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PACE LEADS SPOTSWOOD TO CJII TITLEBERKELEY HEIGHTS — Spotswood High School senior Cody Pace did quite a bit Friday afternoon in leading the Chargers to a 7-5 win over Governor Livingston and their second NJSIAA Central Group II title in four years.
Of course, this wasn't a one-man tale.
The Chargers (14-12), who started the tournament as a No. 11 seed, had anactive supporting cast behind Pace in eliminating fourth-seed Governor Livingston (23-8).
Pace pitched a complete-game, started a pretty 1-6-3 DP in the bottom of the seventh, and hit a pivotal two-run, two-out, opposite-field homer to left-center in the sixth. Senior first baseman Mike Liming hit his first homer of the year — a three-run blast in the first and designated hitter Anthony Pietenza clubbed a two-run shot later in the inning to give the Chargers a great start and a 5-0 lead.
The Chargers, who won the state title in 2007, will play South champ Audubon 4 p.m. Tuesday at Rutgers in the Group II semifinal.
"The expectation level was so different from 2007 to this year; the 2007 team was expected to win it all. We actually said we were going to do it and we did," Chargers coach Glen Fredericks said. "This year, earlier in the year, we said we were going to do it, but we were unsure of ourselves. But the kids kept battling. They never lost faith."
"We weren't favored to win this at all, we just played with heart the whole way," Pace said.Governor Livingston cut the Chargers' lead to 5-4 after two innings, but Pace and junior catcher Shawn Weeks restored order. Weeks threw out two would-be base stealers in the fourth and fifth innings after a leadoff single and walk.
"Whenever somebody steals, no matter curveball or fastball or anything I'm still going to throw the ball as hard as I can," Weeks said. "Cody is going to help me out with his slide step. On the curveball we saw him breaking and I threw it where it had to be."
Pace hit a Cranston changeup away for the two-run shot off Cranston in the sixth that extended the lead to 7-4. Half of Pace's 38 hits this year have gone for extra bases. His homer was his sixth.
"He threw one away and I just timed it up and hit it the other way," Pace said.
Pace, the team's shortstop when he's not pitching, jokes that he isn't really a pitcher, Weeks said.
"We make a joke with Cody all the time when he's on the mound," Weeks said. "He says he's not a pitcher. So we say we're nervous when he's on the mound. But we know we're hoping he has it. He knows where to put the ball, he hits the spots. He's actually a pitcher, though we won't tell him that."
Mike Rielly led off the seventh with a single. Pace then got Tyler Martis on the 1-6-3 double play. But Billy Worswick walked and moved to second on an infield error and Jake Skinner followed with an RBI single to right to make it 7-5. But on the next pitch, Pace got Paul Mirabelli to ground to second to send Spotswood to another state Group II semifinal.
"I was just pitching on pure adrenaline, I didn't have much in the tank, but I knew I had to get this win," said Pace, now 5-2.
Pace struck out three, walked three and allowed nine hits.
Spotswood 7, Gov. Livingston 5 (High school Baseball scores and results)
By Chris Orlando
Cody Pace of Spotswood has come through when his team has needed him the most this season time after time.
Yesterday was no exception.
Pace, a senior right-hander, delivered a gutsy effort on the mound and hit a big two-run home run in the sixth inning to lift Spotswood to a 7-5 victory over Gov. Livingston in the championship game of the NJSIAA/Star-Ledger Central Jersey, Group 2 tournament yesterday at Gov. Livingston in Berkeley Heights.
Spotswood (14-12), which last won a sectional title in 2007, will meet Audubon in a Group 2 semifinal on Tuesday at Rutgers at 4 p.m. Gov. Livingston (23-9) was also seeking its first sectional title since 2007.
Spotswood, which struck for five runs in the top of the first, held a 5-4 edge before Pace hit a two-run home run to left-center with two out in the top of the sixth to push the lead to 7-4.
Gov. Livingston’s Mike Rielly led off the seventh with a single but was erased from the base paths on a 1-6-3 double play. Pace then issued a walk to Billy Worswick and Joey DiSarno reached on an error before Jake Skinner lined an RBI single to right to cut the Union County school’s deficit to 7-5.
Pace, headed to Montclair State in the fall, then got the final out on a groundout to second.
“I wasn’t really nervous because we had a couple of runs to work with, but I was going on pure adrenaline,” said Pace, who totaled 126 pitches. “This is an awesome feeling. We were the 11th seed coming in and definitely not the favorite.”
Pace, now 5-2, had the game-winning hit as well as the victory in relief as Spotswood defeated Manasquan, 9-8, on Tuesday in the sectional semifinal round.
“This team has had a lot of challenges this year but never lost faith,” said Spotswood coach Glenn Fredricks. “And Cody gave a great effort again. Both pitchers really pitched well after the first inning.”
Spotswood, on the strength of a three-run home run by Mike Liming and a two-run blast by Anthony Pietanza, took a 5-0 lead in the first against Gov. Livingston starter Mike Cranston.
Gov. Livingston responded with three runs right back in the frst. DiSarno singled and eventually scored on an error, John Jennings brought in another run with a long fly out and Skinner added an RBI single.
Billy Worswick led off the second with a deep home run to left to bring Gov. Livingston to 5-4.
Cranston, who entered the game with an 8-2 mark and a 2.87 ERA, settled down after the initial fame and only allowed one hit before Pietanza led off the sixth with an infield hit. He finished with 128 pitches.
“That first inning punched us in the gut, but we chipped away and fought back,” said Gov. Livingston coach Chris Roof, who has guided his team to the sectional final round in three of the last five seasons.
Gov. Livingston defeat Spotswood, 6-1, for the sectional crown in 2006 but fell to its Middlesex foe, 12-2, in five innings in the sectional quarters the following year.
One of the highlights yesterday was the great diving catch made by Skinner, who, with a runner on second, came running in from left field and robbed Pace of a sure extra-base hit and RBI. That kept the game a one-run affair.
“Mike did a great job of shutting them down, but for three innings we didn’t do anything with it,” said Skinner, who will attend Wesleyan College. “It’s a tough game to lose but it’s been great to play here. We’ve accomplished a lot.”
Errors - Spotswood 2, Gov. Livingston 0.
2B - Gov. Livingston: Keith Skinner.
HR - Spotswood: Cody Pace , Mike Liming , Anthony Pietanza. Gov. Livingston: Billy Worswick.
IP H R ER BB SO
Cody Pace W, 5-2 7 9 5 4 3 3
Gov. Livingston Pitching
IP H R ER BB SO
Mike Cranston L, 8-3 7 7 7 7 4 9
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.