BERKELEY HEIGHTS – The first week of the season couldn’t have worked out better for a young and learning-on-the-job Governor Livingston baseball team.
Three wins in three games the past five days included 42 runs against Middlesex County opponent Carteret, Union County Conference-crossover foe Plainfield and Morris County squad Madison.
A 3-0 start that included an average of 14 runs was the confidence booster GL sought as the reality of a very challenging Watchung Division schedule looms this week. The Highlanders are set to play league teams Westfield – Tuesday on the road – Linden – Thursday at home – and then Union – Friday away.
For the fourth time in four years GL defeated Madison in its early-season, two-weekend, four-team tournament, with the Highlanders handling the Dodgers 15-5 in five innings Saturday morning at GL’s baseball field up on the hill.
That means GL will be playing Newark Academy in the 4th annual Highlander Classic championship game next Saturday at 2 p.m. at Snyder Park in Berkeley Heights. GL’s overall record in the tournament is now 7-0.
Newark Academy defeated New Providence 14-4 in Saturday’s second tournament game at GL, improving to 4-0. New Providence slipped to 1-2.
GL defeated Madison, which lost for the first time this season to slip to 3-1, in the final the past three years, including 6-4 in last year’s title contest at Snyder Park.
The Highlanders, who banged out 14 hits, scored all four innings they came up to bat against Madison Saturday morning, taking the lead for good with three runs in the bottom of the first for a 3-0 advantage.
Ian Woods produced an RBI-single to left field for the game’s first run and then scored GL’s third run on a double steal. In between, the Highlanders scored their second run on a 4-6-3 double play.
Woods, a first-year starter and junior right fielder, continued his hot hitting, producing a 3-for-3 game that included three RBI, one run, two singles and a double. He reached base all four times up, including on a walk in the second inning.
In three games Woods is off to an 8-for-9 start, including eight RBI and five runs.
“Terry Hanratty, (GL’s junior varsity coach) said that he thought Woods was the best hitter in Union County on the JV level last year,” said GL head coach Chris Roof. “He’s going to be a good player for us.”
After Madison pushed across two unearned runs in the top of the second to close to within 3-2, GL answered with two more in the bottom of the frame. Senior designated hitter Justin Ennis delivered an RBI-single and then two batters later junior Steve Duda connected on an RBI-double to make it 5-2.
Duda, a right hander, started on the mound and pitched three complete innings and faced one batter in the fourth for his first victory in his first start this season. In a 71-pitch performance that included 43 strikes and 29 balls, Duda gave up three runs – the first two unearned – on two hits, while striking out three and walking five.
“I felt good in the first inning,” said Duda, who retired the first four batters he faced, including a 1-2-3 first. “I then lost focus a bit and started walking batters.”
“His back was bothering him a bit, but he’ll work through it,” Roof said.
GL scored five more runs in the third to take a 10-2 lead, with sophomore third baseman John Tedesco producing an RBI-double, leadoff batter Ryan Jennings an RBI-single and Duda a sacrifice fly RBI to right.
Tedesco’s shot reached the left field fence on a fly, hitting the ‘e’ in Governor Livingston, which is spelled out along the barrier.
Madison pulled back to within 10-5 after scoring its final three runs in the fourth when GL senior righty reliever John Tomlinson was pitching. Sam North, Madison’s No. 9 batter, senior John Costa and senior designated hitter Nick Lucas all came through with RBI-singles for the Dodgers, Costa’s plate appearance an infield hit.
GL plated another five runs in the fourth off two Madison relief pitchers, with Patrick Mahoney, Ennis – a two-run shot – Jennings and Woods all producing RBI-doubles.
Mahoney came in to bat for senior Matt Doyle – who put down a perfect sacrifice bunt in the second and then walked and scored in the third – and on a 2-1 pitch connected on an opposite field RBI-double to right-center, which was a blast that hit the fence on the second bounce.
Woods’ grounds-rule RBI-double was an opposite field shot down the right field line that rolled past the fence.
Jennings pitched a hitless, scoreless top of the fifth for the game’s final three outs.
“Baseball is matchups,” Roof said. “We need depth in our pitching. It’s a learning process.”
Roof, who went from coaching third base in the past to not coaching third or first to now coaching first base this season, gained his 240th career victory, including his 186th at GL.
“Did I think we were going to have 14 hits in four innings against Madison, definitely not,” Roof said. “Knock on wood.”
NOTES: Jennings, batting in the No. 1 slot this year after he was GL’s cleanup batter last season, was 2-for-4, with two RBI, three runs, a single and a double. He reached base three of four times up, including on an infield error in the first inning.
“Batting leadoff is fine with me,” said Jennings, who last year hit .330. “It’s a chance to see more pitches and relay that information to my teammates.”
“We like Ryan at leadoff,” Roof said. “He’s a multi-talented player. He hits, hits for power and can run.”
GL junior first baseman Barron Notelli was 2-for-2, with two singles, the second an infield hit, two runs and a walk.
Tedesco was also 2-for-2, with a single, his RBI-double, a walk and three runs.
Ennis was 2-for-3, with a single, a double, three RBI and three runs. He reached on an infield error in the third.
Duda was 2-for-4, with a single, a double, a run and two RBI.
For Madison, Costa, Lucas, junior first baseman Gavin Wallace, junior right fielder Pat Zimmerman, junior catcher Ian Weber and North had one hit each. Five players scored one run, with Zimmerman producing the team’s only extra-base hit.
Freshman right hander Jack Arnold started on the mound for the Dodgers, throwing 89 pitches in three innings complete and giving up 10 of the 15 runs GL scored. He walked three, did not strike out a batter and hit one.
GL struck out only once, which was its last at-bat.
GL scored 13 runs against Carteret, winning 13-3, 14 vs. Plainfield, winning 14-1, and 15 vs. Madison, winning 15-5.
4TH ANNUAL HIGHLANDER CLASSIC AT GL
MADISON (3-1) 0 2 0 3 0 – 5 6 3
GOV. LIVINGSTON (3-0) 3 2 5 5 x – 15 14 1
WP: Steve Duda (1-0)
LP: Jack Donald (0-1)
DOUBLES: Madison – Pat Zimmerman. GL – Steve Duda, John Tedesco, Patrick Mahoney, Justin Ennis, Ryan Jennings, Ian Woods.
TRIPLES: Madison – None. GL – None.
HOME RUNS: Madison – None. GL – None.