VERONA, NJ - Livingston and West Essex took very different routes getting to the 78th Greater Newark Tournament (GNT) semifinal. Fourth-seeded Livingston had a back-and-forth battle Thursday with Seton Hall Prep and ultimately defeated the fifth-seeded Pirates 10-8. The first-seeded and No. 2 in the state West Essex was led by junior ace PJ Lawless who stifled the Bloomfield Bengals and the Knights won 12-3. Saturday afternoon at the legendary Doc Goeltz Field, the Knights continued their dominance in the GNT as they crushed the Lancers 13-3 in five innings.
"We didn't play sharp today," Lancer head coach Scott Schroeder said. "We made mistakes today and against a great team like West Essex, it would be very hard to win."
Dan Gautieri started the game for the Knights and had a spectacular outing but found himself in trouble in the first inning.
Livingston scored one run off two hits. Jimmy Napolitano continued to stay hot and roped a single to center field. John Beaubien then broke out of a slump by hitting a towering triple to right-center field scoring pinch runner John Sorrentino.
Junior Ryan Sullivan started for Livingston and had a flawless first inning. Senior Lafayette-bound Andrew Santomauro grounded out to second base. Mike Rafanello then walked. With PJ Lawless batting and Rafanello on first, West Essex head coach Scott Illiano called for a hit-and-run. Lawless hit a fly ball to Nick Grande at first base and Livingston doubled up Rafanello.
After the first inning, Gautieri came into the dugout and spoke to Illiano.
In the second inning, Gautieri looked more composed and focused. Grande made the first out by grounding out to second base. Gautieri struck out Mike Mansfield and Greg Gamba for the next two outs, only throwing 14 pitches in the inning.
Sullivan started the second inning in the same way as the first inning as he struck out Jimmy Kenny. After Kenny, the Knights became more patient at the plate.
Lee Holtzman walked and a Vin Cosenzo single followed, giving the Knights first and second with no outs. Ralph Velardi then walked, which loaded the bases. Tim Perrotta laced a single to center field that plated Holtzman and the bases still remained loaded. The ninth hitter, Jimmy Philips, was hit in the back forcing home Cosenzo and giving the Knights a 2-0 lead. Santomauro came to the plate for his second at-bat and hit a line drive down the third base line clearing the bases, increasing West Essex lead to 5-0. With Rafanello up, Sullivan threw a wild pitch advancing Santomauro to third, and Rafanello hit a ground ball to third base, which scored Santomauro. Lawless flew out to right field to end the inning.
West Essex led 6-1 after two innings.
Gautieri came out in the third and set down Livingston in order as Nick Kozlowsky grounded out, Jimmy Napolitano popped up to second base, and Frank Schwindel grounded out to short stop.
Jimmy Kenny led off the third inning with a triple and then Scott Schroeder made a pitching change as he brought in junior Sean Rucker.
Rucker did not allow Kenny to score from third as Holtzman, Cosenzo, and Velardi flew out on 18 pitches.
However, Rucker was done due to a high pitch count against Seton Hall on Thursday.
The Livingston Lancers tried to rally like they have all season with the middle of their line up due up but Gautieri struck out John Beaubien and Matt Rehm. Brian Drapeau singled giving the Lancers hope but Nick Grande struck out to end the inning.
Junior Brady McLaughlin came in after getting the save yesterday over Montclair.
Tim Perrotta led off the inning with a walk and then stole second base with Jimmy Philips up. Philips flew out to Nick Kozlowsky in center field but the hot-hitting Santomauro came to the plate. Santomauro crushed a triple to left field scoring Perrotta. Mike Rafanello singled through the left side of the infield scoring Santomauro.
The Knights increased their lead to 8-1. PJ Lawless followed Rafanello and reached on an error. Jimmy Kenny came up with men on second and third. Kenny hit a ball to the shortstop and reached on a poor throw that scored Lawless. Kenny was thrown out trying to advance to second base.
West Essex led 9-1 after four innings of play.
Livingston came up in the fifth and scored two more runs, refusing to give up. Mike Mansfield had a 12-pitch at-bat and singled to right field. Fellow senior, Greg Gamba, followed Mansfield with the second consecutive single. Nick Kozlowsky then flew out to right field. Jimmy Napolitano walked to load the bases. St. John's-bound Schwindel singled up the middle scoring Mansfield and Gamba. Gautieri regained focus and struck out Beaubien on an overpowering fastball and Matt Rehm ended the inning grounding out to shortstop.
The Knights won the game in the fifth, scoring four more runs, which ten-runned Livingston.
Holtzman led off the inning with a walk and attempted to steal second but Schwindel threw a laser to second. Cosenzo followed with a walk. Velardi then struck out for the second out of the inning. But with two outs, the Knights rallied.
Perrotta was the third walk of the inning and Philips reached on another Lancer error, loading the bases. Andrew Santomauro launched a grand slam ending the game as he was mobbed at home plate by his teammates.
"It was a great win," Santomauro said. "We've had a great season up to this point and it is great to be in the GNT final."
Santomauro was 3-for-4 with a triple, home run, and seven runs batted in the semifinal on Saturday against Livingston.
"We have a great group and it should be a great final no matter who we play," Santomauro concluded.