UNION – The last time Dayton and Governor Livingston met in the Union County Tournament was in 2012.
Both schools remember the game vividly.
Dayton broke through late and, as the seventh seed, upset the second-seeded Highlanders 7-3 in BerkeleyHeights to reach the semifinals for the first time in seven years. Both teams entered the game with 12 victories and each went on to post 20-win campaigns.
“Two years ago they rallied in the seventh inning,” GL head coach Chris Roof said. “Any defeat in the tournament is very difficult.”
That game was on May 3. The teams will next face each other in the UCT also on May 3, which is Saturday.
Dayton was also the last team to beat GL in 2011 before the Highlanders went on to capture the Group 2 state championship for a second time.
So the Bulldogs are not considered the little engine that could when it comes to playing a bigger team like GL. Dayton has beaten GL in the recent past and is capable of doing so again.
Don’t think GL isn’t aware of that.
“Dayton plays with a lot of energy and enthusiasm, they pitch well and they hit well,” Roof said. “They’re as solid as any team that we’re going to play this season.”
The teams with the best records in UnionCounty will face each other in the first of two semifinals when the 61st annual baseball UCT continues Saturday.
The semifinals will be taking place at Kean University’s Jim Hynes ’63 Baseball Stadium in Union for the first time, with fifth-seeded Dayton (13-1) taking on top-seeded GL (15-1) in the opener, followed by third-seeded Westfield (10-3) vs. second-seeded and defending champion Cranford (10-4) in the nightcap.
“This county deserves a setting like this. I think it’s great,” Roof said.
The first game is scheduled for a 1:45 p.m. start, but first pitch will most likely be closer to 2 p.m. because of SATs. The second game has an approximate starting time of 4:15 p.m. or 30 minutes after the first game is completed.
For the first time the quarterfinals and semifinals will be played on back-to-back days because of the quarterfinals being rained out Wednesday and the fields not dry enough to continue on Thursday.
“You can’t control Mother Nature,” Roof said. “We (all the teams) all knew that we would need a second guy (pitcher).”
Dayton has won five in a row, is in the semifinals for the second time in three years and is seeking to reach the final for the first time since 2005. Dayton – known 60 years ago as Springfield – won the first UCT in 1954.
GL has won a county-best 10 straight, is in the semifinals for the first time since 2011 and is seeking to reach the final for the first time since that same season. The Highlanders have never won the UCT, with a record of 0-3 in championship games including 1996, 2007 and 2011.
Westfield is 10-3, has won seven straight and is in the semifinals for the seventh straight season.
Cranford is 10-4, has won three of four – with the only loss in that span coming at Westfield 5-4 Tuesday in Union County Conference-Watchung Division play – and is in the semifinals for the second straight season and for the eighth time since 2006.
All four of Friday’s quarterfinal winners won at home, with Dayton ousting 13th-seeded Oratory Prep 10-0 at Ruby Field in Springfield.
GL eliminated eighth-seeded Elizabeth 10-3 in BerkeleyHeights.
Cranford defeated seventh-seeded Union Catholic at home in the quarterfinals for the second straight season – and again in extra innings. The Cougars won 5-4 in nine innings after topping the Vikings 6-5 in 11 exactly 12 months ago.
Westfield edged 11th-seeded RosellePark 4-2.
Cranford and Westfield are no strangers to playing each other in the UCT since 2006. Westfield defeated Cranford in the 2006, 2008 and 2009 semifinals, while Cranford downed Westfield in the 2010 and 2013 finals.
GL had to come back against Elizabeth to advance to the semis for the first time in three years. Down 2-1 going in to the bottom of the fifth, GL scored three runs in the fifth to take the lead for good at 4-2.
Baron Natelli smashed a double to left-center that scored John Tedesco to tie the game at 2-2 before Pat Mahoney and Mike Falk followed with RBI-singles to make it 4-2 GL.
Elizabeth answered with one run in the sixth to cut the deficit to 4-3 before GL broke the game open with six runs in the sixth.
Ryan Jennings and Ian Lynch produced back-to-back two-run hits, Jennings a single and Lynch a double, in GL’s six-run sixth.
GL junior lefty Ethan Frohman earned the mound victory in relief, pitching one and two-thirds and allowing only one run. It was his first victory in relief this year, with his 2014 record improving to 5-0.
Roof said Friday night that Frohman will start against Dayton. Roof said Frohman threw only 18 pitches against Elizabeth and is eligible to throw eight innings vs. Dayton.
Frohman’s last start was last Saturday’s first round win over Linden.
Against Elizabeth, GL starter Victor Candeloro, a senior right-hander, pitched the first four and one-third innings. He gave up two runs on one hit, walked four batters and hit two.
Lynch gave GL a 1-0 lead in the first on a fielder’s choice RBI.
Elizabeth scored its first two runs in the top of the fourth to take its 2-1 advantage.
When Frohman came in to pitch in the fifth, he picked off a runner at first and then retired the next batter he faced.
After GL went ahead 10-3 in the bottom of the sixth, Roof inserted senior righty Steve Duda to pitch the seventh.
Elizabeth starter Alvin Vega, a junior right-hander, did a good job against GL until he was knocked out in the fifth when GL took its second lead.
“The game was a lot closer than the score indicated,” Roof said. “Their pitcher was tough.”
Dayton is the present leader in the UCC’s Mountain Division and seeking to win that league title for the third straight season.
GL is the present leader in the Watchung Division and seeking to win that league crown for the first time.
61ST ANNUALBASEBALLUNIONCOUNTY TOURNAMENT
SEEDS: 1-Gov. Livingston. 2-Cranford. 3-Westfield. 4-Scotch Plains.
5-Dayton. 6-Union. 7-Union Catholic. 8-Elizabeth.
9-Summit. 10-New Providence. 11-Roselle Park. 12-Johnson.
13-Oratory Prep. 14-Plainfield 15-Rahway. 16-Roselle Catholic.
Wednesday, April 23
Linden 11, Roselle Catholic 5 – at Roselle Catholic
Friday, April 25
Oratory Prep 7, Scotch Plains 5 – at Scotch Plains
Saturday, April 26
Elizabeth 6, Summit 2 – at Elizabeth
Gov. Livingston 11, Linden 3 – at Gov. Livingston
Union Catholic 4, New Providence 1 – at Union Catholic
Cranford 14, Rahway 1 – at Cranford
RosellePark 6, Union 3 – at Union
Monday, April 28
Dayton 7, Johnson 5 – at Dayton
Westfield 10, Plainfield 0 – at Westfield
Friday, May 2
Dayton 10, Oratory Prep 0 – at Dayton
Gov. Livingston 10, Elizabeth 3 – at GL
Westfield 4, RosellePark 2 – at Westfield
Cranford 5, Union Catholic 4 (9 inn.) – at Cranford
Saturday, May 3
5-Dayton vs. 1-Gov. Livingston, 1:45 p.m.
3-Westfield vs. 2-Cranford, 4:15 p.m.
Saturday, May 10