CRANFORD – When he needed it the most, Andrew Sanborn reared back and got ahead of one batter with two fastballs – who he struck out – and then finished off the next with another one for another K.
With Union ahead by two runs and Cranford with runners on first and third and then second and third, Sanborn struck out the final two batters of the fourth to keep the Farmers ahead – and in control.
“My fastball was working well,” Sanborn said.
Sanborn snuffed out a Cranford rally there and went on to pitch with a purpose into the seventh in leading Union to a decisive 5-2 Union County Conference-Watchung Division win on Tuesday, April 10 at Memorial Field.
Sanborn, in his first mound start of the year and in the first game he ever pitched against Cranford, allowed two runs on six hits, while striking out four, walking just one and hitting a batter.
He also came through with the game-winning hit, a one-out, two-run double in the third that gave Union the lead for good at 2-0.
Preventing Cranford from getting on the scoreboard for the first time or even tying up the game in the fourth was huge.
“I knew I had to get those two outs there,” said Sanborn, who last year as a freshman fashioned a 4-1 varsity mound mark. “Cranford is a good team and I didn’t want to let them score.”
Union has received four solid efforts from its starting pitchers so far this year in a 2-2 start that now includes a 1-1 Watchung Division record. Junior right hander Zach Fernandez, who closed this Cranford win by pitching a scoreless seventh, produced the first two. Senior RH Brandon Bedlivy was responsible for the third.
Union has now given up just nine runs in its first four games, with one of them going nine innings.
Sanborn escaped a runner in scoring position in the first and another in the second when Union sophomore shortstop Dren Gojac closed the frame by starting a 6-3 double play.
Sanborn then hurled a perfect third. He closed the sixth, after Cranford scored its first run, with his fourth and final strikeout.
“Andrew had good command and his slider was also good,” said Union senior catcher Jerry Gamone, who will continue playing in college at Division 2 Caldwell University. “Our game plan was to throw strikes and make the routine plays.”
Union committed the game’s only two errors – Sanborn responsible for the first – but they did not result in Cranford runs being scored afterwards.
Sanborn said he still felt pretty good after six. Cranford sophomore Jake DiClerico, who had two of Cranford’s six hits, belted an opposite field double to right – just past first base and inside the line – to lead off the seventh.
Union head coach Angel Navarrete decided that was enough for Sanborn, who threw 94 pitches. Fernandez had not pitched since last Thursday and was well rested to come in and close, which he did by retiring all three batters he faced on outfield fly balls.
“I wanted to finish, but I think I came out because of my pitch count,” Sanborn said.
“He was great,” Navarrete said. “Last year he got better as the season went on, beginning as a 14-year old. He’s polished, gets it and was pounding his fastball today. He was very aggressive in the strike zone.
“The bigger the moment, the more he bears down, which he did with the two strikeouts to end the fourth.”
“He threw strikes and worked ahead of our hitters,” Cranford head coach Dennis McCaffery said. “He had command. In the fourth inning he made the pitches he had to make.”
As well as he threw his fastball, Sanborn also smoked one which resulted in his third inning hit – Union’s first – snapping a scoreless deadlock.
Cranford right hander Kevin Donovan, who also pitched well in his first mound start this season – including perfect first, second and fifth innings – retired the first six batters he faced.
He walked designated hitter Josh Bonilla to lead off the third and then hit Gio Zuena. Union’s No. 9 batter Nick Saraceno moved the runners over with a sacrifice bunt.
Sanborn, Union’s leadoff batter, was quickly behind in the count at 0-2 after Donovan hurled consecutive off speed pitches. The next pitch was a fastball that Sanborn connected on as he drove it the other way to right-center. Both baserunners scored, putting Union out in front for good at 2-0.
“I was anticipating fastball, I didn’t think he would throw another curve,” Sanborn said. “It was right down the middle and I just swung.”
“I thought the pitch was a little up and Andrew did a good job with it on a two-strike count,” Navarrete said.
“It was a great job of hitting a pitch with two strikes on him,” McCaffery said.
Union scored its final three runs in the sixth. Anthony Farinha and Bonilla drove in runs with singles, while the fifth run came home as the result of Darby stealing second and Bryant scoring from third on the same play.
Michael Meola delivered an RBI-double that drove in Michael Murphy, who led off with a double, to get Cranford on the scoreboard for the first time in the sixth.
Joey Meola drove in DiClerico in the seventh on a sacrifice fly to center for Cranford’s final run.
Gamone produced Union’s other two doubles, the first leading off the sixth against Donovan and the second with two outs in the seventh off relief pitcher Jeremy Ruka.
“I tried to have a good approach,” Gamone said. “The first came on a fastball, which I was looking for, and the second was on a curve.”
Gamone, who threw out a runner attempting to steal second for the final out of the fifth, was even more thrilled with the way Union’s pitching has gone so far.
“We’ve had very good starts,” Gamone said. “As a team we need to eliminate dumb errors.”
“Our pitching has been there so far,” Navarrete said. “Today our pitcher threw strikes and we put together some timely hitting.”
Donovan pitched well enough that he could build off his outing as well, tossing only 76 pitches. He allowed five runs on five hits over 5 and 2/3 innings, striking out three, walking one and hitting two batters.
“Kevin did a great job of competing,” McCaffery said.
“This was very big for us, winning at Cranford,” Sanborn said.
Union and Cranford split Watchung Division games last year, with Cranford winning 7-3 at home and then Union 4-2 at Union.
UNION COUNTY CONFERENCE-WATCHUNG DIVISION BASEBALL AT CRANFORD’S MEMORIAL FIELD
Union (1-1, 2-2) 0 0 2 0 3 0 0 – 5 6 2
Cranford (1-2, 1-2) 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 – 2 6 0
UNION STARTING PITCHER:
Andrew Sanborn, sophomore RH (1-1)
First start of the season.
6 innings complete plus one batter in the 7th
2 runs, 6 hits, 4 strikeouts, 1 walk, 1 hit batter
Pitched a 1-2-3 in the 3rd – 3 ground ball outs on 10 pitches.
Struck out final 2 batters in 4th when Cranford had
first and third with one out and second and third with two.
Pitch count: 1-16. 2-18. 3-10. 4-18. 5-9. 6-17. 7-6. Total: 94.
UNION RELIEF PITCHER:
Zach Fernandez, junior RH
1 inning complete
0 runs, 0 hits, 0 strikeouts, 0 walks
Retired all 3 batters he faced, all on fly balls to outfielders.
Pitch count: 7-7. Total: 7.
CRANFORD STARTING PITCHER:
Kevin Donovan, junior RH (0-2)
First start of the season.
5 and 2/3 innings
5 runs, 5 hits, 3 strikeouts, 1 walk, 2 hit batters
Pitched 1-2-3 innings in the first, second and fifth,
needing only five pitches to retire Union in the second
and just seven in the fifth.
Pitch count: 1-14. 2-5. 3-19. 4-13. 5-7. 6-18. Total: 76.
CRANFORD RELIEF PITCHER:
Jeremy Ruka, junior RH
1 and 1/3 innings
0 runs, 1 hit, 1 strikeout, 0 walks
Pitch count: 6-4. 7-10. Total: 14.
4th-Jalen Bryant, opposite field to right
6th-Anthony Farinha, RBI to center to make score 3-0
6th-Josh Bonilla opposite field RBI to right to make score 4-0
1st-Tyler Szczech, infield on 4-3 attempt
2nd-Jake DiClerico, to center
4th-Michael Meola, to right
3rd-Andrew Sanborn, opposite field 2-run shot to RC
to make score 2-0
6th-Jerry Gamone, leadoff over LF head, hitting fence on one bounce
7th-Jerry Gamone, to center
6th-Michael Murphy, leadoff deep over CF head
6th-Michael Meola, opposite field to left RBI
7th-Jake DiClerico, leadoff opposite field to right past first base
Union – None.
Cranford – None.
Union – None.
Cranford – None.
UNION FARMERS (2-2):
11-Andrew Sanborn, sophomore pitcher-first baseman
3-Jerry Gamone, senior catcher
9-Zach Fernandez, junior first baseman-pitcher
17-Dren Gojac, sophomore shortstop
1-Anthony Farinha, senior third baseman
4-Jalen Bryant, freshman center fielder
42-Josh Bonilla, sophomore designated hitter
2-Drew Darby, junior right fielder (did not bat, but did pinch run)
22-Gio Zuena, sophomore left fielder
12-Nick Saraceno, sophomore second baseman
CRANFORD COUGARS (1-2):
35-Tyler Szczech, junior shortstop
40-Michael Murphy, sophomore center fielder
42-James Shriner, junior right fielder
4-Pat Connelly, senior first baseman
10-Michael Meola, junior third baseman
16-Connor Katz, sophomore designated hitter
32-Jake DiClerico, sophomore second baseman
14-Deandre Fieldhouse, junior left fielder
21-Michael McGee, junior catcher
23-Kevin Donovan, junior pitcher (did not bat)
54-Jeremy Ruka, junior pitcher (did not bat)