BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - Stephen Reid crushed a go-ahead two run home run in the bottom of the sixth inning which allowed Gov. Livingston to claim a hard fought 4-3 win over South Brunswick Friday afternoon in Berkeley Heights. Junior Ethan Saia pitched 1 2/3 scoreless innings in relief to earn his first career victory and raise Gov. Livingston's season mark to 7-2-1.
The Highlanders trailed twice during the contest before Reid, last year's Union County Player of the Year, delivered his clutch home run. Gov. Livingston extended their winning streak to four straight and will be back in action Saturday when they face Edison (4-5) in the 11th annual Autism Awareness Baseball Challenge at North Brunswick’s Community Park, first pitch 1 p.m.
Gov. Livingston starter Ryan Monroy (2-0) got two quick outs to open the game before Mike Reyes (2-4) singled to left field for the games first hit. Monroy then got cleanup hitter Kevin Reyes (1-3) to loft a playable ball to the outfield but it was misplayed which extended the inning. After a five pitch walk loaded the bases, Will Beck (1-3, 2 RBI) drove a hard grounder past third base, scoring two unearned runs for the Vikings.
Gov. Livingston cut the visitors lead in half in the bottom of the first when Dan Serretti (1-3) led off with a base hit and quickly made his way to third on a steal and passed ball. Drew Compton, batting from the left side, pulled a 2-2 pitch to the right side of the infield easily scoring Serretti on the ground out. South Brunswick starter Marcus James, who pitched five great innings ( no decision), closed out the inning with the Vikings still holding a 2-1 lead.
With Monroy and James now locked in a pitching duel, the Highlanders were fortunate to plate the tying run in the fifth inning. Jack Pedini (1-3) opened the inning with a base hit and advanced into scoring position on an Andy Serretti sacrifice bunt. James' second pitch to Chris Bruno got by his catcher and Pedini was now on third with just one out. Bruno then grounded a 2-0 pitch to third base with Pedini breaking for home on contact. Third baseman Kyle White came up throwing and appeared to have Pedini dead at the plate, but the ball got by the Viking catcher as Pedini scored the tying run.
Mike Reyes opened the sixth inning with a single against Monroy, who was now in his longest outing of the season. With one out, third baseman White (1-2, 2b) came up with a chance to redeem his throwing error in the previous inning and he did just that. White drove a 2-0 pitch over the head of Pedini in centerfield which easily scored Reyes and the Vikings took back the lead.
Gov. Livingston coach Chris Roof went to the bullpen calling on junior righty Ethan Saia. Monroy (79 pitches) finished up yielding on one earned run over his 5 1/3 innings of work while striking out five and issuing a single walk. Saia, who has worked exclusively out of the bullpen this year, closed out the inning -- first, by getting a come backer which held White at third, and then, a ground out to keep his team within a run.
South Brunswick coach CJ Hendricks went to his bullpen to replace James, who up to this point in the game had completely dominated the Highlanders potent lineup. James finished his 75 pitch, five innings of work having given up only two hits and one earned run.
Now down to their last six outs the Highlanders had the top of their lineup coming up to face lefty Mike Reyes who took over for James on the mound. Compton now batting from the right side battled Reyes in an 8 pitch at bat before lining a single into left field. Reid facing a 2-2 count with Compton now in scoring position after stealing second then took a fastball from Reyes and drove it over the left center field wall for a two run homer. It was Reid’s third round tripper of the year, tying him with Compton for the team lead.
Now it was up to Saia to lock up the win. Mike Slover got exactly what the Vikings were looking for, a leadoff baserunner as he slapped a single into right field. Saia got the next batter to ground into a fielders choice for the first out. Felix Quionones then signaled up the middle and the Vikings had runners on the corners with just one out.
Saia then came up with a huge defensive play as he fielded a bunt back to him and made a perfect flip to catcher Bruno who nailed a sliding pitch runner Mike Nally for the second out of the inning. Saia still had a Viking in scoring position, but he got the dangerous Reyes to ground out to lock up the win.
The Highlanders who were out hit 9 to 6 and were fortunate to throw out two runners at the plate came away with another big power point win. Having beaten both Delbarton and South Brunswick back to back should advance Gov. Livingston to the top of the seeding in the Central Jersey, Group II. However there is still a lot of baseball to be played before the seeding cutoff in early May.