As expected, first-time defending champion Governor Livingston was selected as the top seed Monday night for the 64th annual baseball Union County Tournament.
GL improved to 11-0 overall and 4-0 in the Union County Conference’s Watchung Division Monday after turning back visiting Scotch Plains 4-0.
Cranford, which had Monday off, was selected the No. 2 seed at 4-4. The Cougars defeated Scotch Plains 3-2 at home April 10 in their first Watchung Division game.
Cranford, which last won the crown in 2015, has reached the semifinals the last four years.
Scotch Plains (6-6) is the third seed and Westfield (4-7), which was scheduled to play at Union (5-4) Monday, got the fourth seed.
Summit, the Mountain Division leader and the owners of an 8-3 overall record, is the fifth seed. Union got the sixth seed, Elizabeth the seventh seed and Union Catholic the eighth. Elizabeth began the week 5-5 and Union Catholic 7-4.
The remaining seeds went Johnson nine, New Providence 10, Roselle Park 11, Rahway 12, Dayton 13, Oratory Prep 14, Linden 15, Plainfield 16, Roselle Catholic 17 and Hillside 18.
The prelim games featuring Hillside at Linden and Roselle Catholic at Plainfield have to be played by Thursday.
The eight first round games are scheduled to be played Saturday at the higher seeds.
The quarterfinals – also at the higher seeds – are scheduled for May 3.
The semifinals, which are scheduled to be contested for the first time at Cranford’s Memorial Field, are scheduled for May 6 at 1:30 p.m. and 3 p.m. Memorial Field is a turf field for the first time.
The championship game is scheduled to be played May 13 at Kean University in Union, with a 3 p.m. starting time.
The rain dates for the semifinals and final are May 7 and 14.
GL won the UCT for the first time last year, winning the re-scheduled semifinals and final on back-to-back days at Kean University during Mother’s Day weekend.
The Highlanders snapped second-seeded Westfield’s school-record 18-game winning streak in the semifinals and then the next day defeated top-seeded Scotch Plains in the final.
“Our kids grew up during that weekend last year,” said GL head coach Chris Roof, in his 14th season at the helm of the Highlanders. “We know it will be difficult again with some of the teams we may face.”
“Everyone will be gunning for us now,” said GL senior left hander Nicky Cocchia, who on Monday improved to 3-0 after shutting out Scotch Plains 4-0.
GL SUCCESS DEFINED 3 WAYS
The Highlanders won the Group 2 state championship for the third time in 2015. GL captured its first UCT championship last year.
This year’s squad, presently ranked a program-best No. 2 in the state, has the potential to win county and state championships in the same season, not to mention winning the Watchung Division outright for the first time and attempting to pass the school record for wins in a season, which is 28.
“Playing hard, doing the right thing on and off the field and playing for the guy next to you,” is how Roof explained his program’s success.
GL entered the UCT seeding meeting undefeated for the first time.
The Highlanders will seek to reach a fourth consecutive UCT final, with superb starting pitching leading the way. The top four arms – all seniors – are include right handers Vin Doren (3-0), Cole Schneider (2-0) and Sean Savage (2-0) and Cocchia (3-0). Junior RH Liam Hulburt is 1-0.
“Our pitching has been spectacular,” Roof said.
GL has given up three runs or less in 10 of its first 11 games and two runs or less eight times. There have been four shutouts.
“Experience,” Roof said. “Our four kids at the top have been with us at least a couple of years.
“They’re talented and not afraid of pitching in big spots.”
“We’ll need all of arms to be ready,” Cocchia said.
Offensively, GL has outscored its first 11 foes by a 95-22 margin. The Highlanders have scored at least seven runs seven times and at least 10 on five occasions.
Despite its success so far, however, Roof realizes that nothing is a given and that sometimes all it takes is one bad game to throw a team off a bit.
“We’re fortunate to have won 11 in a row, but it’s April 24 and we still haven’t done anything,” Roof said. “Westfield won 18 in a row last year and then we beat them.
“I think we have the mental toughness that is necessary. We have to be able to handle adversity on any given day and we haven’t really faced any yet. I hope we can handle it when it comes.”
Scotch Plains head coach Joe Higgins explained his team’s up-and-down start this way, “I think we can be bad enough to lose to anybody, but also good enough to beat anyone.
“We didn’t take care of business in some of our games, which reflects in our record.”
64th ANNUAL BASEBALL UNION COUNTY TOURNAMENT
SEEDS: 1-Gov. Livingston. 2-Cranford. 3-Scotch Plains.
4-Westfield. 5-Summit. 6-Union. 7-Elizabeth. 8-Union Catholic.
9-Johnson. 10-New Providence. 11-Roselle Park. 12-Rahway.
13-Dayton. 14-Oratory Prep. 15-Linden. 16-Plainfield.
17-Roselle Catholic. 18-Hillside.
Thursday, April 27
18-Hillside at 15-Linden
17-Roselle Catholic at 16-Plainfield
Saturday, April 29
TOP SIDE OF THE BRACKET:
17-Roselle Catholic/16-Plainfield at 1-Gov. Livingston
9-Johnson at 8-Union Catholic
13-Dayton at 4-Westfield
12-Rahway at 5-Summit
BOTTOM SIDE OF THE BRACKET:
18-Hillside/15-Linden at 2-Cranford
10-New Providence at 7-Elizabeth
14-Oratory Prep at 3-Scotch Plains
11-Roselle Park at 6-Union
Wednesday, May 3
At the higher seeds.
Saturday, May 6
At Cranford’s Memorial Field
1:30 p.m. and 3 p.m.
Saturday, May 13
At Kean University