SUMMIT – With Governor Livingston losing its top four pitchers to graduation following last year’s 26-4 finish that included the program’s fourth Central Jersey, Group 2 state championship that left the door open for someone to take leadership of this year’s staff.
At the moment, returning varsity performer Liam Hulburt is doing his part to claim the top spot.
Hulburt, in his second start this season, produced his first complete game performance Wednesday, with the senior right hander halting Summit on six hits to lead the Highlanders to a 7-2 Union County Conference-crossover victory at Memorial Park.
In a battle of two of the UCC’s four division champions last year – GL won the Watchung and Summit the Mountain – the Highlanders improved to 3-2, while Summit fell to 3-1.
The game moved along at a pretty quick rate, ending exactly 1:45 after the first pitch. The first two innings were a thing of beauty – with Summit starter Alex Boburka also having a lot to do with that by retiring the first six batters he faced – as it took only 22 minutes.
It was Summit’s home-opener and only the second time the Hilltoppers got on their field this spring.
GL has its home-opener Thursday at 4 p.m. vs. Watchung Division foe Cranford (1-2) and that will be the very first time the Highlanders will be on their home field in 2018.
Hulburt (2-0) struck out three and did not walk a batter. He threw perfect innings in the first, third, fifth and seventh and did not tax his arm at all, tossing just 82 pitches.
“My curveball was probably my best pitch, I was really comfortable locating it,” said Hulburt, who has now given up just two runs in 12 innings in his two starts, with his first win also coming on the road at Watchung Division foe Elizabeth 8-1 on March 31. In that game Hulburt did not give up a run in five innings.
Against Summit Hulburt retired three batters on just one pitch – he threw less than 10 pitches in the first and third innings – and only went to three balls on one batter.
That batter was Summit senior cleanup hitter Andrew Miller – a returning All-Mountain Division player from a year ago. Miller was previously 1-for-2 against Hulburt – he struck out swinging leading off the second and then smacked an RBI-double with one out in the fourth for Summit’s first run – when he stepped up to the plate in the sixth with runners on first and second and one out and his team trailing GL 5-2.
Hulburt challenged Miller with off speed pitches that he kept fouling off. On the eighth and final pitch of the at-bat, Miller hit the ball hard, but right at GL second baseman Andy Serrretti, who tossed the ball to shortstop Danny Serretti so that he could step on second for an inning-ending 4-6 double play.
“He was spoiling all of my pitches,” Hulburt said. “I thought it was a 2-seam (fastball) that I threw last.”
“It looked like an off speed pitch,” Summit head coach Kevin Zaleski said. “Andrew stayed back on it and hit it hard. He was just unlucky.”
“Liam got his curve over for strikes and that was the key,” GL head coach Chris Roof said. “He holds runners well (he picked off one) and had good stuff.”
GL took a 2-0 lead in the third, with Jack Pedini leading off with an opposite field single to right for GL’s first hit and initial baserunner. He moved to second on the play when the ball went past the outfielder.
Andy Serretti then hit a fly ball to right that moved Pedini to third. Sam Pile hit a ground ball to short to drive in Pedini for the game’s first run and also reached on an errant throw. After a stolen base, Danny Serretti, GL’s leadoff batter, walked.
Lefty swinging Drew Compton followed with and RBI-single to center to make it 2-0. Compton also drove in a run in the seventh and scored in the same inning. He finished 3-for-4, with two singles, a double, two RBI and one run. Compton hit safely in his final three at-bats and was the game’s only player with three hits.
“We were motivated to get this win after yesterday’s loss,” said Compton, referring to GL’s 8-7 Watchung Division setback Tuesday at Westfield. The host Blue Devils led 7-0, GL came back to tie the game 7-7 and then Westfield scored the winning run in the bottom of the sixth.
“This feels good and gives us some momentum going into our first home game.”
Summit tied the game in the fourth when – after Miller’s hit made it 2-1 – Justin Weiss produced an opposite field single to right to plate Miller and knot the score at 2-2.
GL took the lead for good in the fifth on a sacrifice fly to left hit by Danny Serretti that drove in Andy Serretti, who led off the inning with a bunt single down the third base line. GL’s next batter, Pile, also reached on a bunt single toward third in his attempt to move Serretti to second base.
An RBI-single by designated hitter Stephen Reid later in the inning put GL up 4-2.
Andy Serretti drove in GL’s fifth run on a ground out to second in the sixth. Compton drove in the sixth run in the seventh with his double and then DJ Gonnelli drove in Compton with a single up the middle for the game’s final run.
“Of our first five games this was the best we played in all facets,” Roof said. “There were no walks, we didn’t commit any errors, we got bunts down and we came through with timely hitting.”
Now GL can look forward to playing at home for the first time. The last time the Highlanders played up on the hill at GL they came back in highly-dramatic fashion in the bottom of the seventh to capture last year’s CJ, G2 title over South Plainfield.
“We’re always pumped when we play at home, there’s a lot of energy,” Compton said. “There’s usually a big crowd and we feed off that.”
“This will be our first time on our field all year and Cranford comes to town, which will make it more exciting,” Roof said. “We like to compete against the best of the best.”
Boburka really didn’t pitch that bad for a hurler who gave up seven runs on 10 hits in six innings. Against one of the top hitting lineups in Union County, Boburka retired the side in order three times, although some of those outs were hard hit balls.
“I thought he did very well,” Zaleski said. “When he kept the ball down he had them off balance a bit in the beginning. There were a lot of hard hit outs by both teams.
“GL hit him and we know they are a good hitting team. I was happy with the way we bounced back to tie the game. A couple of blunders (Summit made three errors) cost us.”
Summit also has a big division game Thursday, with the Hilltoppers hosting New Providence (4-1) at 4 p.m.
Summit is 2-0 in the Mountain Division, with wins over Union Catholic and Linden. New Providence is 2-0 in the division, with wins over Union Catholic and Johnson.
“We lost some bats in the middle of the lineup from last year, but I’m impressed with our team as a whole,” Zaleski said. “We’ve been throwing strikes and playing well defensively so far. If you throw strikes and play defense in high school you’re going to do well.
“I’m happy with the strides we’re making offensively. I have a good feeling about this team. We have a good group of guys.”
NOTES: This is Zaleski’s 12th season at the helm of the Hilltoppers. Summit won the UCC’s Valley Division title in 2013, 2014 and 2016 and the Mountain Division crown last year.
The defensive play of the game was made by Miller in left when he dove to his right – full body – to make a fine, one-handed catch to rob Gonnelli of an extra-base hit leading off the fourth.
This was Roof’s 350th win in his 18th season and 15th at GL. He now has 296 wins at GL. His 300th win came when GL defeated Bernards 10-4 in the 2015 Group 2 state championship game at Toms River South. His first three years as a head coach were spent at Millburn from 2001-2003.
UNION COUNTY CONFERENCE-CROSSOVER BASEBALL
AT SUMMIT’S MEMORIAL PARK
Gov. Livingston (3-2) 0 0 2 0 2 1 2 – 7 11 0
Summit (3-1) 0 0 0 2 0 0 0 – 2 6 3
GOV. LIVINGSTON STARTING PITCHER:
Liam Hulburt, senior RH (2-0)
7 innings complete (his first complete game)
2 runs (both earned), 6 hits, 3 strikeouts (all swinging), 0 walks
Perfect innings: first, third, fifth, seventh.
One pickoff: runner at first for second out of fourth.
Pitch count: 1-8. 2-13. 3-8. 4-14. 5-10. 6-17. 7-12. Total: 82.
SUMMIT STARTING PITCHER:
Alex Boburka, junior RH (0-1)
6 innings complete and first two batters of 7th
7 runs, 10 hits, 0 strikeouts, 1 walk
Perfect innings: first, second, fourth.
Pitch count: 1-12. 2-8. 3-25. 4-5. 5-13. 6-8. 7-3. Total: 74.
SUMMIT RELIEF PITCHER:
Will Gibson, senior RH
1 inning complete
0 runs, 1 hit, 0 strikeouts, 0 walks.
Pitch count: 7-7. Total: 7.
Gov. Livingston (9):
3rd-Jack Pedini, opposite field to right
3rd-Drew Compton, RBI to center
5th-Andy Serretti, bunt down 3B line
5th-Sam Pile, sac bunt down 3B
5th-Drew Compton, to right
5th-Stephen Reid, RBI to left
6th-Will Jennings, to right
6th-Jack Pedini, hit and run opposite field to right
7th-DJ Gonnelli, RBI to center
2nd-Emory Carlson, to center
4th-Justin Weiss, opposite field RBI to RC
6th-Dan Isralowitz, bunt, beats 5-3 throw
6th-Matt Reddy, to left
Gov. Livingston (2):
7th-Danny Serretti, opposite field to LC leading off
7th-Drew Compton, RBI ground rule, one bounce over CF fence
4th-Matt Reddy, down the LF line
4th-Andrew Miller, down LF line just over 3B bag
Gov. Livingston – None.
Summit – None.
Gov. Livingston – None.
Summit – None.
GOV. LIVINGSTON HIGHLANDERS (3-2):
13-Danny Serretti, senior shortstop
34-Drew Compton, junior third baseman
16-Stephen Reid, junior designated hitter
20-Tyler McCulloch, senior left fielder
32-DJ Gonnelli, senior first baseman
26-Will Jennings, senior right fielder
15-Jack Pedini, senior center fielder
23-Andy Serretti, junior second baseman
9-Sam Pile, senior catcher
33-Liam Hulburt, senior pitcher (did not bat)
SUMMIT HILLTOPPERS (3-1):
34-Dan Isralowitz, junior right fielder
18-Matt Reddy, junior shortstop
7-Trevor Mutolo, junior center fielder
8-Andrew Miller, senior left fielder
25-Justin Weiss, junior catcher
33-Emory Carlson, junior first baseman
27-Will Hennings, sophomore designated hitter
15-Greg Vlass, senior second baseman
38-Mike Competiello, junior third baseman
10-Alex Boburka, junior pitcher (did not bat)
2-Will Gibson, senior pitcher (did not bat)