CLARK — Though Union’s county tournament hopes ended last Saturday, the Farmers have made some noise this week against two of the remaining four teams in the county tourney.
On Tuesday, Union annihilated semifinalist Gov. Livingston by 13 runs, and Thursday it continued that momentum against another county final four team.
Zach Fernandez tossed a complete-game, two hit shoutout to lead Union past Arthur L. Johnson (Clark), 3-0. The Farmers benefitted from timely hitting at the plate, as Jalen Bryant, Dren Gocaj, and Rody Martinez had an RBI apiece to lead the offense.
Including a non-conference victory, 12-1, against St. Benedict’s Prep of Newark on Monday, Union has outscored opponents, 32-5, in its last three games.
Johnson starter Joseph Kaulfers was incredibly efficient on the mound, as well, going the complete seven while allowing just three runs on five hits. He did not strike out a batter, but walked just one and pitched effectively to contact all afternoon.
Kaulfers and Fernandez had exchanged zeros after the first four innings, but Union finally broke the ice in the top of the fifth. Nick Saraceno ledoff the inning with a hit and next batter Gio Zuena was hit by a pitch. Saraceno and pinch-runner Drew Darby then advanced a base during Bryant’s turn at-bat to set up a second-and-third and no out situation for Union.
Bryant cashed in, scoring Saraceno on a sacrifice flyout to left field. Darby swiped third base during next batter Gocaj’s at-bat, and Gocaj later drove him home, also on a sacrifice fly.
Those two runs were more than enough for Fernandez to hold on this afternoon, but the Farmers’ right-hander made sure to give himself some insurance an inning later. Fernandez ledoff the sixth with a single, went from first to third on a hit by Saraceno, and scored on a safety squeeze off the bat of Martinez to make it 3-0.
Fernandez pitched around two hits, two errors, and two walks in the shutout, doing so on just 84 pitches. Combine that with Kaulfers’ mere 81 throws, and this game was wrapped up in just 90 minutes.
Patrick Grady and Tyler Washingston were the lone Johnson batters to get a hit off Fernandez, who now owns three shutouts and an 0.49 ERA on 52 strikeouts to nine walks in 43 innings pitched this season.
A nearly flawless game on both ends, this was quite the contrast to Union’s 17-4 win at Gov. Livingston in the Farmers’ previous time out. Five Farmers had multiple RBI in the game, led by Martinez’s four. Bryant led the 16-hit attack with four knocks on three RBI. Every hitter in the Farmers’ lineup scored at least one run, while Matt Silvestre scored three. Andrew Sanborn got the win on the mound, striking out four in 5 1/3 innings, while Julian Fernandez finished it.
Union has the weekend off from games before returning to action on Monday with a non-conference home game against Edison of Middlesex County.