Union County All-Stars edged by Essex County in annual Underclassmen clash; Gula of Millburn and Serretti of GL are MOPs; A Union-Essex team, for the first time, will take on Middlesex County June 27 at Kean

Union's LeMatty honored with Distinguished Achievement Award

PHOTOS BY JR PARACHINI – Former longtime Union baseball coach Gordon LeMatty speaks to the crowd after being honored with Distinguished Achievement Award.
Peter Gula of Millburn was the Essex County MOP.
A Essex/Union team will take on Middlesex in their first all-star clash against each other June 27 at Kean.
Union County starting shortstop Dan Serretti of Governor Livingston was his team’s Most Outstanding Player.

UNION – Peter Gula made the most of his opportunity to shine as an all-star.

A member of Millburn’s Group 4 state championship squad, Gula started at second base for the Essex County squad and ended up being used as the team’s sixth and final pitcher.

Gula produced at the plate and on the mound in helping lead Essex County to a 4-3 win over Union County in Tuesday night’s 8th annual Underclassmen All-Star Game, Essex vs. Union at Kean University.

Essex County leads the series 6-1-1 and has won the last five.

Former longtime Union High School coach Gordon LeMatty, who guided the Farmers to 641 wins in 33 seasons, was the recipient of the event’s 3rd Distinguished Achievement Award.

“I loved every minute of it,” LeMatty told the crowd of his years as Union’s head baseball coach.

On the sixth pitch of his at-bat and just the 11th thrown by Union County starter Danny Wilkinson, Gula singled up the middle on a hit-and-run situation, driving in leadoff batter Jack Zyska, who reached on a walk.

Gula’s first of two hits gave Essex a very early 1-0 lead. Batting second in the lineup, Gula also reached on an infield single in the third.

Gula then re-entered the game to pitch the top of the ninth, with Essex back on top 4-3 after it snapped a 3-3 deadlock with a single run in the bottom of the eighth. Union came back from a 3-0 deficit to tie the game with two runs in the third and one in the eighth.

Gula, who started the game at second base, retired Union on no runs and one hit in the ninth, striking out two, including the game’s final batter to earn a save.

At the plate Gula was 2-for-2, with two singles and one RBI. He was selected as the Most Outstanding Player for Essex.

The MOP for Union was starting shortstop Dan Serretti, a junior who has already given a verbal commitment to continue playing at St. John’s. This year Serretti – after missing all of his sophomore campaign with an injury – scored the winning run on Dan Baroff’s walk-off, three-run double which gave GL its second Central Jersey, Group 2 championship in three years and fourth overall. Baroff was Union’s MOP selection last year.

Serretti went 2-for-3 Tuesday night, with two singles, two RBI and one run. His two-run single to right – he batted left handed – with two outs in the third pulled Union to within 3-2.

Serretti then scored Union’s third run in the top of the eighth that tied the game at 3-3. He singled again to right and then lefty-batting Joe Turek connected for an opposite field double to left to put runners on second and third with one out.

Following a strikeout and then a walk that loaded the bases for the first time in the game, Serretti came home when GL teammate Drew Compton reached on a 6-4 fielder’s choice, with the runner reaching second ruled safe. Compton, also batting left handed, hit a one-bounce smash the other way to short that was gloved on a fine diving effort to the right. The throw to second to get the inning-ending force was just a bit late as infield umpire Ed Ward ruled safe.

Union left eight runners on base, including five in the final two innings. Essex left six men on.

Essex took a 3-0 lead with two more runs in the bottom of the second. John Sweetwood drove in the first on a sacrifice fly to center. Max Ruvo followed with a blast over the 330-foot left field fence for the game’s only home run.

With one out in the bottom of the eighth, Ryan Cardona walked home from third with what turned out to be the game-winning run. Jon DeMattheis, with one out, was walked with the bases loaded for what turned out to be the game-winning RBI.

New Providence pitcher Dylan Bedder, after walking DeMattheis, came back to strike out the next two batters, preventing further damage. He was tagged with the loss.

Although Marty Higgins gave up the tying run in the eighth – the only run he allowed in two innings – he was the winning pitcher. He struck out a game-high four batters, including the side in the eighth.

In the lowest scoring game of the series so far, Essex still batted in the bottom of the ninth to complete nine full innings. Union pitcher Andre Tirso tossed a scoreless inning and like Gula struck out two batters in his one inning of mound work.



The first Essex/Union vs. Middlesex All-Star Game at Kean is scheduled for Tuesday night, June 27 at 6 p.m.

Essex-Union Event Administrator Bob Smorol will also be running next week’s game, which will not include a pre-game ceremony of honoring someone from the past.

The Essex/Union squad will consist of players from the Essex and Union All-Star teams.


NOTES: Here are Union County’s winningest baseball coaches:

Ray Korn, Roselle Catholic (1974-1979) and Elizabeth (1980-2008 minus one year): 651-308-1 (.679).

Gordon LeMatty, Union (1959-1991): 641-272-4 (.702).

Bob Brewster, Westfield (1983-present): 611-308-3 (.665).

Former LeMatty players by his side when he was honored Tuesday night included Al Santorini and Jack Goldberg, both Class of 1966, and Frank Araneo and Walt Podgurski, both Class of 1975. Longtime assistant coach Jim Jeskey was also present.

In the bottom of the first, all four Essex batters reached base. The first six Essex batters reached base before Sweetwood’s second-inning sacrifice fly.

Union got Essex out in the bottom of the first on 2-5, 2-1 and 1-5-6 executions.




UNION (1-6-1)                           0   0   2     0   0   0     0   1   0 – 3 5 2

ESSEX (6-1-1)                             1   2   0     0   0   0     0   1   0 – 4 6 1


WINNING PITCHER: Marty Higgins, sophomore RH, Nutley

SAVE: Peter Gula, junior RH, Millburn

LOSING PITCHER: Dylan Bedder, sophomore RH, New Providence





Innings 1 and 2: 17-Danny Wilkinson, sophomore LH, Scotch Plains

Yielded 3 runs (2 earned) on 2 hits, while striking out one (swinging), walking four and hitting one batter.

Innings 3 and 4: 15-Cory Hiltz, junior LH, Westfield

Yielded no runs on two hits, while striking out none and walking none.

Innings 5 and 6: 16-Gordon Graceffo, junior RH, Cranford

Yielded no runs on no hits, while striking out two (one swinging and one looking) and walking one. Recorded Union’s only 1-2-3 inning in the sixth.

Innings 7 and 8: Dylan Bedder, sophomore RH, New Providence

Yielded one run (earned) on two hits, while striking out three (all swinging) and walking three.

Inning 9: Andre Tirso, sophomore LH, Elizabeth

Yielded no runs on no hits, while striking out two (both swinging) and walkng two.



Innings 1 and 2: Ryan Cardona, junior RH, Livingston

Yielded no runs on no hits, while striking out two (one swinging and one looking) and walking none.

6 up and 6 down on two strikeouts and four ground ball outs.

He threw 31 pitches, which included 18 strikes and 13 balls.

Recorded only two Essex 1-2-3 innings in the first and second.

Inning 3: Matt Ciccone, sophomore RH, Newark Academy

Yielded two runs (both earned) on two hits, while striking out none and walking one.

Innings 4 and 5: Nick Picinich, junior RH, Cedar Grove

Yielded no runs on no hits, while striking out two (both looking), walking one and hitting one batter.

Inning 6: Chris Walker, junior LH, West Orange

Yielded no runs on no hits, while striking out two (one swinging and one looking) and walking two.

Innings 7 and 8: Marty Higgins, sophomore RH, Nutley

Yielded one run on two hits, while striking out four (all swinging) and walking two.

Struck out the side in the eighth during inning Union tied game 3-3.

Inning 9: Peter Gula, junior RH, Millburn

Yielded no runs on one hit, while striking out two and walking one.



Union – James Shriner (infield), Dan Serretti (2), Xavier Krok.

Essex – Peter Gula (2, one an infield), Chris Walker (infield), Luke Jackson.



Union – Joe Turek.

Essex – Christian Pierre.



Union – None.

Essex – None.



Union – None.

Essex – Max Ruvo.



Union – Ray Arocha, James Shriner, Dan Serretti.

Essex – Jack Zyska, Chris Walker, Max Ruvo, Ryan Cardona.



Union – Dan Serretti 2, Drew Compton.

Essex – Peter Gula, John Sweetwood, Max Ruvo, Jon DeMattheis.



8-James Shriner, sophomore, Cranford, right field

13-Dan Serretti, junior, Gov. Livingston, shortstop

21-Joe Turek, junior, Johnson, first base

6-Stephen Reid, sophomore, Gov. Livingston, center field

22-Jake Vall-Llobera, junior, Westfield, catcher

14-Drew Compton, sophomore, Gov. Livingston, third base

20-Chris Wagner, junior, Westfield, designated hitter

17-Danny Wilkinson, sophomore, Westfield, pitcher (did not bat)

11-Ray Arocha, junior, Roselle Park, left field

3-Tyler Szczech, sophomore, Cranford, second base



15-Jack Zyska, junior, Seton Hall Prep, center field

6-Peter Gula, junior, Millburn, second base

8-Nick Maldonado, sophomore, Seton Hall Prep, shortstop

17-Peter Serruto, junior, Millburn, catcher

19-Chris Walker, junior, West Orange, right field

13-Marty Higgins, sophomore, Nutley, third base

7-John Sweetwood, junior, MKA, left field

16-Max Ruvo, junior, West Essex, first base

9-Ryan Cardona, junior, Livingston, pitcher



1-Andres Garcia, Rahway, junior, infielder

3-Tyler Szczech, Cranford, sophomore, infielder

5-Waldy Arias, Plainfield, junior, outfielder

6-Stephen Reid, Gov. Livingston, sophomore, outfielder

7-Tommy Jannkowski, New Providence, junior, infielder

8-James Shriner, Cranford, sophomore, outfielder

9-Andre Tirso, Elizabeth, sophomore, pitcher

10-Andrew Miller, Summit, junior, outfielder

11-Ray Arocha, Roselle Park, junior, outfielder

12-Kevin Metz, Johnson, junior, third base

13-Dan Serretti, Gov. Livingston, junior, infielder

14-Drew Compton, Gov. Livingston, sophomore, third base

15-Cory Hiltz, Westfield, junior, pitcher

16-Gordon Graceffo, Cranford, junior, pitcher

17-Danny Wilkinson, Scotch Plains, sophomore, pitcher

18-Xavier Krok, Roselle Catholic, sophomore, outfielder

19-Dylan Bedder, New Providence, sophomore, pitcher

20-Chris Wagner, Westfield, junior, first baseman

21-Joe Turek, Johnson, junior, catcher-first baseman

22-Jake Vall-Llovoera, Westfield, junior, catcher

COACHES: Mike Abbate, Dayton; Chris Brodeur, New Providence;

Joe Higgins, Scotch Plains; Chris Roof, Gov. Livingston;

Dan Mondelli, Gov. Livingston; Bob Brewster, Westfield



2-Shane Benson, Cedar Grove, junior, infielder

3-Kyle Miller, Montclair, sophomore, outfielder

4-Nick Picinich, Cedar Grove, junior, pitcher

5-Eddie Abplanalp, Bloomfield, junior, outfielder

6-Peter Gula, Millburn, junior, infielder

7-John Sweetwood, MKA, junior, outfielder

8-Nick Maldonado, Seton Hall Prep, sophomore, pitcher-infielder

9-Ryan Cardona, Livingston, junior, pitcher

10-Elliot Dix, Columbia, sophomore, infielder

11-Matt Ciccone, Newark Academy, sophomore, pitcher

12-Christian Pierre, Columbia, junior, outfielder

13-Marty Higgins, Nutley, sophomore, third baseman

14-Josh O’Neill, Nutley, sophomore, pitcher

15-Jack Zyska, Seton Hall P., junior, outfielder

16-Max Ruvo, West Essex, junior, first baseman

17-Peter Serruto, Millburn, junior, catcher

18-Luke Jackson, Columbia, junior, third baseman

19-Chris Walker, West Orange, junior, outfielder

21-Jon DeMattheis, Caldwell, junior, catcher

22-Tyree Bradley, West Orange, junior, first baseman

COACHES: Jim Whalen, Columbia; Joe Sorce, Belleville;

Bob Harbison, Nutley, Joe Fischetti, Newark East Side



GORDON LeMATTY, Union High School


FROM 1959-1991: 641-272-4 (.702)

Winningest coach in state at time of retirement.

Presently second winningest coach in Union County behind

Ray Korn of Elizabeth and ahead of Bob Brewster of Westfield.

GNT championship teams: 1966, 1970

UCT championship teams: 1962, 1964, 1967, 1970, 1973, 1975.

Central Jersey, Group 4 state championship teams: 1966, 1968.

Group 4 state championship teams: 1972, 1974.

Final Star-Ledger No. 1 state ranking: 1972, 1974, 1975.

Star-Ledger All Decade Coach for the 1960s.

Fifteen teams won 20 or more games.



John Faranda, Jim Zielinski, Ed Ward.



Bob Smorol – Event Administrator

Vinnie Orrei – Game Announcer

Monique Kohler – College-Pro Scout Coordinator






2017: Essex County 4, Union County 3 – at Kean University

ESSEX MOP: Peter Gula, Millburn, junior infielder

UNION MOP: Dan Serretti, Gov. Livingston, junior infielder


Gordon LeMatty, Union High School


2016: Essex County 9, Union County 6 – at Kean University

ESSEX MOP: Anthony Giachin, Newark Academy, junior infielder

UNION MOP: Dan Baroff, Governor Livingston, junior catcher


Mike Sheppard Sr., Seton Hall University


2015: Essex County 12, Union County 7 – at Kean University

ESSEX MOP: Anthony Condito, Nutley, junior outfielder

UNION MOP: Matt Meola, Union, junior first baseman


Fred Hill, Rutgers University


2014: Essex County 7, Union County 2 – at Snyder Park, Berkeley Heights

MVP: Anthony Maldonado, North 13th Street Tech, junior infielder-pitcher


2013: Essex County 8, Union County 6 – at Kean University

MVP: Tyler Brandon, Seton Hall Prep, junior pitcher from NYC


2012: Union County 7, Essex County 1 – at Kean University

MVP: Luis Amaro, Roselle Park, junior pitcher


2011: Essex County 12, Union County 1 – at Kean University

MVP: D.J. Link, Seton Hall Prep, junior catcher from Clifton


2010: Union County 4, Essex County 4 (tie) – at Kean University

MVP: Rob Fonseca, Seton Hall Prep, junior first baseman from Madison