Governor Livingston baseball wins the UCT in high-scoring seventh

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UNION, NJ – Owners of what seemed like a slim three-run advantage from the top of the third inning on, Governor Livingston High School baseball head coach Chris Roof said this to his Highlanders right before the start of the top of the seventh: “C’mon now boys, let’s build a run here. I want a fourth run.”

After the first two batters of the inning flew out to center, it appeared that Governor Livingston might not be able to build another insurance run.


Starting with a single to left hit by Michael Basile, the Highlanders produced seven runs after two outs and nobody on, sending a total of 11 batters to the plate.

Governor Livingston now led by 10 runs going into the bottom of the seventh.

Amazingly, credit the guts shown by the Westfield High School Blue Devils, as the Highlanders needed every one of them.

Westfield not only cut the lead in half and there were still no outs, but ultimately sent the winning run to the plate with two runners on.

It was Governor Livingston’s third pitcher, right hander Anthony DeNora, who was finally able to get the third out and preserve his team’s victory.

In a contest that saw 15 of the game’s 18 runs scored in the seventh inning, it was second-seeded Governor Livingston holding on in every sense of the word to defeat top-seeded Westfield, 10-8, in the 70th annual baseball Union County Tournament championship game, contested at Kean University on Monday night, May 13.

Governor Livingston captured its fourth UCT title, all coming since 2016. This was the third straight time Governor Livingston defeated Westfield in the final, the first two times in 2018 and 2021.
Westfield still leads with 15 UCT championships, its last one captured in 2017.

Governor Livingston lost to defending champion Cranford High School, 1-0, in the bottom of the seventh of last year’s championship game at Kean University. That was devastating enough. Had the Highlanders lost again this time in the bottom of the seventh, after again not yielding a run for six innings, devastating would have been an understatement.

“In the seventh inning, they were hitting the ball in the wrong spots,” said winning pitcher Matt Diskin, who took a four-hit shutout into the seventh before leaving the mound without getting an out and the scoreboard now reading 10-5.

Diskin still earned the mound victory, despite yielding seven earned runs.

“I had faith in our other pitchers and still felt we were going to win,” Diskin said. “This is the best feeling in the world. We’re brothers and family.”

Westfield third-year head coach Jay Cook saw his team on Saturday, May 11, in Clark, score twice in the bottom of the seventh to tie two-time defending champion and fifth-seeded Cranford High School and send the UCT semifinal game to extra innings. Cook then saw his squad score three runs in the bottom of the ninth to win it after Cranford took the lead once more with its final two runs in the top of the ninth.

That comeback was dramatic enough. The attempt that fell just short on Monday night, May 13, would have been the comeback of all comebacks, had the Blue Devils been able to pull it off.

Down 10-0 heading into the bottom of the seventh, the Blue Devils not only knocked out Diskin, but showed a resiliency at the plate at which any coach would marvel.

“We didn’t give up and showed that we were going to compete until the last out,” Cook said. “We scored five runs with no outs. I’m real proud of how we just kept on having good at-bats.”

Both starting pitchers were outstanding, each pitching into the seventh before being taken out.

Westfield senior right hander Tomas Cestaro in six and two-third innings allowed five runs, only two of them earned, on five hits while striking out five, walking three and hitting two batters in a 114-pitch performance.

“He threw great and held them down,” Cook said.

Diskin, a junior righty who is committed to playing collegiately at Stetson University, ended up allowing seven runs, all earned, on nine hits while striking out eight, walking one and hitting no batters in a 102-pitch effort. Diskin’s only walk of the game came to Westfield’s leadoff batter in the seventh.

“He was very good,” Roof said.

Governor Livingston pushed across the game’s first run in the top of the second, taking advantage of two Westfield errors that led to it being unearned. Matthew Shaffer drove it in on a ground out to second.

Governor Livingston added two insurance runs in the third to make it 3-0, which was the score all the way to the top of the seventh. Standout sophomore shortstop Zach Geertsma hit a shot that reached the bottom of the center field fence on one bounce for an RBI-triple and then Basile drove in Geertsma with a check swing bloop single to center.

Cestaro and Diskin continued to deal. Cestaro had his second 1-2-3 inning in the fifth and in between walking Diskin to lead off the fourth and once again with two outs in the sixth, Cestaro had retired eight in a row.

Diskin had seven of his eight strikeouts, which were all swinging, in the first three innings. The other two outs in that span came on Basile, Governor Livingston’s backstop, throwing a runner out attempting to steal second and a fly ball to right. Diskin struck out the side in the third and his only 1-2-3 inning came in the fourth.

After Basile’s single with two outs in the top of the seventh, Matthew Kosuda walked. That was it for Cestaro, who reached the 110-pitch limit during the Kosuda base on balls. An infield error led to the first run of the inning scoring, which was the run Roof wanted built, giving Governor Livingston a 4-0 lead. Lefty-swinging Alex Adornato then produced a two-run single to right to make it 6-0.

After another infield error and a walk loaded the bases for the first time in the game for either team, Ryan Pappas smoked an RBI-single past the Westfield third baseman to make it 7-0. An RBI-single by No. 9 batter Dominic Labisi made it 8-0.

Westfield’s third and final pitcher first faced Geertsma with the bags still full. A wild pitch on ball two made it 9-0 and then Governor Livingston’s leadoff batter responded with an RBI-single to left that made it a 10-0 game. After another walk that loaded the bases again, the next Governor Livingston batter was retired to end the inning.

Diskin said he was fine entering the seventh. He fired 78 pitches through six, having success with both his fastball and off-speed.

“Credit Westfield: They started to put some hits together after not being able to before that,” Diskin said. “I still felt that I had good enough stuff to get through the inning.”

Nic Labin led off the bottom of the seventh for Westfield on a five-pitch walk, Diskin’s only one allowed. Aaron Ives followed with a single to right. Kevin Dowling then pushed a bunt down the third base line for a hit to load the bases.

Liam Sullivan, Westfield’s No. 9 batter, broke the shutout by delivering an RBI-single to center to make it 10-1. Now batting leadoff in place of Cestaro was Westfield’s third pitcher, who hit a slow roller down the third base line that Governor Livingston could do nothing with, as the second run crossed home plate, leaving the bases still loaded and with nobody still out.

Jake Alfano followed with an opposite field two-run single to left to make it 10-4. With runners on first and second and still no outs, big Westfield first baseman Braedan Trajkovski came through with his first hit of the game, an opposite field RBI-single to right that made it 10-5.

Roof took out Diskin here and in came righty Vinny Graham, who got Randy Davis to fly out to center, but the runner from third scored on the sacrifice fly and now it was a 10-6 game with one out and a runner still on first. Graham then allowed an opposite field single to right hit by Kellen Edwards and then Graham hit the next batter, Labin, which loaded the bases again. Back came Roof to take Graham out and insert right hander Anthony DeNora.

Another sacrifice fly, this one hit to right field by Ives, made it a 10-7 game. Now with runners on first and third and Westfield down to its final out, Dowling came through on a 2-1 pitch and poked an opposite field single to left to make it 10-8.

Westfield’s lefty-swinging pinch hitter that next came up to the plate represented the winning run, with runners on first and second and two out. It took DeNora five pitches, but he finally retired the batter to give Governor Livingston its fourth UCT championship in the past eight years.

Down 10-0 to start the bottom of the seventh, nobody expected Westfield to be able to send the winning run up to the plate. Nobody but, perhaps, the Blue Devils.

Governor Livingston sent 11 batters to the plate in the top of the seventh. Westfield sent 13 in the bottom.

For the second straight UCT championship game Governor Livingston did not allow a run through the game’s first six innings.

Governor Livingston still has the Union County Conference’s Watchung Division title to play for and is trying to get as high a seed as it can for the upcoming Central Jersey, Group 2 playoffs. The cutoff is Saturday, May 18. Governor Livingston last won the section in 2017.

“This team just gets it,” Roof said. “Our motto has always been ‘one pitch at a time and one game at a time.’”

70th annual Baseball UCT Championship Game at Kean

2-Gov. Livingston (19-3) 0 1 2 0 0 0 7 – 10 9 2
1-Westfield (16-4) 0 0 0 0 0 0 8 – 8 10 4
WP: Matt Diskin. Save: Anthony DeNora.
LP: Tomas Cestaro.

Photos by JR Parachini