BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - Gov. Livingston scored two late runs to snap a 4-4 fifth inning tie for a much needed 6-4 victory Wednesday afternoon in Berkeley Heights. After suffering a humbling 17-4 loss to Union the day before, a more focused Gov. Livingston (15-3) squad rebounded with a quality win over Roxbury, the defending North 1, Group 3 sectional champions. Drew Compton (2-2,HR), who hit his state leading 10th home run of the season and Michael Delsordo (2-3, 2B,RBI) both had a pair of hits to pace the offense. Jarod Abram, Ryan Devanney, and Joey DeFeo combined on a five hitter, with middle reliever Devanney getting credited with the win, his third of the season. Gov. Livingston will now face their biggest test of the season when they head to Kean University on Saturday to take on Scotch Plains–Fanwood and their dynamic left handed ace, Danny Wilkinson in the semifinals of the UCT. The defending UCT champion Highlanders will be seeking their third title in four years while Scotch Plains who has four UCT titles will be looking for their first title since winning in 2009.
After rallying late for an 8-5 win over Elizabeth on Monday to advance to the UCT semifinals, Gov. Livingston was hosting Union on Tuesday with plenty to play for. The Highlanders, who were sitting in second place in the UCC-Watchung Division, one game behind Cranford, needed to knockoff Union if they had any hope to claim a share of the UCC-Watchung Division championship. A win against Union and a win against first place Cranford next week would have given Gov. Livingston a share of the UCC-Watchung Division title. However, Union would never give the Highlanders a chance as they dealt the home team their most lopsided loss in three years, pounding three Highlander pitchers in their 17-4 win.
Mike Velez (1-4,HR,2RBI) got things going for Union with a first inning two run homer, and the Farmers never looked back scoring at least one run in all seven innings played. All total, Union would rap out 15 hits led by leadoff man Jalen Bryant (4-6,3RBI) who collected four hits. Andy Serretti drove in three runs with a pair of hits and Chris Bruno hit his second home run of the year for the only home team highlights.
The ensuing Roxbury game would not only give Gov. Livingston little time to think about the Union debacle, but also provide the team an opportunity to put their poor performance behind them before they took the field against Scotch Plains on Saturday. However, visiting Roxbury (7-9) was widely expected to present a difficult challenge and the Gaels were also eager to avenge last seasons 4-1 extra inning loss to the Highlanders. Roxbury, despite their sub .500 record, had beaten West Morris, Seton Hall Prep, and Morristown, all ranked teams.
After Jarod Abram (4.2IP, 4 H,4R,3K) had a 1-2-3 first, Compton put the Highlanders on top with a 390 ft. bomb that even cleared the house behind the left field fence. It was Compton's 10th homer of the season and 22nd of his career, the most ever by a Highlander. The switch hitter is chasing the Gov. Livingston single season HR mark he set last year with Danny Serretti and Stephen Reid when the three most prolific home run hitters in school history each hit 11. Compton has also become the Highlanders all-time career hit leader.
Roxbury first baseman Nick Danna (1-2,HR) then matched Compton's blast when he tied the game with a second inning solo shot. Gov. Livingston would jump back in front when Michael Shaffer (2-4, 2B,RBI) doubled in Sean McCulloch (1-3) who had led off the bottom half of the inning with a bunt single against Gael starter Jared Schimenti (4IP,5H,4ER,4K).
Roxbury tied the game at two when Schimenti, who was also leading off for the Gaels, hit a sac fly. Gov. Livingston once again took the the lead when Andy Serretti (2-3,2B,RBI) used his bat and his legs to account for two Highlander runs. First Serretti doubled in Compton who had singled to open the inning. Serretti taking a big lead on Schimenti got a huge jump when Chris Bruno laid down a bunt in front of the plate. As the ball was played to first by Gael catcher Will Findlay, Serretti never stopped running and came all the way around from second to score. Serretti's heads up base running gave the Highlanders a 4-2 lead.
However, Roxbury again clawed back to tie the game as Abram gave way to Devanney (1.1IP,1H,2BB) with two outs in the fifth . Back to back singles by Justin Bosland (1-4,RBI) and Will Findlay(1-4,RBI) brought in two runs to knot the game at four.
Gov. Livingston would go ahead for good in the fifth as John Grill brought in Delsordo who doubled with a sac fly. A sixth inning error by Roxbury led to a Delsordo RBI single as the Highlanders headed into the last inning up 6-4.
Closer Joey DeFeo ( 1IP, 0 R) relieved Devanney after he walked the first batter of the inning. DeFeo now facing the top of the order got Schimenti to fly out to center fielder McCulloch for the inning's first out. McCulloch would then turn in the defensive play of the game as he made a terrific leaping catch on a drive to deep right center by Bosland. McCulloch's potentially game saving catch at the very least kept the tying run off second base with the Gaels' best hitter Div. 1 Fordham bound Will Findlay coming to the plate. DeFeo with the base runner still at first won the battle against the dangerous Findlay striking out the Morris County All-Star on three pitches to end the game.
UCT SEMIFINAL GAME PREVIEW
Saturday, Gov. Lvingston and Scotch Plains-Fanwood will meet in the first of the two UCT semi-final games that will be played at spacious Jim Hynes Stadium on the Kean University campus. Johnson and Summit will meet in the second game .
The UCC-Watchung Division rivals have played two times this year with Gov. Livingston taking both contests including a come from behind 6-5 win last week in Scotch Plains. However, Scotch Plains and Union County’s best pitcher Danny Wilkinson has yet to throw a pitch against the Highlanders this year. Villanova bound Wilkinson has been spectacular in his two UCT starts. In the quarterfinals, the powerful lefty no hit Union as Scotch Plains won a 1-0 game. In his opening round UCT start against Oratory he gave up one run, and struck out 13 Rams in the Raiders 2-1 win. Scotch Plains coach Joe Higgins will have no pitch count restrictions on a fully rested Wilkinson who can go the maximum 110 pitches. The scrappy Raider offense plays a nice brand of small ball under Higgins, and the Raider offense especially when Wilkinson is on the mound finds a way to get just enough run support for their ace. Speedy centerfielder Willy Gale is leading the team with 30 hits good for a .484 average. Leadoff man Jonathan Ramos (.407) and Dean Kirian (.406) are also both productive hitters at the top of the Raider lineup.
Gov. Livingston coach Chris Roof will most likely counter with ace John Grill, with righty Michael Shaffer, and lefty Joey Defeo in the pen.Grill has shined this year pitching against every top team in Union County. He has been used as both a starter and a stopper out of the bull pen and has not given up more than two earned runs in any outing. Roof would hope to get Grill deep into the game and close with DeFeo who has been as valuable as anyone on this year's team. The senior has appeared in 10 of the teams 18 games.
Drew Compton, last season's Union County Player of the Year, looks like he will be capturing that honor again this year. The four year starter has been hitting over .500 all season and has hit 10 home runs, despite being consistently intentionally walked by opposing coaches. Watching Wilkinson battle MLB prospect Compton will be worth the price of admission by itself.
Gov. Livingston’s other MLB prospect and Compton’s fellow GT recruit, power hitting Stephen Reid was lost for the season when he was hit on the thumb by a Cranford pitch 8 games into the year. Not having Reid in the lineup has undoubtly hurt the overall Highlander offense but fortunatly Andy Serretti hitting in Reid's slot behind Compton is having a super year. Serretti is raking at .465 clip with 22 RBI and has made opponents pay for walking Compton. However, the key to the game will be for the bottom half of the lineup to drive Wilkinson’s pitch count up and get on base so Higgins and Wilkinson will have to deal with Compton. Look for the Highlanders to put pressure on the Raider defense with a bit of small ball of their own.
This year UCT final four which is unusually missing perennial powers Westfield and Cranford is wide open for the taking. Gov. Livingston and Scotch Plains will kickoff the diamond action at noon. Summit and Johnson will follow at 3 pm, with the semifinal winners meeting back at Kean on Monday evening at 7 p.m.