Ryan Wydra (@SCHoops1)
Gov Livingston 10, Bernards 4
The Gov. Livingston Highlanders defeated the Bernards Moutaineers 10-4 in the Group II State Championship Game. Gov Livingston improved to 28-6 on the season and Coach Chris Roof picked up his 300th career win. Dan Belfer pitched 5 and1/3 great innings, throwing 90 pitches, finishing with seven strikeouts, and only giving up three runs. Mike Falk finished with 4 RBI’s, batting 2/3 with a solo home run, a 2 run double, and a walk. John Tedesco also batted 2/3 with an RBI double, and a single in the game.
Dan Belfer got into a little trouble early, as the Mountaineers came out swinging. Two quick singles from Luke Bowerbank and Jake Cawley had Bernards threatening early in the game. Bernards had the bases loaded as Belfer would face Matt Taylor. Belfer was able to do what he has done time and time again, remain focused in a tough situation. Belfer would strike out Taylor, and the Mountaineers were left with three runners on. This was the first missed opportunity in the game for Bernards.
Gov Livingston would immediately answer back with a base hit by SS Danny Serretti. Bernards starting pitcher Kyle Oliver walked Ethan Frohman to give the Highlanders two runners on. Oliver would struggle early in the game as he walked two batters. All of a sudden, the Highlanders were now in scoring position with the bases loaded. This would set the stage for Mike Falk to begin his monster day as he blasted a two run double to give his team a 2-0 lead. Oliver was off to a shaky start throwing 28 pitches in the first.
No runs would score in the second inning as Dan Belfer would keep Bernards in check. Belfer pitched a 1-2-3 second inning, striking out Devin Rivera, and Ryan Deleon, then forcing another batter into a groundout. Belfer was turning a corner as his command was very strong. Bernards were having trouble figuring him out. Gov Livingston would come right back with a base hit from Brian Cranston. Kyle Oliver would walk Danny Serretti, and the Highlanders were in good position with runners on first and second. Oliver would force a flyout to end the inning, and strand the Gov Livingston runners.
Gov Livingston continued their strong defense into the third. Belfer threw a low pitch to Kyle Oliver, and JP Tantleff tried to run from first to second. The Highlanders catcher made an outstanding throw to pickoff Tantleff to give Bernards two outs. Belfer would finish the inning, striking out Oliver to pick up his fourth K of the afternoon.
Mike Falk picked up right where he left off in the first, drilling a solo home run all the way toward the Ken Frank Baseball sign to give the Highlanders a 3-0 lead. Falk was really showing how powerful he can be at the plate. The Highlanders also got a single from John Tedesco, but Kyle Oliver would work his way through the 3rd giving up only the home run.
Bernards would bring in Danny McDonnell to replace Kyle Oliver. Oliver threw 61 pitches finishing with a strikeout, giving up four hits and three runs. Unfortunatey, it would be a rough afternoon for McDonnell.
Gov Livingston would blow the game open in the fourth, with their biggest offensive surge of the afternoon. Ryan Zucker got on first after a Bernards error on a ground ball. Brian Cranston would advance Zucker with a sacrifice bunt and the Highlanders had two runners on. Nicky Cocchia would follow that up with a single, and McDonnell would walk Danny Serietti to load the bases for Gov. Livingston. Ethan Frohman ripped an RBI single, McDonnell walked two more batters with the bases loaded, and Dan Belfer hit a sacrifice fly to score four runs in the fourth for the Highlanders. They would take their biggest lead of the game at 7-0.
However, Bernards was not ready to concede just yet. The Mountaineers were ready to make a stand in the fifth. Luke Bowerbank blasted a 2 run homer way beyond the fence to get Bernards on the board. Bowerbank had his second hit of the day after getting a single in the first. Kyle Oliver ripped a long double out into center field and the Mountaineers were showing signs of life. Bernards would get two runners on after a base hit from Carter Klein, but it was Dan Belfer who would remain in command. Belfer forced Jake Cawley into a groundball to get the final out. Gov Livingston kept Bernards from getting anymore runs in the fifth.
Bernards would cut the deficit to 7-4 in the sixth inning after an RBI double from Danny McDonnell and a sacrifice fly by Luke Bowerbank to drive in Ryan Deleon. Dan Belfer was replaced by Nicky Cocchia in the beginning of the sixth after McDonnell drove the run in. Cocchia would step up in relief, striking out JP Tantleff to end the inning. The Mountaineers were still within three runs.
Gov Livingston would begin the bottom of the 6th as if they needed it. Even though he was no longer pitching, Dan Belfer was not done yet. Belfter hit a long RBI single into right field to give the Highlanders an 8-4 lead. Belfer just kept finding ways to close the door on Bernards. The Highlanders also got consecutive 2 RBI doubles from John Tedesco and Ryan Zucker to put them in front 10-4.
Only three outs stood between Nicky Cocchia and the biggest save of his life. When you talk about having the weight of the world on your shoulders, the relief pitcher had just that and more. Bernards came out firing as Kyle Oliver hit an infield single, but it was Cocchia who would shine in the brightest moment. With one runner on, Cocchia would strike out Carter Klein, and Jake Cawley would flyout. Bernards were down to their final out, and Matt Taylor was up to give the Mountaineers their last chance. With a 2-2 pitch count, Cocchia was able to get Taylor looking, and the game was over!!
Lots of fans stormed the field at Ken Frank Stadium to congratulate the Gov Livingston Highlanders on winning the Group II State Championship. Many people made the trip all the way down from Somerset County to support these kids. The best teams are able to execute on the biggest stage, and the Highlanders were able to do just that today. Every time Bernards tried to get back in the game, Gov Livingston was just one step ahead. What an outstanding job by Coach Chris Roof and his staff, and the players who were able to make the big plays. Dan Belfer picked up the biggest win of his high school career, and Nicky Cocchia was able to protect that with the save.
NJSR had a chance to catch up with pitcher Dan Belfer, and first baseman Mike Falk after the game.
Millburn 11, Williamstown 3
The Millburn Millers defeated the Williamstown Braves 11-3 to win the Group IV State Championships. Millburn scored 11 runs on 11 hits in the game. Kevin Czepalski pitched six innings for the Millers, finishing with five strikeouts, giving up six hits and two runs. Ryan Adelman finished 2/4 with 2 RBI’s. Max Birner also batted 2/3 with a 2 RBI double in the game.
Millburn got on the board in the second inning as Max Birner ripped an RBI single into left field. Nick Minter also hit a single to put Milburn in scoring position with runners on first and third. Ryan Adelman picked up an RBI on a the first of two squeeze plays, along with an E1 to put Millburn on top 2-0. Milburn continued their offensive ways in the second getting a single from Jordan Brisgel. Richie Schiekofer would hit a sacrifice fly to drive in another run. Millburn had a 3-0 lead in the second.
Millburn would add another run in the third after getting an RBI single from Max Jacobs who got to second on the go ahead. A sacrifice fly from Max Birner would again put the Millers in scoring position, but it was Tyler Apt that would fight hard to get Williamstown out of the inning. Apt picked up his second strikeout of the day on Nick Minter to get the Braves defense off the field.
Williamstown would come out swinging in the bottom of the third as Nick D’Alessandro blasted a lead off double on the second pitch to get momentum in their favor. Ross Micka followed that up with a long sacrifice fly that was nearly a home run and the Braves were on the board, trailing Millburn 4-1.
Millburn would have their best inning of the game, getting four runs on three hits in the fourth. Williamstown got another squeeze play after getting consecutive hits from Ryan Adelman, Richie Schiekofer, and Johnny Serruto which made it 5-1. This led Williamstown to go to the bullpen. Coach Joe Smith went with Sophomore Max Keegan. A Max Jacobs sacrifice fly, and Max Kirner getting to first after an error would make it 7-1. Keegan would strike out Mike Garawitz to end the inning as Millburn took an 8-1 lead.
Sophomore Max Keegan looked very impressive in the later stages of the game. Keegan pitched a 1-2-3 fifth inning striking out Nick Minter and Ryan Garawitz for a total of 3 K’s. Keegan is going to be a strong pitcher for Williamstown in the future.
Millburn would score two more runs in the sixth after a 2 RBi double by Max Birner. Max Keegan found a way out of the sixth as he forced Mike Garawitz into a pop up fly. Keegan was fighting hard to keep the Braves in the game.
Williamstown would have their best inning in the bottom of the sixth. Devon Jeffries came off the bench to rip a single into left field to get the crowd back into it. Tyler Apt also hit a single to put two runners on for the Braves. Steve Hawk hit his third straight single to load the bases. This would set the stage for Tommy Gibson to drive in Jeffries with a sacrifice fly. It was 10-2 Millburn after six.
Millburn scored another run in the bottom of the seventh after a Nick Minter double set up a Ryan Adelman sacrifice fly to drive another run in. Millburn continued to get runners on after a single from Richie Schiekofer and a double from Johnny Serruto. Milburn was in scoring position again, but the Braves left them stranded after Kevin Czapelski flied out.
The Millers were three outs away from winning the Group IV State Championship. Coach Brian Chapman replaced Kevin Czapelski with Max Jacobs in the seventh. This would be Jacob’s save opportunity with a lot of runs to help him. However, the Braves were not done yet. Anthony Rocabaldo hit a line drive single into left field to get the Williamstown offense going. Nick D’Alessandro also fought back with a single of his own. The Braves were in a good position with two runners on and no outs. This gave Dan Mussili an opportunity, and he made good on it, driving in a run on a single. The Millburn lead was at 11-3. Jacobs would force a flyout, and Millburn would pick off the runner trying to steal at third to seal the game. Max Jacobs had secured the win. The Millburn Millers were the 2015 Group IV State Champions.
The Millers finished the season 26-6 and had passed their final test, on their way to a state championship. Millburn relied on fundamentals and small ball to earn their victory on Saturday afternoon. Millburn used squeeze plays, and stolen bases to get multiple runners on to drive in as many runs as possible. Kevin Czapelski pitched a solid game and did not give up many runs. Ryan Adelman, Max Birner, Nick Minter, and Johnny Serruto were all there to help lead the team to victory.
This game finishes an outstanding run for the South Jersey Group IV Champion Williamstown Braves. Williamstown were one of the most improved teams in New Jersey. Monroe Twp will miss this senior class as they took the community on one of the greatest runs in history. This program has a bright future with Coach Joe Smith at the helm, and Assistants Greg Lopez and JR Tolbert working with him.
NJSR had a chance to catch up with Millburn pitcher Kevin Czapelski after the game-
In other State Final Scores
Non Public B State Championship-
Holy Spirit 9, Newark Academy 4
Group III State Championship-
South Plainfield 8, Northern Burlington 4