Of the paltry sum of 30 innings pitched that the Governor Livingston Highlanders had returning this season, DJ Gonnelli was responsible for five.
Nearly three weeks into the season the senior left hander has now thrown 17 and 2/3 innings in his three starts, with an ERA under 2.
The best seven of those innings just happened to come against the No. 2 ranked team in the state.
Gonnelli limited Morris County power Delbarton to just six hits, while striking out five and walking only one, in leading GL to a convincing 8-1 baseball victory Wednesday in Morristown.
GL won for the third straight time to improve to 6-2-1. A week into the season the Highlanders were ranked No. 19 in the state before dropping out of the nj.com Top 20.
Last year GL was ranked No. 1 for the first time en route to a 15-0 start.
Delbarton was No. 1 this year until the Green Wave were defeated by St. Augustine 6-1 in this past Saturday’s 6th Annual Strikeout Autism Challenge at Toms River South. Delbarton defeated St. Augustine 2-1 in last year’s Non-Public, A state championship game in Toms River.
St. Augustine (7-0) is this week’s No. 1 ranked team.
This was GL’s first win over Delbarton during the 15 seasons Chris Roof has been the head coach. The teams last played on May 24, 2010, with Delbarton beating GL 10-0 at home and snapping an eight-game Highlander winning streak during a 23-8 GL campaign.
“This was one of the biggest wins in our program history,” Roof said. “It was nice, but it’s still just one game. It won’t mean as much if we don’t follow it up.”
For the Montclair State-bound Gonnelli, his third start of the year was more than nice. It was the first time he went seven, the first time he tossed a complete game and it was his first win this season following two no-decisions.
“He was sharp, made good pitches and controlled the running game,” Roof said.
Gonnelli, a right handed batter and who is GL’s first baseman when he doesn’t pitch, also picked off a runner at first base. He was also the beneficiary of two GL double plays.
“His jump from last year to this year has been outstanding,” Roof said. “He’s a committed athlete. I think he can pitch at the next level.
“He gets up at 4:45 a.m. and gets to the gym four days a week. He’s bigger, faster and stronger.
“Against Delbarton he had them off balance with his change and curve. His out pitch was his 4-seam (fastball) in on the hands, while his 2-seam darted away from right handed batters.”
After Delbarton reached the scoreboard first for what turned out to be its only run – which was earned – in the bottom of the third, GL immediately answered.
The Highlanders scored their first three runs in the top of the fourth to take the lead for good. Drew Compton and Stephen Reid reached on hits and then a 6-5 fielder’s choice kept runners on first and second with one out.
Gonnelli then helped his own cause by belting a ball over the center fielder’s head for a double that tied the game at 1-1. With runners on second and third and the infield in, Tyler McCulloch came through with a two-strike, two-run single that proved to be the game-winning hit, putting GL in front for the first time at 3-1.
GL added three more runs in the fifth. With two outs and nobody on, Danny Serretti walked. Compton – one of the hottest hitters in Union County – followed with a two-run homer. Reid then homered, with the back-to-back blasts putting the Highlanders ahead 6-1.
Lefty-swinging Compton, GL’s third baseman, and righty-swinging Reid, GL’s designated hitter-outfielder, are both Georgia Tech junior commits. Both are also among the most feared batters from the Union County Conference.
GL added its final two insurance runs in the sixth. Serretti drove in Ryan Davey, who was running on the pitch, with an RBI-double to right-center. Two wild pitches later Serretti scored the game’s final run.
GL banged out 12 hits and scored its final five runs with two outs.
Delbarton (4-2) lost for the second straight time after a 4-0 start saw the Green Wave outscore the opposition 28-5, including a season-opening 6-2 win at Steinert back on March 31.
Junior all-state shortstop Anthony Volpe was 2-for-3 and scored Delbarton’s lone run. He came home on a single hit by Mark Darakiy. Starter Chris Sanzone took the loss, pitching 4 and 2/3 innings. He gave up six runs on six hits.
Delbarton was just named the top seed for the Morris County Tournament.
The Union County Tournament will be seeded Monday night.
NOTES: After losing senior standout pitchers Nick Cocchia, Vin Doren, Cole Schneider and Sean Savage to graduation, GL returned only 14 percent of last year’s innings pitched.
In addition to Gonnelli’s five innings, Ryan Monroy threw 15 and Liam Hulburt 10.
GL closes its week with a home game Friday at 4;15 p.m. vs. South Brunswick. The Highlanders will then face Edison Saturday at 1 p.m. at North Brunswick’s Community Park in the 11th annual Autism Awareness Baseball Challenge.
This is the third straight year that GL is participating in the event. The Highlanders lost to J.P. Stevens 4-3 on a single run in the bottom of the seventh two years ago and last year they defeated Colonia 8-2.
“It’s an honor that we can be a part of this,” Roof said. “Anything we can do to help bring attention to this cause is very important not only to my kids, but to all kids around the state.
“Colorado Rockies scout Mike Garlatti does an amazing job raising awareness for autism.”
Garlatti, a father of a child with autism, continues to use baseball to heighten awareness about the nation’s fastest-growing developmental disorder.
There are 20 games scheduled at North Brunswick’s Community Park this weekend for the event.
Here’s the schedule:
11TH ANNUAL AUTISM AWARENESS BASEBALL CHALLENGE
AT NORTH BRUNSWICK’S COMMUNITY PARK
FRIDAY, APRIL 20 (4 games):
Johnson vs. J.P. Stevens, 4 p.m.
Henry Hudson vs. East Brunswick Tech, 4 p.m.
Bernards vs. North Brunswick, 7 p.m.
St. Peter’s Prep vs. St. Joseph’s, Metuchen, 7 p.m.
SATURDAY, APRIL 21 (8 games):
Millburn vs. South Plainfield, 10 a.m.
Scotch Plains vs. Sayreville, 10 a.m.
Barnegat vs. Steinert, 1 p.m.
Gov. Livingston vs. Edison, 1 p.m.
Delbarton vs. Red Bank Catholic, 4 p.m.
South River vs. Weehawken, 4 p.m.
Somerville vs. Elizabeth, 7 p.m.
Millville vs. Jackson, 7 p.m.
SUNDAY, APRIL 22 (8 games):
Spotswood vs. Robbinsville, 10 a.m.
South Amboy vs. Rahway, 10 a.m.
St. Joseph’s, Montvale vs. Holy Spirit, 1 p.m.
Voorhees vs. Middlesex, 1 p.m.
Pope John vs. Christian Brothers Academy, 4 p.m.
Hudson Catholic vs. Metuchen, 4 p.m.
St. John Vianney vs. Bishop Ahr, 7 p.m.
Hillsborough vs. Old Bridge, 7 p.m.