Sparked by a three-hitter tossed by right hander Jonathan Brignoni, the Union Post 35 Senior American Legion baseball team advanced to the state finals for the first time in eight years.
Brignoni, in a complete-game effort, struck out 12 and walked four to help lead Union 35 to a 5-1 triumph over Haddon Heights 262 in Friday night’s District 2 runner up State Finals qualifying game at North Brunswick’s Community Park.
Union 35, after winning three times in four games, advanced to the State Finals for the first time since 2005. Union 35 will face District 3 winner Brooklawn 72 in the first State Finals game, scheduled for 1 p.m. Sunday at Moody Park in Ewing.
Two teams will advance out of the double-elimination tournament – the winner and runner up – and advance to the regionals.
“It feels great, the kids worked real hard and I’m proud of them,” said Union coach John Dennis, a 2004 UHS graduate who was the starting catcher as a sophomore on Union’s 2002 Group 4 state championship team that also finished No. 1 in New Jersey. “We’ll take it from here and see how it goes in the states.”
Brignoni, who will be a junior at UHS in the fall, allowed only one earned run in his seven-inning stint, with that run scoring on a wild pitch in the bottom of the second. He took a no-hitter into the fifth.
“Jon commanded his fastball well and kept it down in the zone,” Dennis said. “He stayed ahead of the hitters.”
Union 35 took the lead for good at 1-0 in the top of the first when Doug Carter scored on a wild pitch. Carter, who graduated from UHS this year and will continue playing at Brookdale Community College in Lincroft, slugged a two-out double and then stole third.
Brandon Rodriguez, who will be a senior at UHS in the fall, drove in John McTernan with a two-out, RBI-double in the second to make it 2-0.
Union added three insurance runs in the top of the fourth for the game’s final scoring. Single runs scored on errors before and after Rodriguez drove in a run with a suicide squeeze bunt that stayed fair.
Brignoni and Rodriguez had two hits each, with Union finishing with seven total.
Union 35’s District 2 record of 3-1 put its overall mark this summer at 19-3. Union 35 captured the Union County championship with a record of 16-2, falling only to Down Neck, Newark and Lyndhurst 139, with the latter winning District 1 at Jannarone Park in Parsippany.
Dennis said that right hander Mike Meola will take the ball Sunday vs. Brooklawn 72. Meola earned a complete game victory in Union’s 4-2 win over Haddon Heights on Tuesday. Meola will join Carter at Brookdale.
“Mike also pitched very well and had great location,” Dennis said.
HERE’S A LOOK AT WHO UNION 35 PLAYED IN DISTRICT 2:
July 21: Union (35) 8, Belleville 5 (10 inn.)
Jonathan Brignoni started and Chris Dillon won in relief.
July 23: Union (35) 4, Haddon Heights (262) 2
Mike Meola started and won, pitching a complete game.
July 25: Flemington (159) 10, Union (35) 1
Chris Dillon started and took the loss.
July 26: Union (35) 5, Haddon Heights (262) 1
Jonathan Brignoni started and won, pitching a complete game.
HERE’S A LOOK AT THE UNION 35 ROSTER:
Steven Dembeck, will be a junior at UHS
Luis Alvarado, will be a junior at UHS
Denzell Boyd, 2013 UHS graduate
Kevin McDonough, will be a junior at UHS
Brandon Rodriguez, will be a senior at UHS
Peter Szarek, 2013 UHS graduate
Jon Zimmerman, 2013 UHS graduate
Josh Siniscal, will be a senior at UHS
Mike Meola, 2013 UHS graduate
Doug Carter, 2013 UHS graduate
Joe McCaffery, 2013 St. Joseph’s, Metuchen graduate
John McTernan, 2013 UHS graduate
Chris Dillon, 2013 UHS graduate
Matt Meola, will be a sophomore at UHS
Will Sangster, will be a senior at UHS
Jonathan Brignoni, will be a junior at UHS
Carter and Meola will play at Brookdale
Community College in Lincroft and
Zimmerman and McTernan at Raritan Valley
Community College in Branchburg.
Dillon is attending St. John’s on an academic
scholarship and will attempt to make the team as a walk-on.
McCaffery, a Union resident, will play at Rowan.
Coaches: John Dennis, Rob Sumner, Marc Procaccini,
Matt Melody, Ruben Borges
NOTES: When Union 35 last made it to the State Finals, in 2005, it was also as the runner up and also in District 2, which that year was competed at Teener League Field in Union. Union 35 defeated Linwood 17-5 to advance.
In the 2005 State Finals at Breslin Field in Lyndhurst, Union defeated South Brunswick 8-3 and then lost to Wayne 11-1 and Gibbsboro 7-6.
8 TEAMS IN 2013 STATE FINALS:
District 1 at Jannarone Park, Parsippany
Winner: Lyndhurst 139
Runner up: Vailsburg 395
District 2 at Community Park, North Brunswick
Winner: Flemington 159
Runner up: Union 35
District 3 at Mercer County Park, West Windsor
Winner: Brooklawn 72
Runner up: Gibbsboro 371
District 4 at Union Field, West Deptford
Winner: Bordentown 26
Runner up: Washington Twp. 521
2013 STATE FINALS AT MOODY PARK, EWING:
SUNDAY, JULY 28
Game 1: Brooklawn 72 vs. Union 35, 1 p.m.
Game 2: Bordentown 26 vs. Vailsburg 395
MONDAY, JULY 29
Game 3: Flemington 159 vs. Gibbsboro 371, 1 p.m.
Game 4: Lyndhurst 139 vs. Washington Twp. 521
TUESDAY, JULY 30
Game 5: Loser Game 1 vs. Loser Game 2, 1 p.m.
Game 6: Winner Game 1 vs. Winner Game 2
WEDNESDAY, JULY 31
Game 7: Loser Game 3 vs. Loser Game 4, 1 p.m.
Game 8: Winner Game 3 vs. Winner Game 4
THURSDAY, AUG. 1
Game 9: Winner Game 5 vs. Loser Game 8, 1 p.m.
Game 10: Loser Game 6 vs. Winner Game 7
Game 11: Winner Game 6 vs. Winner Game 8, 7 p.m.
FRIDAY, AUG. 2
Game 12: Winner Game 10 vs. Loser Game 11, 4 p.m.
Game 13: Winner Game 9 vs. Winner Game 11
Note A: Pairing for Game 12 & 13 will not match previous
opponents against each other unless absolutely necessary.
SATURDAY, AUG. 3
Game 14: Winner Game 12 vs. Winner Game 13, 2 p.m.
Note B: If 3 teams remain after Game 13, the winner of Game 11
automatically draws a bye for Game 14.
Game 15: If necessary.