Governor Livingston baseball 7-3, wins five games in a row

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BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ — After a rocky start that did not include injured mound aces John Schmidt and Matty Diskin, the Governor Livingston High School baseball team righted its ship the last two weeks.

The Highlanders took a 7-3 overall record and five-game winning streak into their scheduled Union County Conference-Watchung Division matchup at Arthur L. Johnson High School of Clark on Tuesday, April 25. Governor Livingston was 2-2 in Watchung Division play heading into the division clash.

Governor Livingston was scheduled to play two other Watchung Division opponents this week, including Union High School at home on Wednesday, April 26, and Cranford High School at home on Friday, April 28, weather permitting. Cranford began the week 11-0 overall and the defending division champions were leading the Watchung Division standings at 4-0.

Cranford and Governor Livingston are the last two Union County Tournament champions – Cranford winning last year for the first time since 2015 and for the 10th time overall, and Governor Livingston winning two years ago for the first time since 2018 and third time overall.

Cranford defeated Governor Livingston 4-0 on Thursday, April 6, at Cranford’s Memorial Field. Since then, as of Tuesday, April 25, Governor Livingston won six of its last seven games.

The five-game winning streak entering into the game on Tuesday, April 25, at Arthur L. Johnson, included victories against visiting Hudson County power Memorial High School of West New York 21-5, at Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School 8-3, at Union Catholic High School 9-3, against Jonathan Dayton High School at home 11-2, and against Middlesex High School 5-2 on Saturday, April 22, in the annual Autism Awareness Games, played at North Brunswick’s fields.
April is Autism Awareness month.

“Schmidt is still out and is not scheduled to be back until May 1 and Diskin threw 33 pitches two weeks ago and then five innings of no-hit ball against (Jonathan) Dayton, but his arm is still sore right now,” Governor Livingston baseball head coach Chris Roof said.

The varsity breakdown includes five seniors, three juniors, five sophomores and five freshmen.

“This is the youngest team I’ve had in my 23 years,” said Roof, who was head coach at Millburn High School for three seasons (2001 – 22003) and is now in his 19th season at Governor Livingston. His stint at the Berkeley Heights school began in 2004 not including the COVID-19 canceled-pandemic season of 2020. “The freshmen and sophomores all pretty much came in with zero varsity experience. Sometimes I’m starting four or three freshmen, which I’ve not done before.”

The players by class on Governor Livingston High School baseball are:

Five seniors: Jonathan Schmidt, John Schmidt, George Provel, JP Murphy and Max Hernandez;

Three juniors: Matthew Shaffer, Dylan Gardner and Ben Smookler;

Five sophomores: Michael Liloia, Vinny Graham, Anthony DeNora, Matty Diskin and Jason Habedank; and

Five freshmen: Michael Basile, Michael Novotny, Keith Mann, Dominic Labisi and Zach Geertsma.

“We pitched better last week,” Roof said. “You are where your feet are. We’re not playing for 2024 or 2025. We’re keeping the focus strictly on 2023.”

Offensively, Shaffer began the week leading the team with 15 hits, 13 runs, tied with George Provel with 13 RBIs and with a batting average of .500, going 15-for-30. Shaffer, Governor Livingston’s second baseman, also led with 10 singles and eight stolen bases.

Diskin led with two home runs, while Provel was batting .333, nine-for-27 and DeNora batting .310, nine-for-29.

Governor Livingston’s baseball season by position is: catcher, Jonathan Schmidt, first base; Matty Diskin, second base; Matthew Shaffer, third base; Michael Labisi and Michael Basile, shortstop; Zach Geertsma, left field; John Schmidt, center field, Anthony DeNora; and right field, George Provel.

The pitchers with the most innings at the start of the week were Mann with 13.2 and Graham with 11.2. Mann led in strikeouts with 12.

Liloia had 10 strikeouts in 10 innings pitched. His father, Mike, is a 1992 Union High School graduate, who was a standout quarterback and pitcher for the Farmers. Liloia played football for Lou Rettino, helping lead Union to the 1991 North 2, Group 4 state championship his senior season, when the Farmers ended Randolph’s then-state record unbeaten streak of 59 games (58-0-1), and baseball for Gordon LeMatty and his senior season for Chet Czaplinski. When LeMatty ended his coaching tenure at Union (1959 – 1991), he then led the state in most victories with 641.

The tentative schedule for the 69th annual baseball Union County Tournament is: first round on Saturday, May 6, at the higher seeds; quarterfinals on Wednesday, May 10, at the higher seeds; semifinals Saturday, May 13, at Arthur L. Johnson; and final Monday, May 15, at Kean University.

Champions this decade include: 2020, no tournament; 2021, Governor Livingston; 2022, Cranford.

Photos by JR Parachini