BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - Top seeded Gov. Livingston erupted for 9 six inning runs which turned a 5-4 game into a 10 run mercy rule win over 16 seed Rumson -Fair Haven in the first round of the Central Jersey, Group II sectional playoffs Monday in Berkeley Heights.
The Highlanders sent 11 batters to the plate in their game ending rally, rapping out 9 hits with senior Chris Bruno (2-4, 2 2B,3RBI) doubling twice which drove in the first and last runs of the big inning. Michael Delsordo (4-5, 3RBI) and Jayson Schmidt (3-4,2RBI) both delivered clutch RBI base hits in the fifth and sixth innings, and combined for seven of the Gov. Livingston's season high 17 hits. Drew Compton (1-4, HR 2RBI) made school history when he connected for his 12th home run on the year, which is the most ever by a Highlander in a single season.
With the win, Gov. Livingston advances to the second round of the sectional tournament and will host the winner of the Delaware Valley/South Plainfield game which will be played Tuesday afternoon at Delaware Valley HS in Frenchtown. Gov. Livingston, with a season record of 19-4, will play a tune up game against Watchung Hills at Kean University on Tuesday before resuming state tournament play on Thursday afternoon in Berkeley Heights.
John Grill (6-1) got the start for Gov. Livingston against a young Rumson Bulldog team that started a lineup that included three sophomores and four freshman. Grill ( 5IP,1H,1ER,6K,3BB) got off to a quick start striking out four of the first six hitters he faced. Gov. Livingston would take a 2-0 lead in the second against Rumson starting pitcher Kevin Shanes ( 4.2IP,8H,5ER), who fell victim to a bit of Highlander small ball. Sean McCulloch (2-4) and Schmidt laid down perfect bunts for base hits before Delsordo, who had a career high four hits, singled sharply to left to load the bases. McCulloch would come in to score on a throwing error by the Bulldog catcher on an attempted pickoff for the Highlanders first run. Shanes then intentionally walked the dangerous Compton reloading the bases for Andy Serretti. Serretti (2-5,RBI) came through with a single to right which scored Schmidt but Bulldog right fielder Doug Sakele caught Delsordo at the plate to end the inning.
The one thing Gov. Livingston didn’t want to do was give the inexperienced Rumson team any hopes of an upset but that's what the Highlanders did over the next two innings of play. After posting the 2-0 lead, the Highlanders could not pad their lead leaving runners on in every inning against the crafty Shanes. Rumson veteran coach Kevin James had his team exactly where he wanted to be as they came up to bat in the top of the fifth, still within striking distance trailing 2-0 .
Grill, over the first four innings had yielded just one base hit, but the senior hurler got himself in trouble when he miss played a ball in between two walks to load the bases with one out in the fifth. The Bulldogs would score two runs to tie the game without hitting safely. A Highlander infield error and a sac fly brought the Bulldogs even at two. Rumson could have actually taken the lead on the sac fly if not for a perfect relay on the deep ball hit to right by Tom Elgrim. Highlander right fielder Schmidt made a running catch of Elgrims deep drive down the line. The Bulldog runner on third easily scored on the tag up, but speedy Andrew Schmid tried to score from second and was gunned down at the plate on a perfect relay from Schmidt to Serretti to catcher Bruno to end the inning.
Grill (2-2, 2 BB) opened the home half of the inning with a leadoff single. It looked like pinch runner Dylan Verschleiser would be stranded on second after Shanes got two quick outs, but sophomore Schmidt came through with an RBI single to center to score the go ahead run. A pair of walks loaded the bases for Delsordo, who knocked Shanes out of the game with a two run single .
Just when it looked like Gov. Livingston had seized control of the game regaining the lead at 5-2, the Highlanders once again allowed Rumson back in the game. A tiring Grill put the first two hitters of the inning on via a hit batter and a walk which ended his day after 90 pitches in five innings of work. Joey DeFeo, who has been a great closer for the Highlanders all season, came out of the pen in relief. Michael Rigby greeted DeFeo with a single to center loading the bases. After getting a ground ball for a force at home DeFeo misplayed a dribbler which allowed a run to score. It appeared that DeFeo would get the Highlanders out of the jam when he got Ryan Dupree to hit a double play ball to second. After getting the force at second the throw from SS Delsordo sailed over first baseman's Serretti head as the runner on third crossed the plate. A heads up Serretti hustled after the errant throw, scooped up the ball and threw a perfect strike to the plate to nail the runner from second who was attempting to score. Serretti's second great throw of the game to cut down a Bulldog runner at the plate kept the Highlanders in front 5-4.
Senior JC Carolan got a quick out to open the sixth, but walked Grill on four pitches which was the beginning of the end for Rumson. Nine of the next 10 Highlander hitters who stepped up to the plate would hit safely. Bruno got things going with a long double scoring Grill, and he would end the game with another two- bagger. In between Bruno's drives, Vin Melusi (1-2,3B) tripled and Compton homered to bring in runs. Compton will conclude his career as the most prolific home run hitter in Gov. Livingston Highlander baseball history. The four year starter who has hit 24 career home runs will either be playing for Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets next year or quite possibly a MLB draftee come June.
Gov. Livingston will be trying to capture its first sectional title since the 2017 season when Dan Baroff's 2 out 3 run double stunned South Plainfield capping a dramatic 6-5 comeback win.
This year's section is loaded with quality teams and whether it's South Plainfield or Del Val on Thursday, the Highlanders can expect a tough game from either pitching rich team. First pitch is set for 4 p.m.