UNION – Heading into a big Union County Conference-Watchung Division clash at highly, state-ranked Governor Livingston Monday, the Union Farmers – although it may not have been their most crisp game – found a way to get past a gritty Madison squad Saturday.
With the game tied going into the sixth, Union scored the winning runs in the bottom of that frame to pull away with an 8-4 victory at Gordon LeMatty Field.
Union, which showed signs of improving last year with a final 14-11 record, will take a 4-1 mark to Berkeley Heights Monday that includes a 1-1 Watchung Division record.
“We’re a defense and pitching team right now,” Union fourth-year head coach Angel Navarette said. “We’re going to try to pressure teams as much as we can.”
It was Union’s second straight 8-4 victory, including Thursday’s 8-4 UCC-crossover triumph at Johnson. Union’s first two wins were by 4-3 scores at Elizabeth and home over Spotswood, so the hitting is slowly starting to come around.
Getting the job done on the mound Saturday – for the third time this year – was Joey Novoa. Union’s senior right hander went 6 and 1/3 innings, allowing four runs on 12 hits, while striking out five, walking two and hitting one batter.
The only real trouble he got into came in the fourth inning when Madison, which slipped to 3-5, plated its first three runs – all after two outs.
Novoa (3-0) was lifted for relief pitcher Brandon Bedlivey with one out in the seventh because he was at 108 pitches. With this year’s new pitch count rules, the maximum amount of pitches a youngster can throw in a single game is 110.
Also with wins against Elizabeth and Spotswood in his first two starts, Novoa wasn’t fazed once Madison went ahead 3-1 in the fourth. He said he was mixing his pitches pretty well, with his changeup a bit ahead of his fastball and curve.
“Coach tells us to just keep going and that’s what I did,” Novoa said. “I still felt pretty good in the seventh and could have gone on.”
Madison sprayed 12 hits in seven innings, 10 of them singles and three each by Will Hart and Matt Raudelunas. In the fourth, leadoff batter Steve Coppola drove in the team’s first run on an RBI-double to left, while an opposite field single to left by Hart brought home the second run. An RBI-infield single by Raudelunas made the score 3-1.
Union came right back with three runs in the fifth to take a 4-3 lead. An opposite field RBI-single to right by Nestor Conforti made it 3-2. The next two runs came in as the result of an infield error.
Madison tied the game at 4-4 in the sixth on an RBI-single to right smashed by Hart.
Union took a 5-4 lead in the sixth on an infield error and then later in the inning senior Jamie Olivo – on the seventh pitch of the at-bat – drilled a shot down the left field line for a bases-clearing, three-run double.
“I just went up there with the same attitude, be calm and stay back,” Olivo said. “It was a flat fastball down the middle. I’m starting to get my bat back.”
Union took a 1-0 lead in the second on an RBI-single to center by Rich Jones as he connected on a 0-2 fastball. Jones, Conforti and Marco Vitale each had two singles for the Farmers, who won their second straight.
Freshman left hander Jack Melvin pitched the first three innings for Madison, allowing one run. Raudelunas pitched the fourth and fifth, throwing 40 pitches in the fifth and giving up a total of three runs. Matt Monaghan, who started the game at third base for the Dodgers, pitched the sixth. He threw 35 pitches, with the first run he allowed being unearned.
Bedlivey retired both batters he faced, striking out the final one swinging.
Madison (3-5) 0 0 0 3 0 1 0 – 4 12 3
Union (4-1) 0 1 0 0 3 4 x – 8 9 2
Union senior RH Joey Novoa (3-0)
Madison sophomore RH Matt Monaghan (in relief)
Madison – Will Hart (3), Matt Raudelunas (3), Matt Monaghan, Aidan Kane, Kevin Flanagan, Jack Flanagan. Union – Nestor Conforti (2), Marco Vitale (2), Rich Jones (2), Alex Camacho, Dren Gocaj.
Madison – Steve Coppola, Matt Monaghan. Union – Jamie Olivo.
Madison – None. Union – None.
Madison – None. Union – None.
7-Steve Coppola, junior, center field
22-Aidan Kane, freshman, shortstop
25-Will Hart, sophomore, right field
17-Matt Raudelunas, senior, DH-LH pitcher
27-Kieran Flanagan, senior, first base
9-Andre DelaCruz, sophomore, first base
15-Michael Sutton, junior, catcher
10-Jack Flanagan, sophomore, left field
2-Matthew O’Donnell, senior, pinch hitter
16-Matt Monaghan, sophomore, third base-RH pitcher
4-Walter Brownlee, sophomore, second base
21-Jack Melvin, freshman, LH pitcher (did not bat)
4-Quincy Bryant, senior, shortstop
7-Rich Jones, junior, left field
13-Nestor Conforti, senior, first base
11-Marco Vitale, senior, DH
18-Joey Novoa, senior, RH pitcher (did not bat)
9-Zach Fernandez, sophomore, second base
21-Dren Gocaj, freshman, third base
17-Jamie Olivo, senior, right field
3-Jerry Gamone, junior, catcher
15-Joe Valentine, senior, courtesy runner
10-Andrew Sanborn, freshman, pinch hitter
23-Alex Camacho, senior, center field