LINDEN, NJ - On Monday afternoon, Livingston took another step to achieving its goal of becoming state champions by defeating South Brunswick 4-3 at Memorial Field in Linden.
"We have to take it out-by-out, inning-by-inning, and game-by-game," Livingston's veteran head coach Bob Thiemer said. "These close games are the ones that build character and make all the boys better baseball players."
Unlike the two previous state games, Livingston took a first inning lead. Shortstop Jordan Farber lined a single through the left side of the infield. The hot-hitting second baseman Connor Kimmel then walked setting Livingston up with first and second with one out. Jake Dock stepped up to the plate and, after a lengthy battle with South Brunswick pitcher, Mark Montagna, Dock roped a single to center field, which scored Farber.
Alex Haberman was called on to start for Livingston and he threw a complete game gem for Livingston and made quick work of the South Brunswick hitters.
During the first two innings, Haberman retired the first six batters in order on 14 pitches while striking out two.
"I haven't thrown in about eight days so I was well rested and I felt good on the mound today," Haberman said. "I took the mound planning on challenging the hitters and not falling behind in the count."
Haberman rarely fell behind as he threw a first pitch strike to 28 of the 30 batters he faced.
But South Brunswick managed to stage a rally in the bottom of the third inning. After a quick out, third baseman Brendon Haas reached on an error and Frankie Herron advanced him to second base on a bunt. Leadoff man and second baseman Brian Oates then walked and both Chris Huber and Sean Keenan reached on errors, which scored Haas and Oates.
Heading into the fourth inning, South Brunswick led 2-1 without having a hit.
Livingston came roaring back in the top of the fourth inning as Justin Tepper led the inning off with a single. Jake Dock then walked and first baseman Andrew Egner followed with a single that plated Tepper. This tied the score at 2-2.
In the bottom of the fourth, South Brunswick scrapped out their first two hits. Catcher Kenny Drost led the inning off with a single and center fielder Tommy Fisher hit a ground ball in the hole on the left side of the infield. Scott Cannon was the hit by a pitch to load the bases with no outs.
Haberman was in a major jam but his defense helped him out. Haberman threw a fastball to Brendon Haas, who lined it to the shortstop. Jordan Farber made a leaping catch and doubled up Cannon at first base for a double play. Haberman then tied up Frankie Herron on an inside fast ball and Herron popped up to Haberman.
Haberman and the Lancers escaped a bases loaded no out situation and that set the table for the top half of the next inning.
"Jordan's play was great," Haberman said. "That could have been a messy inning. I was laboring that inning and he bailed me out. We knew we had to capitalize."
Taylor Parsons led off the fifth with his second single of the game. But that was negated quickly as Jordan Farber grounded into a 6-4-3 double play. However, two outs did not stop Livingston.
Connor Kimmel crushed a single to left field. Justin Tepper was up next and he lined a fastball down the right field line for a go-ahead triple, which scored Kimmel to give Livingston a 3-2 lead. Jake Dock doubled for Livingston's third consecutive hit and increased the lead to 4-2.
"I was sitting fastball and he threw me one," Tepper said. "One through nine can hit in our lineup and that worries an opposing pitching staff."
Haberman did not allow a base runner again until the seventh inning when South Brunswick tried to stage another walk off victory, which would have been their second of the tournament.
Brendon Haas tripled to center field. Pinch hitter Vince Catalfamo grounded out to shortstop for the first out of the inning and did not bring Haas home. Brian Coates followed with a walk. Chris Huber then grounded into a fielder's choice and that scored Haas, cutting the deficit to one with two outs and a man on first.
Haberman collected himself and remained composed as he faced Sean Keenan. He started Keenan off with a fastball right down the middle. The next pitch was an outside fastball that Keenan grounded out, which ended the game.
Livingston won 4-3 due to the timely and clutch hitting of Tepper and a great 72-pitch four-hit performance by Haberman.
"Pitching and defense is what we thrive off of," Tepper continued. "Hitting will come but our focus is who we have on the mound and the guys we have backing him up."
Livingston faces Mount Morris on Tuesday, July 27 at Memorial Field at 3:00 P.M. There is no doubt that this will be yet another test for Livingston's Junior Legion squad.