and throw strikes."
Despite handing GL its first loss of the year and the victory giving his team sole possession of first place in the Union County Conference - Watchung Division (5-0), McCaffery said this win was no different than any other.
"Every win's important. Every win is important," stressed McCaffery.
Cranford will travel to take on Scotch Plains-Fanwood on Thursday for a 1:30 p.m. start time.
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