BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - The Gov. Livingston Highlander baseball team  wrapped up an impressive 18-4 regular season with an 11-1 mercy  win over Pequannock, Saturday afternoon at TD Bank Ballpark in Bridgewater. Sophomore Michael Shaffer (2-1) tossed a  6 inning 2 hitter and the Highlander offense broke out of a mini slump scoring 9 runs in the last two innings to break open a close game. Drew Compton (1-3, 2B,RBI) delivered the game's first big blow with a 390 ft. RBI double to deep center and Andy Serretti (1-3, 2RBI) followed with a two run single as the Highlanders separated from the Golden Panthers with four fifth inning runs.

On Friday afternoon in Berkeley Heights, the Highlanders got a big boost when senior Ryan Davey (2-0)  returned to the mound after missing the past four weeks due to injury. Davey (4.2IP,6H,1ER) pitched 4 2/3 innings of one run ball in Gov. Livingston's 5-1 win over arch rival New Providence. Compton (1-3, 3RBI) gave Davey all the support he need when he blasted a two run first inning homer, his state leading 11th of the season. Andy Serretti (1-3, HR) also went deep for the Highlanders as they managed  just four hits against two Pioneer pitchers.

Top seeded Gov. Livingston (18-4) will now turn their attention to the post season beginning with Monday's matchup with 16 seeded Rumson Fair-Haven (7-11) in the opening round of the Central Jersey, Group II sectional playoffs.The game will be played in Berkeley Heights, with the first pitch set for 4 p.m.

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Gov. Livingston vs. Rumson-Fair Haven Playoff Preview

Gov. Livingston enters the postseason as the top seed in the wide open, highly competitive  Central Jersey, Group II sectional bracket. Rumson-Fair Haven who is the 16th seed will be the Highlanders opening round opponent.The Bulldogs who play in the tough Shore- A Central conference finished  the regular season with a 7-11 record. Rumson-Fair Haven  lost two key performers to injury before the season even started which forced veteran Bulldog Coach Kevin James (17 yrs.), who was  already in a rebuilding mode, to pencil in as many as five freshman starters during the season.

What to expect from the Bulldogs:

Look for either junior Kevin Shanes or freshman Michael Amendola both left handers to start the game for the Bulldogs, but don’t be surprised to see James use as many as five pitchers in the game. Rumson’s offense is generated by sophomore SS Andrew Schmid and outfielders Ryan Dupree and Thomas Elgrim.  The key will be how the underclassman laden lineup responds to the pressure of playoff baseball both at the plate and in the field.

What to expect from the Highlanders: 

Gov. Livingston will send out a fully rested John Grill (5-1) whose only loss of the season was to Scotch Plains last week in the semifinals of the UCT. Coach Chris Roof has relied on senior Joey DeFeo as his go to guy out of the bullpen so look for him to close the game if needed.

The Highlanders' offense is led by MLB prospect and Georgia Tech recruit Drew Compton, who this season has become the school's all time leader in hits and home runs.The big question for the Highlanders will be if the lower half of the lineup can get on base to allow Compton a chance to knock in some runs. Andy Serretti and John Grill both have made opponents pay for pitching around Compton. The Highlanders have a lot of power in the middle of the lineup which has accounted for 23 homers this season, (Compton 11, Grill 6, Bruno 4, Serretti 2) but if they simply hope to hit the ball out of the park, it may be a short postseason. Expect that small ball will be incorporated into the offensive game plan in the playoffs as the Highlanders will look to put pressure on opposing pitchers and defenses.

Coach Roof may also sacrifice some offense to field a stronger team defensively, especially if the Highlanders jump out to an early lead. Poor fielding was directly responsible for Gov. Livingston's loss to Scotch Plains in the UCT and at least one other of the team's four losses this season. 

Gov. Livingston 11 Pequannock 1

In Gov. Livingston’s  wins over Randolph and New Providence, the Highlander lineup produced just 10 combined hits. It looked like the team's hitting woes were continuing as Pequannock starter Evan Conte (3IP,1H,0ER) gave up just a single to Chris Bruno (2-4,RBI) over the game's first three innings. However the Highlanders were able to take a 1-0 lead as they capitalized on the first of the Golden Panthers seven errors on the day. Ricky Katz (1-2,HR) brought Pequannock even in the top half of the fourth when hit Shaffer's first pitch over the left field wall for the game's only home run.

A Pequannock error with two outs in the fourth put Gov. Livingston back in front 2-1. Eric Porta (1IP,5H,5R,2ER), who  relieved Conte then got roughed up by Compton and Serretti. After Viin Melusi reached on an infield  miscue and a Michael Delsordo (1-3) single had put runners on the corners. Compton’s deep smash over the center fielders head and Serretti’s sharp single to right plated three runs to put the Highlanders up 5-1.

Gov. Livingston ended the game in the sixth inning by scoring six more times. A  combination of walks, a hit batter and four more misplayed balls allowed the Highlanders to load the bases two times. Sean McCulloch(1-1,RBI) and Bruno brought in runs with base hits before Matt Murowski(1-4,2B,2RBI) ended the game with a two run double which gave the Highlanders the walk off 10 run mercy win.

Gov. Livingston 5 New Providence 1

New Providence (9-12-1), who has had a disappointing regular season despite returning the core of their lineup from last year's 20-7 North Jersey 2, Group 1 sectional championship team, always gives perennial Union County power Gov. Livingston a tough game. The Pioneers sent their ace Dylan Bedder out to the mound to face the Highlanders' Ryan Davey, who had not thrown a pitch since April 16th.

After Davey worked out of a little troubler in the first , 6’6”  Bedder, who will be pitching at Div. II St. Anselm next year, made a first inning mistake to Georgia Tech bound and MLB prospect Compton, who sent Bedder’s 1-1 offering far over the right field fence to give the Highlanders a quick 2-0 lead.

Andy Serretti connected for a solo shot off Bedder in the third inning, before New Providence finally got on the board in the fifth with a run. The Pioneers strung together three consecutive two out base hits against Davey to draw within 3-1. Davey  reached his pitch limit and was replaced on the mound by workhorse Joey DeFeo (2.1IP, 3H,0ER), who got the next hitter to ground out to end the Pioneer threat.

Gov. Lvingston answered back in the bottom of the fifth scoring two runs on a Compton sac fly and a New Providence error. The Pioneers made DeFeo work over the last two innings but couldn’t break through against him despite loading the bases in both the sixth and seventh innings.  New Providence out hit Gov. Livingston 9 to 4 in the game.

New Providence will begin their North 2,Group 1 sectional title defense when they will host Belvidere in their opening round game. New Providence's more difficult 2019 schedule should pay off as they make another run at the sectional championship as the three seed.