Union baseball seeks to improve upon last year’s 14-11 upgrade; Farmers have a number of starters back

Senior leaders include 3-year SS Bryant and returning RH pitcher Novoa

PHOTO BY STEVEN ELLMORE – Union head coach Angel Navarette, at left, is with senior shortstop Quincy Bryant, a three-year starter.

There is a certain familiarity to this year’s Union baseball team that could spell continued success for the Farmers.
At least Union is hoping so.
Returning starters include senior Quincy Bryant at shortstop, junior Jerry Gamone at catcher, senior Jamie Olivo in right field, senior Nestor Conforti at first base, senior Marco Vitale at third and senior right hander Joey Novoa as the mound leader.
Union is coming off an improved 14-11 season, with the Farmers aspiring to move up in the always-challenging Watchung Division standings of the Union County Conference in addition to playing further along in the Union County Tournament and North 2, Group 4 field.
Bryant is a three-year starter at shortstop.
“He’s our plug in the infield,” fourth-year Union head coach Angel Navarette said. “He’s worked extremely hard the last three years.”
Bryant batted above .300 last year in helping Union get out to a 5-2 start.
“He’s a leader on the field defensively and also a great athlete,” Navarette said. “He will bat at the top of the order. I can’t say enough about his defense.”
Olivo was also among Union’s top hitters last year and will bat in the middle of the lineup.
“He’s a strong kid,” Navarette said. “He has the potential and the tools. All he has to do is put it together on the field.”
Novoa had a couple of varsity starts as a sophomore two years ago before competing full-time on the varsity level last year.
“Joey’s a battler,” Navarette said. “He’s the heart and soul not only of the pitching staff, but of the team.”
Navarette reported that Novoa’s best pitches are his fastball and curveballand that he’s also developing a changeup. Division 3 schools have shown interest.
Many of this year’s players excelled on Union Post 35’s Senior American Legion team last summer, which finished 17-2 for 34 points to finish in first place in the National Division of the Essex County League.
Other pitchers include sophomore Zach Fernandes, Vitale, freshman Andrew Sanborn and junior Brian Bedlivy. All are right-handers.
Also vying for time at third base are junior Chris Gomez and freshman Dren Gocaj.
Fernandes will play second when not pitching.
Other outfielders include junior Rich Jones, senior Alex Camacho, senior Jose Valentin and Sanborn.
On Monday Union raked the snow off its field.
“Our field is in pretty good shape,” Navaratte said.

Last Monday, March 20, Union raked the snow off its field.

“Our field is in pretty good shape,” Navaratte said.

Union was scheduled to host Franklin last Thursday, March 23,  and St. Peter’s Prep last Friday, March 24,  in its first scrimmages, with an away scrimmage scheduled at St. Mary’s, Rutherford this past Saturday, March 25.

Union opens its season April 1 at Franklin.

Union’s Watchung Division schedule is to commence April 4 at Elizabeth. Union is scheduled to host defending Watchung Division champion Westfield April 6.

Westfield won the the division a year ago at 7-2, while Scotch Plains was second at 6-4 and first-time Union County Tournament champion Gov. Livingston third at 5-5.

Cranford, which captured North 2, Group 3 for the fifth time this decade last year, tied Elizabeth for fourth at 4-6. Union finished sixth at 3-6.

The only division game that was not played was Union at Westfield.

Union split in the division with Scotch Plains, Elizabeth and Cranford.

The Farmers lost in the UCT to Dayton at home in the first round and in North 2, Group 4 play at Scotch Plains, also in the first round.