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Livingston's Tyler Chen and Columbia's hard-throwing Jared Carlucci both impressed with their work on the mound in Friday's North 1, Group 4 first round game at The Oval where the Cougars tied the contest, 2-2, as pinch runner Mike Erwin dived across the plate in the top of the fifth and then the Lancers went ahead for good in the bottom of inning as Alex Yang (21) beat the throw home to catcher Isaac Buchalter while scoring on John Marco Maiello's huge RBI hit. In bottom photo Livingston coach Mickey Ennis addresses Lancers after their win. (Photos by Gene Nann-

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Livingston, meanwhile, overcame a tough start vs. the hard-throwing Carlucci who had begun the game by striking out six of the first eight batters he faced, by staging a critical, 2-out rally that netted a pair of runs without the benefit of a base hit.

Leadoff batter Julian Schultz, who had a beautiful bunt single in his first at bat, started the rally when he was hit by a pitch. Then, the next four Lancer batters worked walks forcing in a pair of runs as Livingston took a 2-1 lead before Carlucci was able to record his seventh strikeout in the first three frames.

Columbia battled back in the fifth inning as Nolan Secor led off with a bad hop single into center field and Eric Donaty hit a solid single to left field advancing Secor to second. Zac Calveric then sent a ground ball to the left side that the Lancers tried to turn into a double play with a force at second but the throw to first was late and pinch runner Mike Erwin raced home to tie the score 2-2.

Livingston responded in the bottom of the fifth with what proved to be the game-winning run as Alex Yang drew worked a walk and scored on a hard hit opposite-field RBI single by John Marco Maiello.     

“I had struggled in my first at bat striking out looking then got a walk for an RBI my next time up which gave me a lot of confidence as I came up for my third time against Carlucci,” said Livingston’s junior catcher and No. 5 hitter. “Then I knew that I had to go to the right side of the field because he’s throwing hard, and that’s something we had been practicing all week so I knew to try and go the other way.”

Then it was up to Chen to finish the work he had started, and although he allowed baserunners in both the sixth and seventh inning he prevented any real difficulty by securing outs by his fielders to complete a superb and efficient 84-pitch effort in the rather tidy 1-hour and 56-minute game.

“Carlucci is a phenomenal pitcher and Columbia was not a matchup we looked forward to because we know what they are capable of, especially with him on the mound,” said Livingston coach Mickey Ennis. “But, we were eventually able to lay off his high fast ball, and our kids just had better approaches and stopped going after those pitches up and out of the strike zone.
“In the end, it was all about Tyler Chen and another big effort by him, which provided a huge lift for us today!”

NOTES- Carlucci, who was also a superb basketball forward for Columbia last winter, left Friday’s game after throwing 104 pitches in five strenuous innings of work, including a strenuous 39-pitch third inning when he went to a full count on four consecutive batters before walking all of them and forcing home two runs…Oliver Ellis came in in relief and worked a scoreless sixth for the Cougars…The young Lancers have an all-underclassmen starting rotation with juniors Chen, Max Peri and Schultz and sophomore Adam Goldberg…Livingston last won a N1G4 title in 2021 defeating Passaic Tech in the final.  

North 1, Group 4 first round:
(14) COLUMBIA (9-16-1)      010  100  0   - 2 R 7 H 2 E
(3) LIVINGSTON (19-7-1)     002  010  X    -3 R 2 H 1 E
2B- Columbia- Jared Carlucci
WP- Tyler Chen LP- Jared Carlucci  

North 1, Group 4 State Tournament:
First Round:
(1) Ridgewood 10 (16) Memorial 0
(8) North Bergen 3 (9) Passaic 1
(12) Morristown 3 (5) Barringer 0
(4) Montclair 13 (13) West Orange 3
(3) Livingston 3 (14) Columbia 2
(6) Passaic Tech 8 (11) Kearny 1
(10) Fair Lawn 2 (7) Union City 0
(2) Hackensack 4 (15) Bloomfield 0

Sectional Quarterfinals, Wednesday, May 29:
North Bergen at Ridgewood
Morristown at Montclair
Passaic Tech at Livingston
Fair Lawn at Hackensack

Sectional Semis, Friday, May 31, and final, Monday, June 3, at higher seed

Follow Steve Tober on 'X' (formerly Twitter) @Chattermeister

Columbia's Jared Carlucci (8) hammers an RBI double in second inning for early 1-0 lead by Cougars; however - ultimately - the Lancers could jump for joy with a first round win.

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