UNION – Union Post 35 – the last standing American Legion baseball from Union County – has already proven to be among the best Senior Legion teams in the Essex County League it competes in.
What awaits is District 2 at Teener League Field in Union beginning next weekend and then if Union Post 35 can advance, the Final Eight State Tournament at Moody Park in Ewing follows the next week.
Union Post 35 reached the state tournament after placing second in District 2 at Community Park in North Brunswick three years ago.
A member of that successful 2013 summer squad, John McTernan, is now coaching this year’s Union Post 35 unit, which improved to 15-1 by defeating Cedar Grove 4-3 in eight innings in the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader played at Union High School’s Gordon R. LeMatty Field.
“Since day one the kids have had a great work ethic, always wanting to practice and get a lot of work in,” said McTernan, a 2013 Union High School graduate who played at Raritan Valley Community College and is now a student at NJIT. “The kids didn’t want to take a day off.”
That persistence has paid off, with Union leading the Essex County League National Division standings with a 15-1 record for 30 points heading into Saturday’s second game vs. Cedar Grove.
Union Post 35 is battling Vailsburg Post 395 for the division championship. Vailsburg sported a 12-2 record for 24 points going into its Saturday morning home game vs. Verona.
Union’s only loss was to Vailsburg at home, while Union swept Vailsburg on the road to win two of their three regular season meetings.
Union is scheduled to wrap its regular season at home against Livingston Tuesday night and then play at Bloomfield Wednesday if the game has any bearing on the division championship.
Vailsburg and Bloomfield, which leads the Essex County League’s American Division standings with a 13-3 record for 26 points as of Saturday, will also compete in district tournament play.
The other three double-elimination district sites – district play commences at all four next Saturday, July 16 – are Breslin Field in Lyndhurst for District 1, Moody Park in Ewing for District 3 and Union Field in West Deptford for District 4.
In Saturday’s win over Cedar Grove in the first game of a doubleheader – it was the first time the teams faced each other this season – visiting Cedar Grove scored three runs in the top of the sixth to tie the game at 3-3. The rally ended when Union shortstop Quincy Bryant snared a hard hit line drive right at him and then flipped to second for an inning-ending double play.
After two scoreless innings thrown by right handed relief pitcher Matt Pavick in the seventh and eighth innings, Union produced the game-winning run in the bottom of the eighth.
Jaime Olivo walked with one out and then moved to second when pinch hitter Nestor Conforti also drew a base on balls.
Lefty-swinging Jalen Boyd followed at the plate and laced a single up the middle to drive in Olivo with the winning run.
“Jaime is the heart and soul of our team,” McTernan said. “He’s always on base.”
McTernan also lauded Boyd’s effort on the mound in relief along with that of lefty Michael Jacoby, who started for just the second time in the first game.
Cedar Grove handed Union its second loss of the season in the second game, 7-4, with Union moving to 15-2.
Union’s top three starter pitchers include Kevin McDonough, Jake Pittus, who was the catcher in Union’s first game vs. Cedar Grove, and Pavick.
“Our pitchers have been great all year,” McTernan said.
Union has been pretty consistent at the plate as well according to McTernan.
“Our whole lineup, there’s no weak spot,” McTernan said.
McTernan is confident Union Post 35 will be tough to beat in next week’s districts.
“We’re not scared of anyone,” McTernan said. “Usually Union is the underdog, but we don’t view our team that way this year.”
McDonough and Boyd, 2015 Union graduates, and Olivo are the team captains. McDonough just finished his freshman season playing at Marywood University in Scranton, Pa.
Union’s roster also includes one player from Seton Hall Prep and two each from Roselle Catholic and Dayton, with Pavick one of the kids from Dayton.
McTernan said that his team has also been sparked by the outstanding efforts of Kenny Matta, who did not play Saturday because of a recent hand injury.
“Kenny has been amazing behind the plate and as our all leadoff hitter all season,” McTernan said.
2016 UNION POST 35
21-Michael Jacoby, LHP, Seton Hall Prep, 2017
11-Marco Vitale, RHP-2B, Union, 2017
7-Jake Pittus, RHP-catcher, Union, 2015
16-Jaime Olivo, third base, Union, 2017
13-Nestor Conforti, Union, 2017
12-Conor Fletcher, first base, Gov. Livingston, 2017
1-Kenny Matta, catcher, Roselle Catholic, 2016
22-Matt Pavick, RHP, Dayton, 2017
14-Kevin McDonough, left field, Union, 2015
9-Jalen Boyd, LHP-right field, Union, 2015
4-Quincy Bryant, shortstop, Union, 2017
27-Xavier Krok, designated hitter, Roselle Catholic, 2019
20-Allex Camacho, center field, Union, 2017
15-Brian Tumblety, left field, Union, 2017
27-Edward Dematos, outfield, Union, 2018
7-Brandon Bedlivy, pitcher, Union, 2018
5-Anthony Mongusa, first base-outfield, Dayton, 2017
John McTernan, Union, 2013
Jon Zimmerman, Union, 2013
Devin Zimmerman, Union, 2012
Chris Dillon, Union, 2013