CJII CHAMPIONSHIP GAME PREVIEW: SPOTSWOOD AT G.L.
CENTRAL GROUP II FINAL
Who: No. 11 seed Spotswood (13-12) vs. No. 4 seed Governor Livingston (22-8).
When/where: 4 p.m. today/Governor Livingston High School.
How they got here: Spotswood defeated No. 6 seed Cinnaminson 9-7; No. 14 seed Rumson-Fair Haven 14-13 and No. 15 seed Manasquan 9-8; Governor Livingston defeated No. 13 seed Delaware Valley 2-0, No. 5 seed Raritan 10-0 and No. 8 seed Summit 9-4.
Spotswood outlook: A brutal schedule prepared the battle-tested Chargers for the postseason. Spotswood beat North 2 Group IV finalist Edison and defending Group III champion J.F. Kennedy. Spotswood took its lumps against perennial powers Immaculata, Hunterdon Central and two-time Greater Middlesex Conference Tournament finalist North Brunswick, getting outscored 40-14 in those games combined. Spotswood features one of the state's best players in senior shortstop Cody Pace (.554, 24 RBI, 5 HRs). Nineteen of Pace's 36 hits have gone for extra bases. A converted reliever, Pace (4-2, 2.91) has won two of Spotswood's three state tournament games. He is scheduled to start the sectional final and is available to throw five innings. The emergence of the bottom third of the batting order (Anthony Pietanza, Dean Vitale and Ron Santana) has enabled Spotswood to extend two-out rallies, a key factor in two comeback tournament wins. Santana took over for left field for Joe Cappa, who broke his elbow in a late regular-season game against East Brunswick. Mike Liming (.417), Matt Mangarella (.354) and Pietanza (.307) are the team's other top hitters.
Governor Livingston outlook: This is the third time the Highlanders have played Spotswood in the sectional tournament and the third time they have reached the sectional final in coach Chris Roof's seven seasons. Governor Livingston beat Spotswood in 2006 for the sectional title, then lost to Hanover Park in the state final. The Highlanders, beaten in last year's final by Shore, lost in the 2007 quarterfinals to the Chargers. Junior right-hander Mike Cranston (8-2, 2.87) will get the start. Cranston has walked just eight batters in 54 innings and has struck out 51. He has allowed 61 hits. The team's defense, led by senior third baseman Mike Reilly and senior left fielder Jake Skinner, has been sound. The Highlanders are averaging just 1.3 errors per game. Roof believes the Highlanders have been tested, having seen opponent's No. 1 or No. 2 starters. Skinner has five of the club's 19 homers and also leads in RBIs with 26. Senior right fielder Paul Mirabelli is hitting a team-leading .422. Sophomore center fielder Billy Worswick has scored 29 runs. The Highlanders are hitting .343 as a team.