Still seeking that elusive first Union County Tournament championship, the Governor Livingston baseball team is making a strong case to earn the top seed for the second straight season when the 62nd event is put together next week.
It took nine innings against a scrappy Union team that is better than its record to win Monday, with the Highlanders scoring two runs in the top of the ninth for a 3-1 Union County Conference-Watchung Division extra-inning triumph over the Farmers at Gordon R. LeMatty Field in Union.
GL improved to 7-0 overall – the Highlanders began last year 5-0 and 16-1 – and 4-0 in the Watchung Division to lead that portion of the UCC.
The rest of this week’s schedule, with rain in the forecast for Friday and Saturday, includes Dayton home Tuesday, Union Catholic home Thursday, at Parsippany Friday and Hanover Park home Saturday at 2 p.m.
Against Union, GL took a 1-0 lead in the top of the third on a 6-4 fielder’s choice RBI. Union came back quickly to tie the game in the bottom of the third.
On an 0-2 count and with two outs, Jake Pittus hit an off-speed pitch just over the head of the GL shortstop to plate Kyle Boyd from second.
Both starting pitchers, who hurled seven complete to get the game to extra innings, pitched in and out of jams to keep the tight league contest at 1-1.
Senior right hander Dan Belfer was tough with a fastball and off speed pitch for GL, while Union senior lefty Joe Poland had a decent fastball, got GL batters to hit the ball on the ground and when they hit it in the air it was usually right at well-placed outfielders for outs, including a fine diving catch by Boyd in left to close the top of the seventh.
Union had first and second and nobody out and then the bases loaded and one out in the bottom of the sixth, but was unable to break through. Belfer retired Union’s final two batters in the inning on a strikeout swinging of a 2-2 off-speed pitch and then a pop up to short.
Union fell to an uncharacteristic 0-7, with two losses by two runs and two by two runs. GL opened with a 2-1 home division win over Union back on April 1, with senior lefty Ethan Frohman getting the win and senior righty Jonathan Brignoni taking the hard-luck loss after tossing a four-hitter that included 10 strikeouts and one walk.
Frohman, with wins over Union and Westfield, began the week at 2-0. In his first 13 innings he allowed just six hits and one earned run for an impressive 0.54 ERA. He had 24 strikeouts, three walks and a whip of 0.69.
Sophomore left hander Nick Cocchia, who threw 4 and 2/3 innings in Saturday’s 15-6 Highlander Classic title game home win over New Providence, was 2-0. Belfer was 1-0 with a win over Scotch Plains and sophomore right hander Vin Doren was also 1-0.
Scotch Plains defeated Elizabeth 4-1 at home Monday to improve to 6-1 overall and 3-1 in the Watchung Division.
The Raiders have won five straight since falling at GL 9-2 on April 2 in division play.
Scotch Plains was 10-11 last year, while GL finished 21-6 and reached its fourth UCT final and third under present head coach Chris Roof.
While most coaches would trade almost anything for a 7-0 start, Roof realizes that victories and team records can be very fleeting.
“We’re a very poor hitting team,” Roof said. “We’re only batting .264 as a team and our on-base is .390.”
GL has scored four runs or less in three of its first seven games.
Off to excellent starts at the plate are senior third baseman Ian Lynch, Frohman and senior first baseman Mike Falk.
Lynch began the week batting .500 at 7-for-14, with seven RBI, a team-leading seven runs and an on-base percentage of .652.
Frohman was hitting .353, with a team-leading 11 RBI, five runs and an on-base of .450.
Falk was at .312, with a .476 on-base, a team-leading 10 runs and 10 RBI.
A RESPECTED COACH, A SPECIAL PERSON
When I think of Dave Minsavage three things come to mind: Smith Field in Parsippany, Jethro Tull and the Gong Show.
I graduated Parsippany High School in 1981, two years after Dave. His younger brother Steve, who I graduated with, was one of my best friends in high school.
I was fortunate enough to be included in pickup baseball games at Smith Field that involved both brothers. I also played high school sports with both – soccer and basketball.
Dave, the highly-successful Hanover Park baseball coach the past 19 seasons who passed away last Thursday at the age of 53 after suffering from pancreatic cancer, was someone I could look up to during my high school years.
He was mature and very responsible and also a fine athlete. He also had a comedic side which showed him to have a great sense of humor.
I remember his love for rock and roll music, especially Jethro Tull, and also remember the times I spent at the Minsavage Lake Hiawatha house watching the Gong Show with him, his brother Steve and other friends.
Those were good times, among many more, that I will always remember fondly.
Having covered Morris County before Dave became the head coach at Hanover Park and then Union County since 1991, the only time I got to cover one of Dave’s games was the 2006 Group 2 final at Toms River South.
That day he guided the Hornets to a state championship as junior righty Joe DiRocco tossed a shutout in downing Governor Livingston 6-0. Hanover Park won its first state title since 1997 and I’m sure the smile on Minsavage’s face spread all the way from Toms River back to East Hanover.
My prayers go out to him, his family and the entire Minsavage family.
Dave, I don’t need to write how much you will be missed by so many you touched.
UNION COUNTY CONFERENCE
AS OF MONDAY, APRIL 13:
WATCHUNG DIVISION (6 schools)
1-Governor Livingston (3-0)
3-Scotch Plains (2-1)
MOUNTAIN DIVISION (5 schools)
4-Union Catholic (1-3)
New Providence (1-3)
VALLEY DIVISION (5 schools)
1-Roselle Park (3-0)
3-Oratory Prep (2-2)
5-Roselle Catholic (0-4)
SKY DIVISION (5 schools)
3-St. Mary’s, Elizabeth (1-2)