Governor Livingston baseball preview

Coach is concerned: will my team hit, will my team pitch and will my team be able to field the ball?

Chris Roof is no different. He has been at the helm of the Governor Livingston Highlanders since 2004 and those are questions he and his baseball staff ask every April.

However, despite losing college-bound talent to graduation every year, the Highlanders still manage to win 20 games or more and find themselves in the mix for division, county and state tournament titles.

With 293 wins the past 14 seasons – including several division titles, one county tournament championship, five state sectional crowns and two group state championships – GL has risen to elite status among Group 2 programs in New Jersey.

With the loss of his top four pitchers and his catcher to graduation from last year’s 26-4 state sectional championship squad – the first in GL history to be ranked No. 1 in the state during the season – there are still the usual concerns, even from a coach that has a roster chock full of players who will continue playing at the next level.

“Our defense and are hitting is good, but our pitching is inexperienced,” Roof said. “We only have 16 percent of our innings back. Our top four are gone.”

Those four top-notch hurlers include left hander Nick Cocchia (Montclair State), Vin Doren (Drew), Cole Schneider and Sean Savage (Clark University).

Handling those pitchers was catcher Dan Baroff, who will always be remembered for delivering the game-winning hit in GL’s amazing, 7th inning comeback home triumph over South Plainfield in last year’s Central Jersey, Group 2 state championship game. Baroff is now playing at Franklin & Marshall.

At the top of this year’s mound staff are senior lefties DJ Gonnelli and Ryan Monroy, senior right hander Liam Hulburt and junior left hander John Grill, a New Providence transfer who will not be eligible until GL’s 13th game.

Also part of the pitching staff is senior Quinn Haddad, who Roof said is playing baseball for the first time since 3rd grade. Haddad is coming off a wrestling season that saw the 170-pounder qualify for the NJSIAA Tournament with a perfect 41-0 record that included county, district and region championships.

Returning junior outfielder Stephen Reid, who has given a verbal commitment to continue playing at ACC power Georgia Tech, was the Union County Conference’s Player of the Year last year during his first season with the Highlanders.

GL, which scrimmaged in Myrtle Beach, SC again this pre-season – Roof said, unfortunately, the weather there wasn’t much better – is scheduled to open Saturday, March 31 at Elizabeth at 11 a.m.

The defending outright Union County Conference-Watchung Division champion Highlanders have their home-opener set for Saturday, April 7 vs. Kinnelon as the second game that day of the first weekend of the annual Highlander Classic.

 

HEAD COACH CHRIS ROOF, 1992 GL GRADUATE:

Three seasons (2001-2003) at Millburn: 54-34 (.614)

Was 1-1 in North 2, Group 3 finals and 0-1 in Group 3 finals at Millburn.

First 14 seasons at GL (2004-2017): 293-116 (.716) – 20.93 wins a season

Playoff record at GL is 33-12 (.733).

Highlanders have made the state playoffs all 14 seasons and

have won at least one state tournament game the past 12.

Overall record in sectional finals is 5-3.

Overall record: 347-150 (.698) – 20.41 wins a season

AT GL:

State tournament seasons: 14

Winning seasons: 13

.500 seasons: 1 – first season in 2004, 13-13

20-win seasons: 10, including last 4 and 8 of last 9

Program record for wins in season: 28 in 2015

Sectional state championships: 4

Group state championships: 2

County championships: 1 (first in program history)

 

PIECES OF THE PUZZLE THAT WILL SOON BE KEY PLAYERS FOR COLLEGE TEAMS

BERKELEY HEIGHTS – Three pieces of the puzzle that helped lead the Governor Livingston baseball team to its first-ever No. 1 state ranking and then the program’s fourth Central Jersey, Group 2 state championship last spring made their college choices official.

On the first day of the national signing period this past November at GL, seniors Danny Serretti, Will Jennings and Tyler McCulloch signed their Division 1 letters-of-intent in front of family members, head coach Chris Roof and fellow teammates.

Serretti, one of the top shortstops in the state, will continue at North Carolina, while standout outfielders Jennings, right field, and McCulloch, left, will next play at Iona.

In last year’s highly-dramatic, come-from-behind CJ, G2 final victory at GL, Jennings, Jack Pedini and then Serretti scored on Dan Baroff’s shot to the left-center gap with two outs in the bottom of the seventh that give the Highlanders a 6-5 state championship victory.

The lefty-swinging Jennings led off the inning with single to center. Pedini entered as a pinch hitter and singled to left. McCulloch, batting leadoff that day, then bunted the runners over.

In the first inning, Serretti connected on a triple that brought home McCulloch with GL’s first run.

Serretti, Jennings and McCulloch have been on the varsity at GL for the program’s sectional, state and division (shared) titles in 2015, the first Union County Tournament crown in 2016 and this past season’s first 15-0 start, an outright division title and another state sectional championship.

Another GL standout that will play at the next level is first baseman DJ Gonnelli, who will continue at one of the finest Division 3 programs in the country – Montclair State University.

Serretti, who gave St. John’s a verbal commitment after his freshman season before he missed his entire sophomore campaign with an elbow injury that required surgery, decided to go a different direction this past summer.

“Last summer there were some developments (St. John’s coaching staff) and I went down to Georgia and had a good tournament there,” Serretti said. “Obviously, North Carolina has an unbelievable tradition. When I was younger I always wanted to go there.”

After breaking away from St. John’s, Serretti said that he narrowed his choices to North Carolina and Georgia Tech, schools that he both visited, among others.

“When I visited North Carolina (this past July) and met (head) coach (Mike) Fox and coach (Scott) Forbes that solidified that was where I wanted to go,” Serretti said.

 After Serretti helped lead GL to the 2015 Group 2 state championship his freshman season he had to watch his teammates produce the program’s first county title his sophomore campaign.

“It was excruciating, it hurt,” Serretti said of not being able to play in 2016. “I took not playing as a new perspective on the game.

“It was more like a coaching perspective, seeing where players should be at certain times in the game and really looking at the pitcher and how to attack each count. It really gave me a different look at the game.”

Serretti on being a baseball player at GL: “being a baseball player here is awesome, it’s a privilege. Being on one of the most successful sports teams, it’s fun. We get a lot of support and get some pretty good crowds. It’s almost like a college experience, actually.

“The coaches are great. They work their butts off to make our experience as great as possible. In terms of taking it to the next level, just look at the track record here.”

With aspirations of playing beyond North Carolina, Serretti could be faced with a possible MLB draft situation this June.

“If the circumstances were right then I would have to sit down with my parents and talk about it,” Serretti said. “Right now I’m just focused on this year and helping the team out.”

Jennings, not related to the Jennings that starred at GL before him, is excited to join an Iona program that last season included nine players from New Jersey.

“Something about the school stood out, I could see myself there as a player,” Jennings said. “I thought it was a great fit all around. I plan to work hard and, hopefully, play four years.”

Pat Carey was named Iona’s head coach in July of 2005. Last year he was the MAAC Coach of the Year.

“Like Will, I really liked the campus when I went there and the coach, the first time I met him, I thought he was really great,” McCulloch said.

 

GL BASEBALL THE PAST 3 SEASONS:

 

2017: (26-4)

Union County Conference-Watchung Division champions outright (8-2)

Central Jersey, Group 2 state champions for fourth time

 

2016: (21-10)

Union County Tournament champions for first time

 

2015: (28-6)

Union County Conference-Watchung Division co-champions (8-2)

Central Jersey, Group 2 state champions for third time

Group 2 state champions for third time

Set school record for wins in a season.

 

2018 GL BASEBALL ROSTER:

 

PITCHERS:

DJ Gonnelli, senior, LH

Ryan Monroy, senior, LH

Liam Hulburt, senior, RH

John Grill, junior, LH

Ryan Davey, junior, RH

Ethan Saia, junior, RH

Ryan Devanney, sophomore, RH

Dylan Verschleiser, sophomore, RH

Quinn Haddad, senior, RH

Brandan Hardina, senior, RH

Julian Natelli, senior, RH

 

CATCHERS:

Sam Pile, senior

Chris Bruno, junior

 

FIRST BASEMEN:

DJ Gonnelli, senior

Ryan Devanney, sophomore

 

SECOND BASEMEN:

Ryan Davey, junior

Ethan Saia, junior

Andy Serretti, junior

Sean Quinn, senior

 

THIRD BASEMAN:

Drew Compton, junior

 

SHORTSTOP:

Danny Serretti, senior

 

LEFT FIELDER:

Tyler McCulloch, senior

 

CENTER FIELDER:

Jack Pedini, senior

 

RIGHT FIELDER:

Will Jennings, senior

 

OUTFIELDERS:

Stephen Reid, junior

John Grill, junior

Dylan Verschleiser, sophomore

 

COLLEGE-BOUND PLAYERS:

Ryan Monroy, senior – Susquehanna

DJ Gonnelli, senior – Montclair State

Drew Compton, junior – Georgia Tech

Dan Serretti, senior – North Carolina

Tyler McCulloch, senior – Iona

Will Jennings, senior – Iona

Stephen Reid, junior – Georgia Tech

 

 

GOV. LIVINGSTON BASEBALL IN STATES SINCE 1999:

Record: 41-14 (.746)

Home: (28-6)

Away: (5-5)

Neutral: (8-3)

Sectional finals: (5-3)

Group semifinals: (4-1)

Group finals: (3-1)

Group final in East Brunswick: (1-0)

Group finals in Toms River: (2-1)

Years won at least one state game: (14; present streak of 12 straight)

Years did not win a state game: (5), 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005

– GL did not make states in 2002 and 2003.

 

1999: NORTH 2, GROUP 2

GL is the 1 seed.

May 21: GL beats 8 seed Dover 2-1 – at GL

May 25: GL beats 5 seed Mendham 6-2 – at GL

May 28: GL beats 2 seed Chatham 15-1 – at Elizabeth

GROUP 2 SEMIFINALS:

June 1: GL beats Hawthorne 8-0 at Ramapo College.

GROUP 2 FINAL:

June 5: GL beats Gateway 4-2 at East Brunswick Tech.

GL finished 21-4, including 5-0 in states

 

2000: NORTH 2, GROUP 2

GL is the 10 seed.

May 22: GL beats 7 seed Pequannock 10-6 – at Pequannock

May 26: GL beats 2 seed Dover 6-5 – at Dover

May 30: GL beats 3 seed Chatham 5-3 – at Chatham

June 2: 1 seed Mendham beats GL 16-3 – at Union

GL finished 18-12, including 3-1 in states.

 

2001: NORTH 2, GROUP 2

GL is the 1 seed.

May 25: 8 seed Caldwell beats GL 9-5 – at GL

GL finished 18-9, including 0-1 in states.

 

2002: NORTH 2, GROUP 2

GL did not qualify.

GL finished 18-4-1, including 0-0 in states.

 

2003: NORTH 2, GROUP 2

GL did not qualify.

GL finished 7-14, including 0-0 in states.

Bill Howard’s last year as head coach.

 

2004: NORTH 2, GROUP 2

GL is the 6 seed.

May 20: 3 seed Caldwell beats GL 11-1 – at Caldwell

GL finished 13-13, including 0-1 in states.

Chris Roof’s first year as head coach.

 

2005: NORTH 2, GROUP 2

GL is the 3 seed.

May 27: 6 seed Cliffside Park 5, GL 2 – at GL

GL finished 23-6, including 0-1 in states.

 

2006: CENTRAL JERSEY, GROUP 2

GL is the 2 seed.

May 26: GL beats 7 seed Somerville 11-2 – at GL

May 30: GL beats 6 seed Raritan 10-9 (8 inn.) – at GL

June 2: GL beats 1 seed Spotswood 6-1 – at Spotswood

GROUP 2 SEMIFINALS:

June 6: GL beats Point Pleasant Boro 18-4 – at New Egypt

GROUP 2 FINAL:

June 10: Hanover Park 8, GL 0 – at Toms River South

GL finished 24-8, including 4-1 in states.

 

2007: CENTRAL JERSEY, GROUP 2

GL is the 7 seed.

May 21: GL beats 10 seed Bordentown 11-4 – at GL

May 25: 2 seed Spotswood beats GL 12-2 – at Spotswood

GL finished 19-10, including 1-1 in states.

 

2008: CENTRAL JERSEY, GROUP 2

GL is the 6 seed.

May 19: GL beats 11 seed Hillside 14-2 – at GL

May 23: 3 seed Rumson-Fair Haven beats GL 11-3 – at RFH

GL finished 15-12, including 1-1 in states.

 

2009: CENTRAL JERSEY, GROUP 2

GL is the 4 seed.

May 18: GL beats 13 seed Hillside 10-1 – at GL

May 22: GL beats 12 seed Delaware Valley 7-0 – at GL

May 26: GL beats 1 seed Delran 9-4 at Delran

May 29: 6 seed Shore Regional beats GL 11-6 – at GL

GL finished 20-8, including 3-1 in states.

 

2010: CENTRAL JERSEY, GROUP 2

GL is the 4 seed.

May 17: GL beats 13 seed Delaware Valley 2-0 – at GL

May 21: GL beats 5 seed Raritan 10-0 – at GL

May 25: GL beats 8 seed Summit 9-4 – at GL

May 28: 11 seed Spotswood beats GL 7-5 – at GL

GL finished 23-8, including 3-1 in states.

 

2011: CENTRAL JERSEY, GROUP 2   

GL is the 3 seed.

May 23: GL beats 14 seed Hillside 16-2 – at GL

May 27: GL beats 11 seed Rumson-Fair Haven 3-2 – at GL

May 31: GL beats 7 seed Raritan 7-3 – at GL

June 3: GL beats 4 seed Middlesex 15-5 (5 inn.) – at GL

GROUP 2 SEMIFINALS:

June 7: GL beats West Deptford 12-3 – at Monmouth University

GROUP 2 FINAL:

June 11: GL beats West Essex 8-2 – at Toms River North

GL finished 26-6, including 6-0 in states.

 

2012: CENTRAL JERSEY, GROUP 2

GL is the 2 seed.

May 23: GL beats 15 seed Ewing 6-0 – at GL

May 25: 7 seed Robbinsville beats GL 2-0 – at GL

GL finished 20-8, including 1-1 in states.

 

2013: NORTH 2, GROUP 3

GL is the 7 seed.

May 20: GL beats 10 seed Chatham 8-7 – at GL

May 26: 2 seed South Plainfield beats GL 12-7 – at South Plainfield

GL finished 14-11, including 1-1 in states.

 

2014: NORTH 2, GROUP 3

GL is the 2 seed.

May 19: GL beats 15 seed Morris Hills 9-2 – at GL

May 21: 7 seed Nutley beats GL 6-2 – at GL

GL finished 21-6, including 1-1 in states.

 

2015: CENTRAL JERSEY, GROUP 2

GL is the 2 seed.

May 18: GL beats 15 seed Rahway 15-2 – at GL

May 21: GL beats 7 seed Bordentown 7-1 – at GL

May 26: GL beats 14 seed Matawan 12-2 – at GL

May 29: GL beats 5 seed Robbinsville 5-3 – at GL

GROUP 2 SEMIFINALS:

June 2: GL beats Buena 3-0 – at Eastern

GROUP 2 FINAL:

June 6: GL beats Bernards 10-4 – at Toms River South

GL finished 28-6, including 6-0 in states.

 

2016: NORTH 2, GROUP 3

GL is the 3 seed.

May 24: GL beats 14 seed Barringer 15-0 – at GL

May 26: GL beats 11 seed Matawan 9-0 – at GL

May 31: 2 seed Somerville beats GL 2-1 – at Somerville

GL finished 21-10, including 2-1 in states.

 

2017: CENTRAL JERSEY, GROUP 2

GL is the 1 seed.

May 23: GL beats 16 seed Holmdel 12-2 – at GL

May 24: GL beats 9 seed Raritan 5-4 – at GL

May 31: GL beats 5 seed Bernards 8-5 – at GL

June 2: GL beats 2 seed South Plainfield 6-5 – at GL

GROUP 2 SEMIFINALS:

June 2: Manasquan 2, GL 1 – at Rowan University

GL finished 26-4, including 4-1 in states.

 

GL IN SECTIONAL FINALS (5-3) SINCE 1999:

1999: North 2, Group 2 – GL 15, Chatham 1 – at Elizabeth

2000: North 2, Group 2 – Mendham 16, GL 3 – at Union

2006: Central Jersey, Group 2 – GL 6, Spotswood 1 – at Spotswood

2009: Central Jersey, Group 2 – Shore Regional 11, GL 6 – at GL

2010: Central Jersey, Group 2 – Spotswood 7, GL 5 – at GL

2011: Central Jersey, Group 2 – GL 15, Middlesex 5 (5 inn.) – at GL

2015: Central Jersey, Group 2 – GL 5, Robbinsville 3 – at GL

2017: Central Jersey, Group 2 – GL 6, South Plainfield 5 – at GL

 

GL IN GROUP 2 SEMIFINALS (4-1) SINCE 1999:

1999: GL 8, Hawthorne 0 – at Ramapo College

2006: GL 18, Point Pleasant Boro 4 – at New Egypt

2011: GL 12, West Deptford 13 – at Monmouth University

2015: GL 3, Buena 0 – at Eastern

2017: Manasquan 2, GL 1 – at Rowan University

 

GL IN GROUP 2 FINALS (3-1, won 2 in a row) SINCE 1999:

1999: GL 4, Gateway 2 – at East Brunswick Tech

2006: Hanover Park 8, GL 0 – at Toms River South

2011: GL 8, West Essex 2 – at Toms River North

2015: GL 10, Bernards 4 – at Toms River South

 

 

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