UCT baseball final is set: it will be 3rd-seeded GL vs. top-seeded and defending champion Westfield; Both win by 3 runs in May 11 semifinals at Kean

The final is May 14 at Kean; GL has won 16 straight and seeks 2nd crown; Westfield seeks to repeat and win record 16th title; Is battle of last 2 champions, with GL winning title for first time in 2016 on Mother's Day at Kean

PHOTO BY JR PARACHINI – GL is lifted offensively by, from left, senior Danny Serretti and juniors Drew Compton and Stephen Reid.

UNION – Governor Livingston, which captured its first county championship two years ago, has not walked off a baseball field with less runs than its opponent in more than 30 days.

On April 10, GL fell behind Westfield – who are the last two Union County Conference-Watchung Division champions – by the score of 7-0.

The Highlanders rallied to tie the game 7-7 before Westfield came through with a run in the bottom of the sixth and then put up a zero in the top of the seventh to prevail 8-7.

That was GL’s second loss in three games and put the Highlanders – a team that returned only 14 percent of their pitching innings – at 2-2.

The next day host Summit came back to tie GL 2-2 before the Highlanders went on to a 7-2 UCC-crossover triumph.

The day after that, GL finally got on its field for the very first time this spring, facing Watchung Division arch rival Cranford in its home-opener. The teams played 10 innings and then stopped with the score deadlocked at 4-4.

GL woke up the morning of Friday, April 13 with a record of 3-2-1.

Fast forward one month.

GL wakes up the morning of Saturday, May 12 with a record of 19-2-1.

Last year GL began its 2017 campaign with a 15-0 record that included the state’s No. 1 ranking in three different polls and the UCT’s top seed. However, the defending champions were knocked out in the quarterfinals at home by ninth-seeded Johnson 9-5.

Now this year’s squad has just reeled off 16 straight wins since we were all freezing our butts off in early April.

GL’s first loss was at Scotch Plains 6-5 on April 5, a game it had a brief lead of 4-3. The only games the Highlanders have not had a lead in were the game at Westfield and the tie at home vs. Cranford.

GL seeks a 17th straight victory and – more importantly – a second UCT title in three years when it faces top-seeded and defending champion Westfield in Monday’s 7 p.m. final at Kean University.

GL, the third seed, eliminated seventh-seeded Elizabeth 5-2 before top-seeded Westfield ousted fourth-seeded Union 7-4 in Friday night’s semifinals at Kean.

Westfield won its record 15th UCT crown last year, defeating Cranford 6-3 in a Friday night final at Kean. The Blue Devils have now been in the final six times this decade and 10 times since 2002. From 2002-2017, their record in the final is 5-4.

Under head coach Bob Brewster, now in his 36th season at the helm, Westfield has won 11 county championships. The Blue Devils are 11-7 in the final under his leadership and he has the most UCT titles for a head coach.

Westfield is 15-9 in the final overall, with 24 appearances in the title. That is also the record for most times in the championship game.

GL is 1-5 in the final and 1-4 under head coach Chris Roof, at the helm of the Highlanders since 2004.




Monday, May 14

At Kean University, 7 p.m.

3-Gov. Livingston (19-2-1) vs. 1-Westfield (14-8)

Most likely pitching matchup:

GL: Senior LH DJ Gonnelli (4-0. 1.41 ERA)

Westfield: Junior RH Michael Carlone (5-1, 2.92 ERA)



Friday, May 11

At Kean University

Gov. Livingston 5, Elizabeth 2

Westfield 7, Union 4






Senior lefthander Ryan Monroy pitched the first four innings complete, allowing just two runs, and then junior righty Ryan Davey came in and pitched the final three – allowing no runs – as GL defeated Elizabeth for the third time in three tries this year, this time by the score of 5-2.

As a result, GL advanced to the UCT final for the fourth time in five years, while preventing Elizabeth from reaching the final for the first time since the Minutemen last won the UCT in 2008.

Westfield defeated GL by the score of 5-3 in the 2014 final at Kean.

Monroy improved to 4-0, while Davey earned a save. Davey retired Elizabeth in order in the seventh.

The Minutemen produced RBI-singles in the first and fourth, with starting pitcher Josh Ciano – a sophomore right hander – driving in the second run with two outs to pull his team to within 5-2.

GL immediately took the lead in the bottom of the first – scoring three runs with two outs. DJ Gonnelli tied the game with an RBI-triple and Tyler McCulloch gave GL the lead for good with an RBI-double. Will Jennings followed with an RBI-triple of his own.

Elizabeth, which was 1-8 after a 15-1 Watchung Division home loss to Westfield on April 12, fell to 8-17. The Minutemen did a good job of getting batters to reach base the first six innings, but could only muster two runs.

GL’s final two runs – giving the Highlanders a 5-1 advantage – came on a two-run single delivered by junior Drew Compton in the bottom of the second.

For the second time in three games GL won by three runs, did not hit a home run and did not score in double digits after producing nine straight wins by 10 runs or more.

GL will enter Monday night’s UCT final with 41 home runs. Here is the breakdown: Danny Serretti 11, Stephen Reid 11, Drew Compton 9, DJ Gonnelli 2, Jack Pedini 2, Will Jennings 2, Andy Serretti 2, Tyler McCulloch 1 and Chris Bruno 1. Reid had a school-record streak of home runs hit in eight consecutive games.

In the nightcap, Westfield scored two runs after two outs in the bottom of the second to snap a scoreless tie, while Blue Devils senior left hander Cory Hiltz was in control.

Then Hiltz walked the bases loaded in the fourth – his first three walks – and on the 30th pitch he threw that inning he gave up an opposite field 3-run triple to right-center to Union’s No. 8 batter, sophomore designated hitter Gio Zuena.

Just like that Union was now leading 3-2 and thinking about playing Monday night.

However, Westfield had other ideas.

In the bottom of the fourth, Union starter Mike Velez pitched his first 1-2-3, including his fifth strikeout.

Union had first and second with one out in the top of the fifth, but failed to add on.

Then came a Westfield hitting barrage. Leadoff batter Matt McIntyre began the bottom of the fifth with a single up the middle. Andrew Caminiti followed with a single to left on the first pitch he saw. Union head coach Angel Navarrete then replaced Velez with senior righty Brandon Bedlivy.

Bedlivy was immediately ahead of Westfield’s next batter, Jake Lerie, at 0-2 before Lerie would move on to first base on catcher’s interference.

Next up for Westfield was 6-foot-4 cleanup batter Chris Wagner, Westfield’s senior first baseman. Wagner grounded out to second his first two times up against Velez.

“When they switched pitchers the second one (Bedlivy) didn’t throw as hard,” Wagner said. “We saw him twice this year and also last year.”

Ahead 2-1 in the count, Wagner took a level, upper cut swing at pitch No. 4 and sent it high over the right field fence – to the left of the 330 foot sign down the line – to put Westfield back in front for good at 6-3.

His third home run of the year was his first varsity grand slam.

“I sat back, he threw me a curve inside that hung a bit and I took a good swing,” Wagner said. “I could tell right off the bat that it was gone.”

Westfield senior catcher Jake Vall-Llobera followed with his second double, this one the opposite way to left field, and then after a strikeout a Westfield pinch hitter produced an opposite field RBI-single to right to make the score 7-3. Union junior right hander Zach Fernandez then came in and struck out the next two batters to end the fifth.

Westfield scored five runs on five hits in the fifth, despite striking out three times.

Wagner was also sharp in the field, ending the top of the sixth with an unassisted, inning-ending, double play. He caught a line drive and then quickly tagged the Union baserunner leading off first.

“The ball was hit pretty good, but right to me,” Wagner said.

Fernandez also struck out the side in the sixth for five strikeouts in one and two-thirds innings pitched. He did not give up any runs and yielded just one hit.

Westfield’s 10th and final hit was a double down the left field line that Lerie provided. Wagner was intentionally walked and then Fernandez struck out Vall-Llobera to end the sixth. Vall-Llobera was 2-for-4, with two doubles and two strikeouts.

Union leadoff batter Andrew Sanborn walked with one out in the seventh. He reached base all four times up, including on an infield hit in the first, an opposite field triple to right-center with two outs in the third and on a walk to lead off the fifth. Sanborn, one of the top sophomores in Union County, scored one run – Union’s final one in the seventh.

Union’s seventh continued with Jalen Bryant producing an opposite field single to right. Velez then fought off several pitches before striking out swinging on an eight-pitch at-bat. Cleanup batter Jerry Gamone was the hit by a pitch to load the bases.

Fernandez fouled off a couple of pitches to stay alive and keep the game going before he delivered an RBI-single to left to make the score 7-4.

With the bases loaded again, sophomore Dren Gojac grounded out to second for the game’s final out.

Westfield was the last team that beat GL. The teams split Watchung Division games, with GL beating Westfield 11-1 at home in six innings this past Tuesday.

“We know they have a good team and the top of their lineup is deadly,” Wagner said. “We just need to play like we played tonight and stay sharp.

“We have other good pitchers. I think we’ll need to produce offense early against them and just continue to play like we know how.”

Hiltz improved to 6-0 and entered Friday night’s game with an ERA of 1.48. In five innings plus one batter he allowed three runs on three hits while striking out 10 and walking four. He struck out the side in the third and the fourth.

Perez (2-1) was tagged with the loss. He previously beat Rahway and New Providence in UCT play. Perez gave up four runs on six hits in four complete plus two batters. He struck out five and walked two.

NOTES: Westfield advanced to the final for the second straight season. The last time the Blue Devils repeated as champions was when they won a record four straight from 1994-1997.

Union was denied reaching the final for the first time since 2012 when Westfield defeated the Farmers 13-3 in the championship game played that year at Elizabeth’s Williams Field.

This will be the sixth straight season that the UCT final is played at Kean.





SEEDS: 1-Westfield. 2-Scotch Plains. 3-Gov. Livingston. 4-Union.

5-New Providence. 6-Johnson. 7-Elizabeth. 8-Cranford.

9-Summit. 10-Union Catholic. 11-Roselle Park. 12-Oratory Prep.

13-Rahway. 14-Linden. 15-Plainfield. 16-Dayton.

17-Roselle Catholic.



Saturday, April 28

Dayton 13, Roselle Catholic 3 – at Dayton



Saturday, April 28

Cranford 8, Summit 7 – at Cranford

Union 8, Rahway 1 – at Union

Scotch Plains 11, Plainfield 6 – at Scotch Plains

Elizabeth 6, Union Catholic 1 – at Elizabeth

Gov. Livingston 15, Linden 1 – at GL

Johnson 11, Roselle Park 1 – at Johnson

Monday, April 30

Westfield 10, Dayton 0 – at Westfield

New Providence 2, Oratory Prep 0 – at New Providence



Saturday, May 5

Westfield 6, Cranford 3 – at Westfield

Union 11, New Providence 5 – at Union

Elizabeth 13, Scotch Plains 11 – at Scotch Plains

Gov. Livingston 11, Johnson 5 – at GL



Friday, May 11

At Kean University

Gov. Livingston 5, Elizabeth 2

Westfield 7, Union 4



Monday, May 14

At Kean University

3-Gov. Livingston vs. 1-Westfield, 7 p.m.