BRIDGEWATER – Sometimes the knockout punch comes in the first inning.
All it takes is a couple of errors and a few walks and – even without producing a bunch of hits – the visiting team has a healthy lead right off the bat.
That was the case Sunday night when Westfield and Union hooked up in a Union County Conference-Watchung Division clash at TD Bank Ballpark.
Westfield junior designated hitter Chris Arena delivered an opposite field three-run double to left to highlight an eight-run first inning, while senior right hander Kevin Galasso scattered nine hits to lead Westfield to a decisive 9-4 victory.
This was the second straight season the Group 4 arch rivals played here to raise funds for both programs.
Westfield improved to 5-6 overall and 4-3 in the Watchung Division, while Union lost for the third straight time to slip to 5-6 overall and 2-4 in the Watchung.
The teams ended up splitting Watchung Division games, including a 5-2 Union win at Westfield back on April 4.
Westfield defeated Union in last year’s Union County Tournament championship game.
The 60th annual UCT will be seeded Monday night at 7 at Cranford High School, with seven-time winner Cranford – Union County’s only undefeated team at 7-0 – to get the top seed.
Union came back behind the relief pitching of senior righty Mike Meola and the hitting of Denzell Boyd, Jon Zimmerman, Doug Carter, Will Sangster, Luis Alvarado to make it respectable and avoid falling by the 10-run rule. Meola, relieving starter Jonathan Brignoni, allowed only two runs on five hits in five and one-third innings. He struck out three, walked two and hit two batters.
Galasso, in a 109 pitch performance, allowed four runs on nine hits, while striking out six and walking just one. After giving up a leadoff single to Union senior Denzell Boyd in the bottom of the first, Galasso retired the next 10 Union batters before Zimmerman doubled, Carter drove in Zimmerman with a single and then Sangster doubled after Carter scored as the result of a balk.
Zimmerman, who also pitched a scoreless seventh inning, was 2-for-3, with a double, a single, a run and a stolen base.
Six different Westfield batters produced one hit each. In addition to Arena’s three-run double, teammates Mike Ionta, Liam Devin, Eric Demers, Quinn Dursee and Tyler Bowman also hit safely. Dursee had an RBI-single in the fourth for Westfield’s final run.
Boyd also had two hits for Union, going 2-for-4, with two singles and an RBI. Alvarado, in his only at-bat, drove in Union’s final run with a double to left in the sixth.
Union senior first baseman Chris Dillon, in just his second game this season, belted a triple in three at-bats.
On Saturday in the Union-GMC Autism Awareness games at North Brunswick’s Community Park, Union lost to North Brunswick 6-5, while Westfield’s morning game against Sayreville on the other field was rained out. That was the only one of the eight games that was not played.
Westfield did manage to get a game in Saturday, falling at Watchung Hills by the score of 13-3.
60th ANNUAL UCT TO BE SEEDED MONDAY NIGHT AT CRANFORD
The 60th annual Union County Tournament will be seeded Monday night at 7 at Cranford High School, with Cranford to get the top seed.
As the top seed last year and also as the two-time defending champion, Cranford was defeated by eighth-seeded Union 3-1 in the quarterfinals in a game that was played at Union because Cranford’s field was not playable.
Scotch Plains, with a record of 7-1 and only a 10-8 loss at Watchung Division rival Gov. Livingston Tuesday, is in line to possibly garner the second seed. The Raiders last won the crown in 2009 and have reached the semifinals every year since 2008.
Dayton, which reached the semifinals last year, is 6-1 and has won six straight since opening with a 12-2 Mountain Division loss at Roselle Park April 2. Dayton won the Mountain Division last year.
Union Catholic is 8-2, with its only loss to a Union County school being its 7-1 setback at home to Dayton Tuesday in Mountain Division play. Union Catholic won the Mountain Division in 2011.
Summit, which dropped down to the Valley Division this year, is 7-2 and leads the Valley Division at 5-0. The Hilltoppers also have one-run wins at home over Essex County schools Newark Academy and Glen Ridge.
Westfield and Union, the teams that clashed in last year’s championship game, with Westfield winning for the first time since 2006, both begin the week at 5-6.
“We just lost a couple of one-run games to Elizabeth and North Brunswick, so I have no idea where we might end up,” Union head coach Frank Napolitano said.
Westfield head coach Bob Brewster echoed those sentiments: “it looks like Cranford 1 and probably Scotch Plains 2 because they have only one loss, but after that who knows?”
Westfield has a 7-6 Watchung Division home win over GL, which begins the week at 6-4.
Here’s a look at the overall records of all the teams in the Union County Conference, with their records through games played Sunday, April 21.
Gov. Livingston (6-4)
Scotch Plains (7-1)
Union Catholic (8-2)
Roselle Catholic (4-4)
New Providence (4-6)
Roselle Park (3-7)
Oratory Prep (4-4)
St. Mary’s, Elizabeth (1-4)
UNION COUNTY CONFERENCE-WATCHUNG DIVISION BASEBALL
AT TD BANK BALLPARK
WESTFIELD (5-6, 4-3) 8 0 0 1 0 0 0 – 9 6 0
UNION (5-6, 2-4) 0 0 0 2 1 1 0 – 4 9 3
WINNING PITCHER: Kevin Galasso, senior righty.
LOSING PITCHER: Jonathan Brignoni, sophomore righty, (1-2).
DOUBLES: Westfield – Chris Arena, Eric Demers.
Union – Jon Zimmerman, Doug Carter, Luis Alvarado.
TRIPLES: Westfield – None. Union – Chris Dillon.
HOME RUNS: Westfield – None. Union – None.