SUMMIT, NJ - Gov. Livingston junior Ryan Devanney held the Madison Dodgers (6-2) to just two runs on five hits over six full innings of work to lead the Highlanders (7-0) to a 5-2 victory in the championship game of the annual Highlander Classic Saturday afternoon in Summit.
Andy Serretti (1-3 HR) and John Grill (1-3,HR,2 RBI) both hit home runs early in the game in support of Devanney (1-0) who was making his first start of the season. With Gov. Livingston clinging to a slim 3-2 lead in the bottom of the 6th, the Highlanders got a huge two out double two run double from Ethan Saia (1-3,2B,2RBI) which gave reliever Joey DeFeo ( 1 IP, S) some breathing room as he closed out the final inning of the game.
Friday night's stormy weather forced the Highlander Classic's championship game to be played at Oratory Prep's multi-purpose turf field complex in Summit. On a beautiful afternoon for baseball, the championship game featured an interesting pitching matchup, Madison’s veteran three year starter against a Gov. Livingston rookie. Madison had saved their ace Will Hart (2-1) during the week to face a stacked Highlander offense that came in averaging 10 runs per game. Hart, a powerful left hander who will be playing ball at Division 1 Army next year, has been a three year varsity baseball performer both on the mound and at the plate. Gov. Livingston countered with junior right hander Devanney who has displayed impressive stuff, but was making only his second career start.
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After Devanney got two ground ball outs to open the game, Madison’s Vin Costa (1-2) slapped a 1-1 pitch into right field for the game's first hit. Devanney then got cleanup man AJ Gupta (1-3) on a deep fly to right fielder John Grill who made the catch right up against the outfield fence.
Hart working at a quick pace in the bottom half of the opening inning, came out strong, striking out the first two Highlanders he faced. However, Hart left a ball up for Andy Serretti who took his 2-1 pitch deep over the right field fence for the games first run.
Devanney and Hart both settled in over the next couple of innings as it looked like a classic pitching duel was emerging. Defensively, both squads were sharp turning in double plays erasing any potential scoring threats.
Gov. Livingston would again use the long ball to extend their lead in the home half of the fourth. Switch hitting Georgia Tech commit, Drew Compton batting from the right side ripped a double down the left field line to open the inning. He then advanced to third after tagging up on a Serretti fly out to deep right. John Grill, who has been crushing the ball all season, then smashed a first pitch fast ball over the right field fence for his 3rd home run of the season.
Madison would peck away at Devanney over the next two innings, scoring single runs in the fifth and sixth. Hart (1-4, RBI ), who also led off for the Dodgers, helped his own cause in the fifth when he singled in Branden Mariani who had doubled with two outs.
However, Devanney’s most impressive inning as a Highlander would come in the sixth when he gutted his way through a difficult frame. After Gupta reached on a one out base hit, Devanney fell behind the next batter DH Mike May 3-0. After May took the next pitch for a strike, Devanney came back with a pair of nasty off-speed breaking balls that May swung through for the second out of the inning.
Unfortunately for Devanney, after he had the next hitter Matt Monaghan (1-3, RBI) 0-2, he gave a up a sharp single to the Dodger third baseman which scored Gupta to bring Madison to within 3-2.
Devanney appeared have reached his limit (91 pitches) as he struggled with the next batter Mariani who would hit after Monaghan had advanced to second base on a wild pitch. Now rather than pulling Devanney, Coach Chris Roof and pitching coach Matt Rago showed absolute faith in their big right hander by leaving him in the contest to work out of the jam. Devanney came through as he got Andre DelaCruz to ground a ball to second baseman Vin Mellusi who turned in a nice play to nip DelaCruz at first.
Highlander third baseman Compton, who had good cuts against Hart during each of his three plate apperances led off the bottom of the sixth with a hard ground ball single past third base. Hart got two quick outs before he walked Chris Bruno (1-2, BB) putting an insurance run in scoring position. Ethan Saia turned in a superb at bat after falling behind Hart 1-2. Saia would foul off three straights pitches before he hammered a ball off the center field fence driving in both Compton and pinch runner Nick Leonardis.
Joey DeFeo, who was making his third mound appearance of the week, came on to pitch the seventh inning in relief of Devanney who went a career long six innings.The senior lefty got three ground ball outs to give the Highlanders their sixth straight Highlander Classic Championship.
Gov. Livingston who remains unbeaten on the season at 7-0 will put that perfect mark on the line when they head to Cranford (5-1) on Tuesday. Perennial Union County power Cranford and Gov. Livingston are tied for first place in the UCC-Watchung Division, and the winner on Tuesday most likely will determine which team takes the top seed in this years Union County Tournament.
This past week, the Highlanders played four games in four days and desperately needed Devanney to go deep in the Madison game to take some pressure off a taxed pitching staff. Devanney did just that which should allow this week's pitching assignments to fall back into place. After their showdown in Cranford, the Highlanders will host Elizabeth on Thursday before traveling to Felician Field in Lyndhurst to take on the Lyndurst Golden Bears (5-3) Saturday at 4 p.m.