Cranford, Dayton baseball one win away from playing for state championships; Cougars face Mount Olive, Bulldogs take on Ridgefield

On Friday, May 27, 2011, the defending North 2, Group 3 champion Cranford baseball team lost at home to Mendham 7-3 in a N2, G3 quarterfinal.

Somewhat remarkably, the Cougars have not lost a state tournament game since.

Cranford takes a 16-game state tournament winning streak into Tuesday’s scheduled Group 3 semifinal vs. MountOlive at Belleville High.

Cranford, 17-6 and winners of three straight and seven of its last eight, dominated West Essex 14-4 in Friday’s North 2, Group 3 final at Cranford’s Memorial Field.

MountOlive, 22-6 and winners of 14 straight, held on to defeat visiting Mahwah 3-2 in Friday’s North 1, Group 3 championship game. MountOlive captured its first sectional title since 1991 over a Mahwah program that was coming off two straight North 1, Group 2 crowns.

Cranford was sparked by the hitting of seniors Jack McCaffery, Matt Ravetier and Tommy Trotter and also by winning pitcher in relief, Patrick Knight, in its 10-run victory over perennial Essex County power West Essex.

Cranford’s success in state tournament play the past three seasons is simply a continuance of Cougar dominance in that arena under head coach Dennis McCaffery, who took over the reigns in 1999 after serving as an assistant coach under best friend James Shriner during the 1996, 1997 and 1998 seasons.

The two RosellePark products started something special 18 years ago and there are no signs of this machine slowing down.

However, that does not guarantee Cranford a victory over MountOlive. The Cougars will have to find a way to step up to the challenge of facing a MorrisCounty squad that is unknown to them.

When Cranford repeated as Group 3 state champions for the first time 12 months ago it was pretty much expected by many that there might be somewhat of a drop off, considering the loss of talent to graduation, including left-hander Ryan Williamson to North Carolina State and catcher Chris Folinusz to Rutgers – both of those standouts all-state performers.

Yet here is Cranford, once again, just seven innings or more away from making plans to play in TomsRiver for another state championship.

This will be the 60th state game for Cranford under McCaffery’s tenure, with the Cougar record in the first 59 an impressive 47-12 (.797).

Cranford has never played MountOlive in a state tournament game since 1999 nor has the Cougars played a state contest at Belleville in the span.

McCaffery’s record going into Tuesday’s game is 337-96 (.778) for his 16 seasons at the helm.

This run all started with pitcher Pat Maher beating West Morris in Cranford’s first state game in 1999 and then Maher beat Morristown in the sectional final, going the distance in both of those victories.

Senior right-hander Tom Polito won at top-seeded Mendham in the 2001 N2, G3 semifinals, with Mendham winning North 2, Group 2 the year before. Polito is the only pitcher to win three Union County Tournament championship games and finished with a three-year varsity record of 27-1, that included 6-0 his sophomore year in 1999, 12-1 his junior season in 2000 and 9-0 his senior campaign in 2001.

Polito’s only loss was to Hamilton West in the 2000 Group 3 state championship game at East Brunswick Tech. He was also 9-0 in UCT competition, including 4-0 in 2000 and 2001.

Cranford was 23-3 in 1996, 27-2 and Group 3 state champions for the first time in 1997 and 21-3 in 1998. Add those three seasons to the last 16 and the Cranford record since the first game of the 1996 season is presently 408-104 (.797).

That’s 304 games over .500. Not many public schools in New Jersey can rival that since 1996.

Cranford is two wins away from winning a third straight Group 3 state championship, fourth in five years and fifth overall.

Cranford’s first of its five state championships and the only one before 1997 came in 1971 when the Cougars captured the first Group 4 state championship game that was played.

In his 16 seasons, McCaffery has guided the Cougars to nine sectional titles, three state championships (winning one each at all three Toms River high schools), 10 20-win seasons and five 25-win campaigns, not to mention a perfect 8-0 record in UCT championship games, which are all of Cranford’s eight county titles.

Here’s a look at Cranford’s results in sectional finals, group semifinals and group finals under McCaffery:

 

SECTIONAL FINALS (9-2, won 5 in a row):

1999: North 2, Group 3 – Cranford 6, Morristown 3 – at Ridge

2000: North 2, Group 3 – Cranford 8, Parsippany 6 – at Ridge

2001: North 2, Group 3 – Nutley 5, Cranford 3 – at Ridge

2003: North 2, Group 3 – Cranford 6, Millburn 5 – at Ridge

2005: CJ, Group 2 – Cranford 2, Bordentown – at Cranford

2006: North 2, Group 3 – Morristown 4, Cranford 3 (8 inn.) – at Cranford

2007: North 2, Group 3 – Cranford 5, West Morris 4 – at Cranford

2010: North 2, Group 3 – Cranford 9, Morristown 8 (8 inn.) – at Cranford

2012: North 2, Group 3 – Cranford 7, West Morris 0 – at Cranford

2013: North 2, Group 3 – Cranford 5, South Plainfield 1 – at Cranford

2014: North 2, Group 3 – Cranford 14, West Essex 4 – at Cranford

 

GROUP SEMIFINALS (6-2, won 4 in a row):

1999: Demarest 6, Cranford 1 – at Watchung Hills

2000:Cranford 8, Sparta 4 – at Jaroschak Field, Jersey City

2003:Cranford 16, Paramus 1 (6 inn.) – at Union

2005: Seneca 12, Cranford 2 – at New Egypt

2007:Cranford 12, Montville 10 – at Elizabeth

2010:Cranford 7, Lakeland 1 – at KeanUniversity

2012:Cranford 7, West Milford 4 – at RamapoCollege

2013:Cranford 12, Paramus 7 – at Elizabeth

2014:Cranford vs. MountOlive – at Belleville

 

GROUP FINALS (3-3, won 3 in a row):

2000:Hamilton West 5, Cranford 0 – at East Brunswick Tech

2003:TomsRiver South 9, Cranford 4 – at TomsRiver North

2007: Seneca 5, Cranford 2 – at TomsRiver South

2010:Cranford 15, Ocean City 3 (5 inn.) – at TomsRiver North

2012:Cranford 4, Freehold Borough 1 – at TomsRiver South

2013:Cranford 4, BurlingtonTownship 2 – at TomsRiver East

 

 

DAYTON, AGAIN, ONE STEP CLOSER TO PLAYING

FOR PROGRAM’S FIRST STATE CHAMPIONSHIP

 

On Tuesday, May 29, 2012, Dayton ventured to BergenCounty to face a Ridgefield squad in a North 2, Group 1 semifinal.

Mother Nature did not allow the game to come to a conclusion that day, with Dayton trailing Ridgefield 2-1 in the bottom of the fifth when the game was halted due to darkness after a rain delay.

Third-seeded Dayton came back the next day and was edged by second-seeded Ridgefield 3-2 in eight innings. It was a tough loss for an up-and-coming Bulldogs squad that for the third year in a row fell in the N2, G1 semifinals.

While Ridgefield went on to win North 2, Group 1 two years ago, Dayton finally got over the hump last year by winning N2, G1 for its first-ever sectional championship.

Then Dayton, competing in its first-ever group semifinal, was downed by PomptonLakes 14-0 in the Group 1 semifinal played at WilliamPatersonUniversity.

Now after repeating as North 2, Group 1 champions – Dayton scored a single run in the bottom of the seventh when junior Mike DePalma’s opposite field sacrifice fly RBI to right brought home senior Jeff Lau from third base to give the top-seeded Bulldogs an 8-7 win over third-seeded Secaucus at Ruby Field in Springfield – Dayton is hoping to take that next step and win again in order to play for a first-ever state championship in a first-ever trip to Toms River.

Dayton, 24-4 and winners of seven straight, will face Ridgefield again Tuesday at 4 p.m. in the Group 1 semifinal that will be played at RamapoCollege in Mahwah.

Ridgefield (19-9) scored two runs in the bottom of the seventh to down Cedar Grove 2-1 at home in Friday’s North 1, Group 1 title game.

Gavin Salazar was Ridgefield’s hero in the bottom of the seventh against Cedar Grove, with his single driving in Michael Ragone with the winning run.

Dayton has won at least 20 games and the Union County Conference’s Mountain Division title three years in a row now.

Head coach Mike Abbate has led the Bulldogs to four division titles – including the UCC’s Valley Division crown in 2010 – in his five seasons at the helm. His record going into Tuesday’s game is 95-32 (.792), which is the best five-year stretch in program history.

“It’s kind of ironic that we’re playing Ridgefield again,” Abbate said. “They’ve had a nice run since then and they won our section two years ago.

“I have a lot of respect for them. This is another big challenge for us.”

Abbate’s lead candidate to take the mound Tuesday vs. Ridgefield is junior Chase Kimmel (7-2) who last threw four innings in last Tuesday’s 4-3, bottom-of-the-seventh, sectional semifinal home win over New Providence.

Senior right-hander Tommy Walsh, 8-1 last year, 10-1 this year and the winning pitcher in both sectional championship games, will also be ready to pitch.

“We’re going to play Tuesday like it’s a Game 7,” Abbate said. “We have both of our main guys on board. I’m just not sure who is going to start yet.

“Chase worked really hard in his off session to prepare himself. I know he would love the opportunity to throw the ball.”

The fact that this is not new territory for Dayton may be an intangible that works in the Bulldogs’ favor.

Dayton had to win its final three state sectional games in consecutive days last year to win its first sectional title, with the last game being played on Saturday, not Friday, because of inclement weather.

That meant Dayton had only two days off before playing in its first group semifinal.

“Last year this game came up on us real quick,” Abbate said. “There was not much of a turnaround.

“This year we’re set up a little bit better because the weather held up for us.”

“We gave the kids off Saturday and we had a real good practice Sunday. We hope to have one more good practice Monday. They know that if they want to keep winning that they have to keep practicing real hard.”

On Friday Dayton came back late to tie its game against Secaucus and then in the sixth inning went ahead. However, Secaucus tied the game in the top of the seventh before Dayton pulled it out in the bottom of the frame.

“The major thing we talked about in practice is what we did wrong Friday,” Abbate said. “We’ll see how far we can take this.

“Overall, I’m proud that the program’s mentality has changed and that the kids understand it and have bought into it.

“The kids want to practice on Wednesday, especially the seniors. They don’t want this to end.”

 

 

CRANFORD BASEBALL IN STATES SINCE 1999:

 

Record: 47-12 (.797)

 

Present winning streak: (16).

 

Home: (31-6).

 

Away: (4-0).

 

Neutral: (12-6).

 

Sectional finals: (9-2).

 

Group semifinals: (6-2).

 

Group finals: (3-3).

 

Group final in East Brunswick: (0-1).

 

Group finals in TomsRiver: (3-2).

 

Years won at least one state game: (14).

 

Years did not win a state game: (2), 2002 and 2004.

1999: NORTH 2, GROUP 3

Cranford is the 2 seed.

May 20:Cranford beats 7 seed West Morris 8-3 at home.

May 25:Cranford beats 6 seed WarrenHills 12-5 at home.

May 28:Cranford beats 5 seed Morristown 6-3 at Ridge.

GROUP 3 SEMIFINALS:

June 1: Demarest beats Cranford 6-1 at Watchung Hills.

Cranford finishes 28-3, including 3-1 in states.

 

2000: NORTH 2, GROUP 3

Cranford is the 4 seed.

May 24:Cranford beats 5 seed Rahway 8-6 at home.

May 30:Cranford beats 1 seed Morristown 4-2 (8 inn.) at Morristown.

June 2:Cranford beats 6 seed Parsippany 11-8 at Ridge.

GROUP 3 SEMIFINAL:

June 7:Cranford beats Sparta 8-4 at Jaroschak Field, Jersey City.

GROUP 3 FINAL:

June 10: Hamilton West beats Cranford 5-0 at East Brunswick Tech.

Cranford finishes 25-6, including 4-1 in states.

2001: NORTH 2, GROUP 3

Cranford is the 4 seed.

May 24:Cranford beats 5 seed Jefferson 2-0 at home.

May 29:Cranford beats 1 seed Mendham 6-2 at Mendham.

June 1: 2 seed Nutley beats Cranford 5-3 at Ridge.

Cranford finishes 20-9, including 2-1 in states.

 

2002: NORTH 2, GROUP 3

Cranford is the 3 seed.

May 23: 6 seed Jefferson beats Cranford 5-1 at Cranford.

Cranford finishes 10-13, including 0-1 in states.

 

2003: NORTH 2, GROUP 3

Cranford is the 5 seed.

May 23:Cranford beats 4 seed Nutley 5-3 at Nutley.

May 29:Cranford beats 8 seed Morris Knolls 10-0 at home.

May 30:Cranford beats 6 seed Millburn 6-5 at Ridge.

GROUP 3 SEMIFINAL:

June 3:Cranford 16, Paramus 1 (6 inn.) at Union.

GROUP 3 FINAL:

June 10:TomsRiver South 9, Cranford 4 at TomsRiver North.

Cranford finishes 19-8, including 4-1 in states.

 

2004: NORTH 2, GROUP 2

Cranford is 1 the seed.

May 21: 9 seed Parsippany beats Cranford 6-5 at Cranford.

Cranford finishes 18-7, including 0-1 in states.

 

2005: CENTRAL JERSEY, GROUP 2

Cranford is the 1 seed.

May 27:Cranford beats 8 seed Carteret 8-3 at home.

May 31:Cranford beats 4 seed Raritan 6-1 at home.

June 3:Cranford beats 7 seed Bordentown 2-0 at home.

(first year sectional finals played at higher seed instead of neutral site)

GROUP 2 SEMIFINAL:

June 7: Seneca beats Cranford 12-2 at New Egypt.

Cranford finishes 23-6, including 3-1 in states.

 

2006: NORTH 2, GROUP 3

Cranford is the 1 seed.

May 26:Cranford beats 9 seed Millburn 8-4 at home.

May 30:Cranford beats 4 seed Nutley 3-2 at home.

June 4: 2 seed Morristown beats Cranford 4-3 (8 inn.) at Cranford.

Cranford finishes 21-6, including 2-1 in states.

 

2007: NORTH 2, GROUP 3

Cranford is the 1 seed.

May 25:Cranford beats 8 seed South Plainfield 14-3 at home.

May 29:Cranford beats 4 seed Scotch Plains 10-7 at home.

June 1:Cranford beats 7 seed West Morris 5-4 at home.

GROUP 3 SEMIFINAL:

June 5:Cranford beats Montville 12-10 at Elizabeth.

GROUP 3 FINAL:

June 9: Seneca beats Cranford 5-2 at Toms River South.

Cranford finishes 26-5, including 4-1 in states.

 

2008: NORTH 2, GROUP 3

Cranford is the 2 seed.

May 23:Cranford beats 7 seed Colonia 3-0 at home.

May 27: 3 seed Iselin Kennedy beats Cranford 2-0 at Cranford.

Cranford finishes 19-6, including 1-1 in states.

 

2009: CENTRAL JERSEY, GROUP 2

Cranford is the 2 seed.

May 22:Cranford beats 7 seed Middlesex 6-1 at home.

May 26: 6 seed Shore Regional beats Cranford 7-4 (9 inn.) at Cranford.

Cranford finishes 18-6, including 1-1 in states.

 

2010: NORTH 2, GROUP 3

Cranford is the 3 seed.

May 17:Cranford beats 14 seed Voorhees 6-0 at home.

May 21:Cranford beats 6 seed Iselin Kennedy 12-6 at home.

May 25:Cranford beats 2 seed Scotch Plains 6-5 at Scotch Plains.

May 28:Cranford beats 5 seed Morristown 9-8 (8 inn.) at home.

GROUP 3 SEMIFINAL:

June 1:Cranford beats Lakeland 7-1 at KeanUniversity

GROUP 3 FINAL:

June 5:Cranford beats OceanCity 15-3 (5 inn.) at Toms River North.

Cranford finishes 26-5, including 6-0 in states.

 

2011: NORTH 2, GROUP 3

Cranford is the 2 seed.

May 23:Cranford beats 15 seed Parsippany Hills 13-2 at home.

May 27: 10 seed Mendham beats Cranford 7-3 at Cranford.

Cranford finishes 20-5, including 1-1 in states.

 

2012: NORTH 2, GROUP 3

Cranford is the 1 seed.

May 23:Cranford beats 16 seed Ferris 5-0 at home.

May 25:Cranford beats 9 seed Scotch Plains 1-0 at home.

May 29:Cranford beats 12 seed Morristown 7-1 at home.

June 1:Cranford beats 2 seed West Morris 7-0 at home.

GROUP 3 SEMIFINALS:

June 5:Cranford beats West Milford 7-4 at RamapoCollege

GROUP 3 FINAL:

June 9:Cranford beats Freehold Borough 4-1 at Toms River South.

Cranford finishes 22-4, including 6-0 in states.

 

2013: NORTH 2, GROUP 3

Cranford is the 1 seed.

May 20:Cranford beats 16 seed Rahway 7-0 at home.

May 26:Cranford beats 8 seed Summit 8-5 at home.

May 29:Cranford beats 4 seed Mendham 3-2 at home.

May 31: Cranford beats 2 seed South Plainfield 5-1 at home.

GROUP 3 SEMIFINALS:

June 4:Cranford beats Paramus 12-7 at Elizabeth.

GROUP 3 FINAL:

June 9:Cranford beats BurlingtonTownship 4-2 at Toms River East.

Cranford finishes 25-1, including 6-0 in states.

 

2014: NORTH 2, GROUP 3

Cranford is the 1 seed.

May 19:Cranford beats 16 seed Parsippany Hills 3-2 at home.

May 22:Cranford beats 8 seed West Morris 3-0 at home.

May 27:Cranford beats 13 seed Summit 2-1 at home.

May 30: Cranford beats 3 seed West Essex 14-4 at home.

GROUP 3 SEMIFINALS:

June 3: Cranford vs. MountOlive at Belleville.

Cranford is 17-6, including 4-0 so far in states.

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