With the Governor Livingston baseball team you’ll always know what the lineup is ahead of time.
There are no head games.
The only mystery is what exactly will happen in the contest that is about to unfold.
That’s what makes the Highlander Classic so special. You get four teams vying for a championship in early April, with each anxious to build off something before the season really gets into full swing.
The 4th annual Highlander Classic commences Saturday at GL, with the home team three-time defending champion Highlanders taking on Madison in the first game at 11 a.m., followed by Newark Academy vs. New Providence at 2 p.m.
The event will conclude April 13, with the non-winners playing at 11 a.m. and the winners battling at 2 p.m. in games that will take place at Snyder Park in Berkeley Heights.
GL defeated Madison in the first three finals, while New Providence finished third in 2010, fourth in 2011 and third in 2012. Also competing in 2010 was Chatham, in 2011 was Newark Academy, which finished third, and in 2012 was Oratory Prep.
4th ANNUAL HIGHLANDER CLASSIC – 2013
April 6: Madison vs. Gov. Livingston, 11 a.m. – first round at GL
April 6: Newark Academy vs. New Providence, 2 p.m. – first round at GL
April 13: Non-winners play each other, 11 a.m. – at Snyder Park for 3rd place
April 13: Winners play each other, 2 p.m. – at Snyder Park for 1st place
3RD ANNUAL HIGHLANDER CLASSIC – 2012
April 14: Gov. Livingston 6, Madison 4 – 1st place
April 14: New Providence 10, Oratory Prep 6 – 3rd place
April 7: Gov. Livingston 9, Oratory Prep 0 – first round
April 7: Madison 7, New Providence 1 – first round
2nd ANNUAL HIGHLANDER CLASSIC – 2011
April 9: Gov. Livingston 5, Madison 4 (9 inn.) – 1st place
April 9: Newark Academy 9, New Providence 1 – 3rd place
April 2: Gov. Livingston 7, New Providence 6 – first round
April 2: Madison 12, Newark Academy 2 – first round
1ST HIGHLANDER CLASSIC – 2010
April 17: Gov. Livingston 6, Madison 0 – 1st place
April 17: New Providence 8, Chatham 2 – 3rd place
April 10: Gov. Livingston 13, Chatham 0 – first round
April 10: Madison 24, New Providence 11 – first round
For the first time, GL and Madison will clash in a first round contest.
In last year’s championship game at Snyder Park, GL defeated Madison 6-4.
GL downed Madison 5-4 in nine innings in the 2011 final at GL and in the 2010 championship game at GL, the Highlanders blanked the Dodgers 6-0.
While a fifth straight 20-win season will be highly-challenging – GL finished 20-8 in 2012, 26-6 in 2011 and set the program record for wins in a season, 23-8 in 2010 and 20-8 in 2009 – the Highlanders are off to a good start at 2-0.
Opening wins came at Carteret 13-3 Tuesday and at home Wednesday against Union County Conference-crossover foe Plainfield 14-1.
Lost to graduation are freshmen college players Keith Skinner (Fairfield), Aaron Smith (Rochester), Joey Graziano (St. John’s) and Tyler Martis (Siena).
Four players back with varsity experience include junior three-year starter Ryan Jennings, junior second baseman Steve Duda, sophomore right hander Ethan Frohman and senior designated hitter Justin Ennis.
GL’s other three seniors are pitcher John Tomlinson, outfielder Anthony Iarussi and infielder Matt Doyle.
“This is the youngest and most inexperienced team I’ve had here,” said head coach Chris Roof, who has been at the helm of the Highlanders since 2004.
Jennings, GL’s center fielder and also a solid righty hurler, produced a .330 batting average (29-for-88) that included one home run and 23 RBI as the Highlander cleanup batter a year ago.
Jennings and Frohman were both Union County Underclassmen All-Stars in 2012, with Frohman fashioning a 4-0 record.
Against Carteret, Frohman pitched the first four innings to earn the mound victory. Tomlinson, another right hander, finished up on the mound.
Jennings tossed three hitless, scoreless innings vs. Plainfield for the victory, with sophomore righty John Wills hurling the final two innings.
Other sophomore starters include shortstop and cleanup batter Ian Lynch, third baseman John Tedesco and catcher Rob Dilly.
Lynch in two games so far is 4-for-7 (.571), with seven RBI and three runs.
Batting third is junior Ian Woods. He is 5-for-6 (.833) with five RBI and four runs.
Mountainside residents include Doyle and Wills.
“We have some good young players,” Roof said. “A year from now we should be much better.”
New Providence is 1-1, with a 10-3 loss at Union Catholic Tuesday and a 9-4 home win over Roselle Catholic Thursday. The Pioneers moved up to the Union County Conference’s Mountain Division this year after winning the Valley Division crown in 2012.
NOTES: After competing in the North 2, Group 2 and then the Central Jersey, Group 2 playoffs for many years, GL is situated in North 2, Group 3 this season for the first time.
Roof has experience in that section as the head coach at Millburn for three seasons from 2001-2003.
The team that won North 2, Group 3 last year was eventual Group 3 state champion Cranford. The Cougars are led by senior lefty Ryan Williamson (North Carolina State) and senior catcher Chris Folinusz (Rutgers).
In addition to challenging Cranford for Watchung Division and Union County Tournament supremacy, the Highlanders might have to get past the Cougars now to win their next sectional title.
“No matter who you play, you have to play well,” Roof said.
Roof’s Highlanders lost to Cranford in the 2007 and 2011 Union County Tournament championship games and have also finished just below the Cougars in the Union County Conference’s Watchung Division standings.
Coming out of North 2, Group 3 and moving up to North 2, Group 4 were Millburn and Scotch Plains.
Roof, a 1992 Governor Livingston graduate, has guided GL to two sectional championships, both of those coming in Central Jersey, Group 2 – in 2006 and 2011 – with the 2011 squad also going on to win the program’s second Group 2 state crown.
Roof also led GL to the 2009 and 2010 CJ, G2 championship games.
“I really liked Central 2,” Roof said. “This is the first time that I remember GL being a 3.”
The enrollment range for North 2, Group 3 this year is 806-1082. The lowest enrollment school is Newark West Side, with GL at 810 the second lowest. The highest enrollment school is Roxbury.
“I don’t like the fact that some schools in our section have 200 more students,” Roof said. “It is what it is.
“The only thing I’m sure of is that our kids will go out there and compete and continue to work extremely hard.
“That’s what our program is all about.”
Roof’s nine-season (2004-2012) record at GL heading into his 10th year this season is 183-79 (.699). His three-year (2001-2003) record at Millburn was 54-34 (.614).
2013 GOV. LIVINGSTON BASEBALL
April 2 (A) Gov. Livingston 13, Carteret 3
April 3 (H) Gov. Livingston 14, Plainfield 1
April 6: 4th annual Highlander Classic at GL
April 9 at Westfield, 4 p.m. – Watchung Division
April 11 Linden, 4 p.m. – Watchung Division
April 12 at Union, 4 p.m. – Watchung Division
April 13: 4th annual Highlander Classic at Snyder Park, Berkeley Heights
April 16 Scotch Plains, 4 p.m. – Watchung Division
April 18 Cranford, 4 p.m. – Watchung Division
April 19 at Elizabeth, 4 p.m. – Watchung Division
April 20 Oratory Prep, noon
April 22 Summit, 4 p.m.
April 23 at New Providence, 4 p.m.
April 25 Brearley, 4 p.m.
May 2 Roselle Park, 4 p.m.
May 3 at Mountain Lakes, 4 p.m.
May 7 Elizabeth, 4 p.m. – Watchung Division
May 8 at Mendham, 4 p.m.
May 9 Westfield, 4 p.m. – Watchung Division
May 11 Rahway, 11 a.m.
May 14 at Linden, 4 p.m. – Watchung Division
May 16 Union, 4 p.m. – Watchung Division
May 17 at Scotch Plains, 4 p.m. – Watchung Division
May 21 at Cranford, 4 p.m. – Watchung Division
May 23 Johnson, 4 p.m.