Goldan leads Saint Joseph Metuchen to seventh Greater Middlesex Conference Championship

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The Saint Joseph High School baseball team celebrates winning its seventh Greater Middlesex Conference championship with a 2-0 victory over South Brunswick on June 6 in East Brunswick. STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Saint Joseph High School starting pitcher Andrew Goldan gets a fist bump from teammates after helping the Falcons win the Greater Middlesex Conference championship on June 6 in East Brunswick. STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Saint Joseph High School starting pitcher Andrew Goldan fires in a strike during the Greater Middlesex Conference championship game against South Brunswick on June 6 in East Brunswick. Goldan had 10 strikeouts in the contest. STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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South Brunswick High School left fielder Jared Lauri slides into third base safely during the Greater Middlesex Conference championship game on June 6 in East Brunswick. STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Saint Joseph High School second baseman Jack Kern fields the ground ball and then throws out the runner at first base during the Greater Middlesex Conference championship game on June 6 in East Brunswick. Kern had an RBI for the Falcons in the contest. STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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South Brunswick High School starting pitcher Frankie Sanchez tosses a pitch to home plate during the Greater Middlesex Conference championship game on June 6 in East Brunswick. South Brunswick finishes the season with a 14-10 record. STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Saint Joseph High School designated hitter Christian Azcona slaps a base hit to right field during the Greater Middlesex Conference championship game on June 6 in East Brunswick. Saint Joseph won 2-0. STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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South Brunswick High School center fielder Neel Telivedara reaches base safely on an error during the Greater Middlesex Conference championship game on June 6 in East Brunswick. STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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The Saint Joseph High School baseball team celebrates winning its seventh Greater Middlesex Conference championship with a 2-0 victory over South Brunswick on June 6 in East Brunswick. STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Saint Joseph High School starting pitcher Andrew Goldan gets a fist bump from teammates after helping the Falcons win the Greater Middlesex Conference championship on June 6 in East Brunswick. STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Saint Joseph High School starting pitcher Andrew Goldan fires in a strike during the Greater Middlesex Conference championship game against South Brunswick on June 6 in East Brunswick. Goldan had 10 strikeouts in the contest. STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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South Brunswick High School left fielder Jared Lauri slides into third base safely during the Greater Middlesex Conference championship game on June 6 in East Brunswick. STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Saint Joseph High School second baseman Jack Kern fields the ground ball and then throws out the runner at first base during the Greater Middlesex Conference championship game on June 6 in East Brunswick. Kern had an RBI for the Falcons in the contest. STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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South Brunswick High School starting pitcher Frankie Sanchez tosses a pitch to home plate during the Greater Middlesex Conference championship game on June 6 in East Brunswick. South Brunswick finishes the season with a 14-10 record. STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Saint Joseph High School designated hitter Christian Azcona slaps a base hit to right field during the Greater Middlesex Conference championship game on June 6 in East Brunswick. Saint Joseph won 2-0. STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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South Brunswick High School center fielder Neel Telivedara reaches base safely on an error during the Greater Middlesex Conference championship game on June 6 in East Brunswick. STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF

When Andrew Goldan woke up on June 6, the junior right-hander for the Saint Joseph High School baseball team in Metuchen was “ready” to take the rubber and lead the Falcons to a Greater Middlesex Conference (GMC) championship.

Confidence running through his veins, Goldan put together a brilliant masterpiece on the hill to help Saint Joseph finish atop the GMC for the first time since 2017.

Goldan tossed 6 2/3 scoreless innings with 10 strikeouts to power Saint Joseph to a 2-0 victory over South Brunswick High School at Raymond J. Cipperly Field in East Brunswick to win the program’s seventh conference championship.

“Nothing feels better than this,” Goldan said after the game.”It felt great to get the ball in a big championship game and have the trust of my coaches to give me the ball in a big situation. My command was on today. Everything was working for me.”

Coaching his 2021 squad to a conference championship is one of the most “satisfying” moments for Mike Murray in his tenure as head coach of the Falcons.

Coming off a lost 2020 season due to the coronavirus pandemic and only having one true position player in Colin Leyner with varsity experience, Murray said he is very proud of what his young team was able to accomplish in winning a conference title.

“To take a group of players who were learning varsity baseball for the first time to a conference championship is really fun,” Murray said. “We had six great seniors who lost out on their junior year and did a good job this year.”

What was most impressive about Goldan’s brilliance on the mound was his composure to escape trouble when the Vikings had runners on base.

South Brunswick was set up with runners on first and third with one out in the second inning, but Goldan quickly erased the threat by racking up back-to-back strikeouts to keep the Vikings off the board.

He did the same thing in the fourth inning, only this time striking out the side to eliminate another golden opportunity that South Brunswick had with runners on second and third.

Goldan said pitching with runners on base “don’t bother him” as he just turns his attention to the batter and focuses on “throwing strikes”.

Coming in as a transfer from Watchung Hills Regional High School, Goldan said he couldn’t be happier with the success he has had at Saint Joseph in his first full season as a Falcon.

“It’s really been great being able to build that trust with the coaching staff to where they want to give me the ball and trust me to throw whatever I want,” Goldan said. “It’s great to know that I have that trust and support behind me.”

Saint Joseph gave Goldan a lead to work with in the bottom of the second inning, manufacturing a run with Xavier Arana drawing a walk with the bases loaded to go up 1-0.

The Falcons would add their second run of the contest in the third inning.

Junior second baseman Jack Kern laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt that led to Ryan Kim scoring from third base to make it a two-run lead for the Falcons.

That was plenty enough for Goldan, who racked up six scoreless innings under his belt heading into the top of the seventh inning.

Three outs away from helping his squad win a conference title, Goldan powered through the first two batters he faced with back-to-back strikeouts, giving him his second double-digit strikeout performance this spring.

However, Goldan’s tenth strikeout ended up being his last batter of the game as he had hit the 110 pitch limit and the Falcons had to make a pitching change to get the last out of the contest.

Saint Joseph turned to Leyner to finish the job.

A moment he had been dreaming about for the “longest time”, Leyner took the ball and secured his team a championship, striking out the only batter he faced to end the game.

“This is definitely one of the best moments of my life,” Leyner said. “I love this team. I poured my heart out for everyone to end the season on a win and get to celebrate a championship.”

In total, Goldan and Leyner combined for a three-hit complete-game shutout with 11 strikeouts between them.

Emotions ran wild for Leyner after the game. It meant a lot to him to finish out his career as a Falcon with a conference championship, especially since he saw firsthand what happened last year with COVID-19 and the Class of 2020 not being able to compete for a conference title.

“Winning the GMC means a lot,” he said. “I did it for all the 15 seniors from last year that didn’t get a chance to play.”

Murray also had high praise for last year’s senior class, saying the 15 players were a “special group” that he felt could have helped Saint Joseph win a conference championship and also make a run at a sectional title last year.

That was made clear with Saint Joseph making a run to the Final Four of the South Jersey Bracket in the Last Dance World Series last summer.

The Last Dance World Series was a statewide tournament that Murray helped create to give high school baseball players a chance to play during the pandemic, especially his seniors from the Class of 2020.

Fast forward to now as he stands at the helm of his second conference championship team as coach of the Falcons, Murray is thrilled with where the program is headed and believes that has come with relationships developed from past players to current players.

“We’ve tried to build something here where we have former players passing the baton down to the next set of guys to put a banner up,” Murray said. “We’re trying to connect some great teams. The last 15-18 years have been really good for Saint Joseph baseball and we’re trying to keep that going.”

Saint Joseph finishes the season with an 18-11 record. South Brunswick ends its 2021 campaign with a mark of 14-10.