WESTFIELD, NJ - The Gov. Livingston baseball team snapped a two game losing streak as Nick Cocchia and Sean Savage combined on a six hitter to defeat Westfield 3-1 yesterday afternoon in Westfield. The Highlanders who had their 15 game win steak broken last week when they were eliminated from the UCT by Johnson, ended Westfield's seven game win streak with Tuesday's UCC-Watchung division victory.
After beating Westfield for the second time this season, Gov. Livingston (16-2,7-1) holds a two game lead over second place Blue Devils (11-8,5-3) in the UCC- Watchung division. The Highlanders can wrap up the conference title with a win over Union on Wednesday. Westfield will be seeking their 15th Union County Championship when they meet Cranford in the finals on Saturday at Kean University.
Cocchia was given the task of getting the Highlanders back on track after back to back losses at the end of last week as he faced off against the Blue Devils and hurler Cory Hiltz for the second time this season.The two lefties once again locked up in a pitching duel with both pitchers going deep into the game and each giving up only a handful of hits. However, just like in the first game the Highlanders were able to push across a couple of early runs and Cocchia and Savage were able to make them stand up.
Cocchia provided the first big play of the game in the second inning, not from the mound but from the plate. After Dan Baroff opened the inning with a double to right field, he was moved over to third on a ground out. Hiltz got a big strikeout for second out of the inning but Cocchia jumped on Hiltz's first offering and drove it through the right side of the infield for an RBI single and a 1-0 Highlander lead.
Westfield looked like they were going to get the equalizer in the bottom half of the inning as they put runners on the corners with just one out. Cocchia again came up big as he picked the runner off first base for the second out of the inning. After walking a batter he was able to close out the inning with a strikeout keeping Westfield off the board.
Gov. Livingston’s Jack Pedini (1-3) opened the third with a sharp single to right and made his way to third on a passed ball and a ground out. Drew Compton(1-3) brought Pedini home with an RBI ground out.
Westfield finally reached Cocchia for a run in the bottom of 5th when Matt LaCorte and Chris Wagner both connected for doubles and the Blue Devils closed to within 2-1 with two innings to play.
Gov. Livingston tried to steal an insurance run with two outs in the sixth. After Compton opened the inning with single he was replaced by speedy Jace Tweeten who made his way to third as the Highlanders took advantage of the deep backstop at Edison School. After a walk put runners on the corners, an attempted double steal ended the inning with Tweeten being thrown out at the plate. Westfield catcher Jake Vall-Llobera first threw down to second but then took a relay back from SS Matt LaCorte to nail Tweeten at home for the third out of the inning.
Cocchia opened the sixth with a strikeout but by this time, with his pitch account around 100, he was lifted after walking James Friel. Savage took over for Cocchia and got the dangerous LaCorte to ground out to end the inning with two runners aboard.
Will Jennings worked a walk off of Michael Knapp, who relieved Hiltz (5ip, 5 h, 2 r), to open the seventh. A balk sent Jennings over to second and Cocchia promptly moved him over to third with a sacrifice bunt. Knapp then got a huge strikeout for the second out but the deep backstop came into play again as a wild pitch brought in Jennings from third to give the Highlanders a 3-1 lead.
Savage yielded a base hit to Jake Lerie to open the bottom of the 7th inning for Westfield, but then got a four pitch strikeout and two ground ball outs to end the game. Savage has proven to not only be a solid starter (3-0), but, along with lefty Ryan Monroy, a reliable arm out of the pen when called upon. Cocchia picked up his fifth win of the season and his second over Westfield. Yesterday's pitching performance was particularly impressive as he struggled with his control (5.1 ip, 106, 4BB) but still managed to give up only one run to a strong offensive Blue Devil lineup. Highlander catcher Dan Baroff turned in an outstanding performance behind the plate blocking numerous pitches resulting in only one wild pitch charged against his pitchers.
Gov. Livingston travels to Union Wednesday to face the Farmers who knocked off Cranford last night 4-2. A cross conference matchup with Linden and a neighborhood game with New Providence close out the week. The Highlanders currently hold the number one seed in the Central Jersey, Group II with May 12 the cutoff date for adding power points. The number one seed will guarantee home field advantage throughout the Central Jersey, Grout 2 sectional playoff.