UNION, NJ- The Union High School Farmers varsity baseball team trailed in a close game and couldn’t quite solve Arthur L. Johnson High School freshman starting pitcher Kyle Adorno for most of the game. All of that changed in a matter of four batters in the order as the game shifted to the bottom of the fifth inning.
Union senior starting pitcher Brandon Bedlivy got through the top of the fifth inning with no damage and his players stepped into the batters’ box, trailing the Johnson Crusaders 2-1 through four and a half innings of action. The team huddled up together before going to work in the inning.
“We had to be aggressive in the zone, attack fastballs, hit them hard on the ground, line drives and pressure [Johnson’s] defense and eventually, the outcome will be good,” Union head coach Angel Navarrete said about what he told his players after the top of the fifth inning.
The Farmers scored three runs in bottom of the fifth inning, all with two outs, sparked by sophomore Dren Gojac and senior Anthony Farinha to rally past the Crusaders 5-2 Saturday morning in Union.
The Farmers got two straight hits from sophomores Nick Saraceno and Andrew Sanborn to put the tying and go-ahead runs on base. Adorno struck Union junior Zach Fernandez out looking, putting the Farmers in a two-out situation where they needed to get hits and get on base. Then, senior Jerry Gamone got plunked by a pitch, loading the bases.
Sophomore Dren Gojac stepped up to the plate and he was also drilled by a pitch, scoring Saraceno to tie the game at 2-2, changing the outcome and allowing his team to go for more runs, the bases loaded again.
“Taking one for the team really helped us and the bases were loaded,” Gojac said. “If I didn’t take it [and get hit by a pitch], we would never have gotten the RBI. We scored, rallied and played hard.”
The next man to step up to the plate was senior Anthony Farinha, who was 0-2 on the afternoon with two groundouts. He took a swing at the first pitch he saw from Adorno and took it to center field, scoring sophomore Andrew Sanborn and Gamone to give his team the 4-2 lead, his first hit on the afternoon.
From once looked like a game slowly slipping away, the Farmers found themselves in full throttle, gaining their first lead of the afternoon.
“It felt great, I was struggling all game,” Farinha said. “It worked and that’s what we’ve been working on, is getting the ball in play and that’s all I did.”
Farinha came into Saturday’s game with a .263 batting average, getting five hits out of 19 plate appearances.
“Nothing better than seeing a senior come through with two outs, bases loaded,” Navarrete said of Farinha. “[Anthony’s] a great kid, great senior leader, so I’m happy for him.”
Union continued to hit well and connected for base hits, including a deep double off the bat of Sanborn, putting runners at second and third base with one out.
Adorno was removed from the game after allowing a walk to junior Zach Jones and senior Ryan Spallone came out of the bullpen in relief. The Farmers got the double from Sanborn and an infield single from Fernandez to make it a 5-2 lead.
“[The kids] are learning to grind out games,” Navarrete said. “One through seven innings, all the way through and try to overcome obstacles and be resilient, which they’ve been all year. They’re a hard-working group.”
The Crusaders couldn’t answer in the sixth and seventh innings and saw a two-game winning streak come to an end in the loss.
“We’ve got to learn to play in those situations, play in tight games, so we get more comfortable in those moments and go from there,” Johnson head coach Dave Kennedy said. “We lost to a good team and hopefully we get another chance to play them down the road.”
Johnson got started in the top of the second inning with a single from senior Kevin Metz and a double from sophomore Steve Harrington to put runners at second and third with no outs. Adorno came to the plate and gave a pitch a deep fly, but Sanborn made the catch and subsequently threw Metz out at the plate for a double play.
Senior Anthony Caldiero sent an 0-1 pitch to the outfield, bringing home Harrington to give Johnson the early 1-0 lead.
“We had some good at-bats, but we have to get on the fastball earlier in the count, so that the curveball can’t beat us in the count,” Caldiero said.
Adorno drove in the other Johnson run in the top of the third inning, a single with two outs that scored senior Joe Turek for a 2-0 lead. Union got on the board with a run scoring on a throwing error in the bottom of the third inning.
The Johnson Crusaders (2-4) head back home to play Westfield HS Tuesday afternoon at 4:00 p.m.
The Union Farmers (4-3) head out on the road to play at Franklin HS Monday afternoon at 4:00 p.m.