BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - On April 2nd, senior lefty Joey DeFeo opened the season for the Gov. Livingston baseball team as the starting pitcher for the Highlanders. In that game, DeFeo's first varsity start, he was outstanding going six innings while giving up just two earned runs in the Highlanders 8-2 win. Little did DeFeo know that would be his last and only start as Coach Chris Roof quickly realized that he would need DeFeo to fill a much greater team need, that being the role of closer.
Over the Highlanders next 25 games, Roof would call on DeFeo 13 times, most of which were pressure packed appearances. "He played a vital part in our 21 wins this season. Joey finished 3-0 and set a record in saves for a single season with 8," said Roof.
In the last week of season play, DeFeo made three appearances in relief, all Highlander wins. In those three games DeFeo tossed five innings without giving up an earned run.
Against arch rival New Providence, DeFeo entered the game with one out in the fifth inning with runners on second and third as the Highlanders clung to a 3-1 lead. He then closed out the inning and the game for the win over their arch rivals.
In the state playoffs after pitching a scoreless tune up inning against Rumson, DeFeo once again proved why he was so valuable to the team this year. His most impressive mound appearance was his last one of the week when he recorded a five out save over South Plainfield in the quarterfinals of the states. With the bases loaded in the sixth inning and the Tigers' cleanup hitter at the plate, DeFeo got the last out of the inning with a swing and a miss of the nasty 3-2 curve ball he delivered to the plate.
"Joey was a pleasure to coach this season and did an amazing job as a first year varsity player," said Roof. Joey, has incredible makeup too -- his mental toughness and great work ethnic made him the pitcher he was this season. To me that’s a example that I would want most of my GL baseball players to try to emulate."
The following are comments from Joey about his past, present and future:
TAPinto: When the season started did you ever think you would pitch in more than half of the team’s games?
Joey: No. Starting the season as a first-year varsity player as a senior, I didn’t think I would get that many innings. But having a successful unexpected opening day start, I ended up pitching in 14 out of 26 games.
TAPinto: Did you prefer to be a starting pitching or a reliever?
Joey: I really don’t have a preference. I am always prepared to start or come in as relief, however getting the GL saves record at 8 for the season, was really cool.
TAPinto: How difficult was it to make the transition to a game closing hurler?
Joey: Becoming the team’s closer was exciting for me. It didn’t matter if it was the start of an inning or bases loaded and no outs, I just loved getting any opportunity to throw.
TAPinto: You are not an overpowering pitcher, what was your go to pitch when you needed a big strikeout?
Joey: My go to pitch was always the curve ball. Sometimes the batter would look at it thinking it was too low, other times they would chase it in the dirt.
TAPinto: Speaking of strikeouts, how pumped were you when you worked out of the bases load situation against South Plainfield when you whiffed their best hitter?
Joey: I did my best to stay calm and take one pitch at a time leading up to that third strike. Knowing I had an awesome defense behind me, was reassuring if the ball went into play. When he struck out, I was pumped up with that amazing feeling.
TAPinto: What words of wisdom about playing Highlander baseball can you share with your younger teammates?
Joey: My best advice is let them know to not worry about playing time. Take advantage of any opportunity you get to play and use that time to prove yourself.
TAPinto: Who is your role model?
Joey: My father is my biggest role model. His humor, strength, and support are characteristics I admire.
TAPinto: Who is your favorite professional athlete?
Joey: Mariano Rivera, NY Yankees (of course!)
TAPinto: What is your favorite class at GL?
TAPinto: What will you miss most about GL?
Joey: Of course, I will miss the baseball team, but I will greatly miss the classmates, teachers, and coaches that impacted me along the way.
TAPinto: Where will you attend school next year? Do you know your major?
Joey: University of Scranton Business/Marketing
Valairco Heating & Cooling is the proud sponsor of the Highlander Athlete of the Week. Kevin McHugh, Valairco Owner and President and Berkeley Heights resident, is an alumni of Gov. Livingston High School.
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