BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - Governor Livingston's senior baseball players will get one more chance to take the field together when they meet the OP Rams (Oratory) at Snyder Park in Berkeley Heights on Tuesday evening July 14th.
After the coronavirus health crisis forced the cancelation of the 2020 high school baseball season, the opportunity for this year's graduating Highlanders to play just “One More Game” is the result of an incredible effort spearheaded by current St. Joseph-Metchuen AD/Baseball coach Mike Murray. In six short weeks, Murray the former Westfield High School and Wake Forrest University great, put together an astounding 222 team state wide field which will be competing in the memory-making single elimination “Last Dance” Baseball World Series Tournament, culminating with a single New Jersey state champion.
Since the “Last Dance“ Tournament is not sanctioned or affiliated with the NJSIAA or any of the statewide athletic association’s member schools, all teams participating have entered with slightly different monikers. The 2020 Gov. Livingston Highlanders varsity will take the field as the BH/Mountainside White Sox. They will host the Berkeley Heights Regional at Snyder Park which has a local flavor with the Summit Sugar Bears playing the New Providence PAL at 3 p.m., followed by the BH/ Mountainside White Sox contest against the OP Rams at 7 p.m. Snyder Park as a regional site will be hosting games from July 14th through the16th. Other local teams from Westfield, Scotch Plains-Fanwood, and Springfield will also compete in Berkeley Heights over the three days of baseball action. (see schedule below) All teams that enter the tournament will play a minimum of three games
Adding a bit of excitement for both the players and devoted New Jersey scholastic baseball fans will be former New York Met and Yankee standout pitcher and Cy Young Award winner Dwight “Doc" Gooden throwing out the game's ceremonial first pitch prior to the night cap.
After weeks of prep work by Murray and a determined committee of 12 coaches, the " Last Dance" World Series became a reality in mid-June when Gov. Murphy lifted specific social gathering restrictions. However, at that time in order for interested teams to begin formal practice they would need coaching, since a subsequent NJSIAA ruling would not allow member high school coaches to guide their varsity squads until July 13th. Unfortunately, that meant long term Gov. Livingston coach Chris Roof would not be able to lead the 10 seniors he would have had on the Highlander’s 2020 roster, some of which had been patiently waiting their turn to play varsity ball for the legendary coach.
While the green light came from Governor Murphy and teams were waiting on the NJSIAA to render a coaching decision, parents George Devanney and Scott McCulloch volunteered to organize practices and run pre- tourney scrimmages. They also enlisted the help of current collegiate players and former Highlander all-stars DJ Gonnelli and Tyler McCulloch and quickly formed a coaching staff.
It was an easy coaching fit for Devanney and McCulloch who had coached this senior class through their early years in youth baseball. Devanney said, "When the 'Last Dance' was first conceived, I knew we could never give the boys back a lost varsity GLHS season, including a Spring Training trip to Florida, but we could get them back on the field with their teammates and friends for some fun and closure. You have to remember, many of these boys have played together since they were 8 years old with the ultimate goal of playing on the GL Varsity Baseball team."
Now after two weeks of practice and a week of scrimmages, the team is as ready as they can be in their abbreviated time back on the diamond.
Over that time, a cautiously optimistic Devanney has seen the boys come together. “During the first inning of our first scrimmage, I saw it all come together…..teammates enthusiastically cheering each other on with encouragement and a competitiveness that comes from the heart. At that moment, I realized that these boys never believed they would take the field again this year until they actually did, and personally I felt we had accomplished all we wanted to for them. Now it’s in their hands to go out, have fun, create memories and maybe catch a little lightning in the bottle.”
The BH/Mountainside roster:
Sean McCulloch (CF)
Vin Mellusi (2B)
Michael Del Sordo (SS)
Sam Bass (RHP)
Jarod Abram (RHP)
Ryann Devanney (RHP)
Jeremy Malave (3B)
Dan Feely (RHP))
Dan Quinn (C, DH)
Dylan Verschleiser (OF,RHP)
Dan Bass (RHP)
Gavin Malave (INF)
Briant Bazydlo (LHP)
Nick Gold (1B)
Michael Labisi (OF)
Matthew Murowski (C)
Jack Pires (RHP,OF)
Jayson Schmidt (LF)
Michael Shaffer (SS,RHP)
Patrick Tullo (RHP)
Fred Truncale (RHP)
Matthew Quinn ( INF)
Opening Pool Play on July 14th
16A. Berkeley Heights Regional at Snyder Park, Berkeley Heights
GM1: Summit Sugar Bears (Summit) vs. New Providence PAL (New Providence), 3:30 p.m.
GM2: BH/Mountainside White Sox (Governor Livingston) vs. OP Rams (Oratory Prep), 7 p.m.
16B. Western Union County Regional at Snyder Park, Berkeley Heights and Teener Field, Union
GM1: Blue Devils (Westfield) vs. Demarest at Snyder Park, noon
GM2: SPF Raiders (Scotch Plains-Fanwood) vs. Dawgs Baseball (Dayton) at Teener Field, 1 p.
RWJBarnabas has been named the presenting sponsor of the baseball tournament and has lent their support to the 5000 participating players.
Tournament organizers have gone above and beyond state guidelines to protect the health and safety of players, coaches, umpires and fans. All players, coaches and umpires must adhere to the protocols and guidelines Gov. Phil Murphy's administration delineated for youth sports, which include health screenings, temperature checks and other safety measures.
Current New Jersey state guidelines would also apply to any fan who attends a game, which includes the mandatory mask order issued earlier last week.