Westfield baseball, the defending champion, and Roselle Park softball earn No. 1 UCT seeds; Panthers last won crown in 2004

Semifinals and finals for both are scheduled to be played at Kean University the first two May weekends

Westfield is the top seed for the 65th annual baseball Union County Tournament, winning just last year.

The Blue Devils captured their record 15th UCT championship in 2017, defeating Cranford 6-3 in the final at Kean University.

Roselle Park is the top seed for the 43rd annual softball Union County Tournament, but has not won the crown in 14 years.

The Panthers last won the UCT for the third time in 2004 when they repeated behind standout senior pitcher Becky Riccitelli.

Junior RH Madison Hummel is the mound star now. Roselle Park may be the top seed for the first time since that 2004 title season.

Last year Westfield added to its record number of baseball county championships with its 15th UCT crown and first since 2014. It was the second time the Blue Devils won the UCT title at Kean.

Westfield is now 15-9 in the UCT final – also with the record for most appearances in the title game with 24 – and are now 11-7 under head coach Bob Brewster, who has been Westfield’s head coach since 1983.

In his first 35 seasons at the helm, Brewster guided the Blue Devils to 18 UCT finals and won a record 11 of them. In season No. 36 he will seek to guide the program to its 16th championship overall.

Also a year ago, Cranford lost in the UCT final for the first time since 1998 when Summit defeated the Cougars for its last crown. That was the third and final season present Cranford head coach Dennis McCaffery was an assistant to James Shriner.

McCaffery, at the helm of the Cougars since 1999, then led Cranford to a perfect 9-0 record in the UCT final – all nine of Cranford’s championships – until Westfield’s victory 12 months ago.

Westfield left hander Cory Hiltz, now a junior, entered last year’s game in the bottom of the sixth and allowed just an infield single in that frame. He then pitched a 1-2-3 bottom of the seventh to close the game and earn a save.

Cranford right hander Gordon Graceffo, now a Villanova-bound senior, started the game for the Cougars and took the loss. Graceffo was 0-2 against Westfield last year, but pitched extremely well against a potent Westfield lineup twice, allowing just seven runs total while receiving only the support of three runs.

In the UCT final, Graceffo went seven complete, tossing 105 pitches. He allowed six runs (five earned) on nine hits, while striking out three, walking none and hitting three batters.

Westfield 2017 graduate Connor Scanlon beat Cranford for the second time, while Westfield ended up going a rare 3-0 vs. the Cougars last year. In the final, the right hander allowed three runs (two earned) on seven hits, while striking out two and walking one in a 90-pitch performance. He previously beat Cranford 9-3 at Westfield on April 8 of last year.

Hiltz allowed no runs on one hit and struck out two in his two-inning, 21-pitch stint in last year’s final.

Westfield improved to 8-4 on Monday with an 8-4 win at Morristown.

Hiltz is 2-0 so far this season with a 1.44 ERA and has wins against Hunterdon Central and Morristown.

Cranford has one of its lowest seeds in some time at No. 8. If Cranford and Westfield win their first round games this Saturday, April 28, it will be Cranford at Westfield in a quarterfinal on Saturday, May 5.

There will be only one prelim game, which will be 17 seed Roselle Catholic at 16 seed Dayton.

The eight first round games are scheduled for Saturday, April 28.

The eight quarterfinal games are scheduled for Saturday, May 5.

The tournament went to a Wednesday quarterfinal after Saturday first round scenario in 2006 to go away from having the tournament just on consecutive Saturdays. That way a second pitcher would be needed to navigate through the tourney.

The semifinals are scheduled for Saturday, May 12 at Kean and the final for Sunday, May 13 (Mother’s Day) at Kean.

This is the first time the semifinals and final are scheduled on back-to-back days. However, this is not the first time the final is scheduled to be played on Mother’s Day nor will it be the first time the final is played on Mother’s Day if Mother Nature cooperates.

Two years ago when GL won the UCT for the first time, several rainouts forced the UCT semifinals and final to be played on Saturday and Sunday of Mother’s Day weekend, with Kean available both days.

This year the UCT is scheduled to work out that way. Now we have to hope that the weather cooperates.

“You can now ride your horse to the semifinals,” GL head coach Chris Roof said.

Union, the fourth seed, has been bolstered by the excellent pitching of right handers Zach Fernandez (junior), Brandon Bedlivy (senior) and Andrew Sanborn (sophomore). That staff will soon be bolstered by junior righty Mike Velez, a St. Joseph’s, Metuchen transfer.

Westfield was also the top seed 25 years ago in 1993. That was the last year Union won the title, with the Farmers beating the Blue Devils 5-3 in the championship game played at Linden’s Memorial Field.

The winning pitcher in that game was senior right hander Eric Shaw, who is now the head boys’ soccer coach at Westfield and the golf coach at Union. Shaw has guided Westfield’s boys’ soccer team to the past two UCT championships.

Union’s shortstop in that game 25 years ago was junior Ed Collins, who is now the head baseball coach at Morristown.

65TH ANNUAL BASEBALL UNION COUNTY TOURNAMENT

SEEDS: 1-Westfield. 2-Scotch Plains. 3-Gov. Livingston. 4-Union.

5-New Providence. 6-Johnson. 7-Elizabeth. 8-Cranford.

9-Summit. 10-Union Catholic. 11-Roselle Park. 12-Oratory Prep.

13-Rahway. 14-Linden. 15-Plainfield. 16-Dayton.

17-Roselle Catholic.

Westfield defeated Scotch Plains and both Westfield and Scotch Plains defeated GL, which had the best out-of-county win which was 8-1 at No. 2 in the state Delbarton.

Union defeated New Providence and both defeated Johnson.

Johnson had one of the best county wins, with a 15-4 triumph at home over Westfield.

Roselle Park beat Rahway at home Monday and was seeded ahead of the Indians, however, Rahway defeated Oratory Prep, but was seeded below the Rams.

 

FIRST ROUND:

Saturday, April 28

TOP SIDE OF THE BRACKET:

17-RC/16-Dayton at 1-Westfield

9-Summit at 8-Cranford

13-Rahway at 4-Union

12-Oratory Prep at 5-New Providence

BOTTOM SIDE OF THE BRACKET:

15-Plainfield at 2-Scotch Plains

10-Union Catholic at 7-Elizabeth

14-Linden at 3-Gov. Livingston

11-Roselle Park at 6-Johnson

 

QUARTERFINALS:

Saturday, May 5

At the higher seeds.

 

SEMIFINALS:

Saturday, May 12

At Kean University.

 

FINAL:

Sunday, May 13

At Kean University.

 

UCT SOFTBALL STARTS WITH PRELIM GAMES WEDNESDAY

The softball Union County Tournament includes 19 teams and will commence Wednesday, April 25 with three preliminary round games.

The first round is scheduled for Saturday, April 28 and the quarterfinals for Wednesday, May 2.

The semifinals and final are scheduled to be played at Kean on Saturday, May 5 and Sunday, May 6.

Roselle Park won the UCT for the first time in 1982 and then back-to-back in 2003 and 2004.

Roselle Park began the week 10-0, the only undefeated baseball or softball team remaining in Union County.

“We lost our first (UCT) game (to Scotch Plains) last year, so I know the kids want to make up for that,” Roselle Park head coach Fran Maggio said. “It’s been a while since we’ve gone far in this tournament.”

Roselle Park was the fourth seed last year and in a first round game at home fell to 13th-seeded Scotch Plains in between sweeping the Raiders in Union County Conference-Mountain Division play.

Defending champion GL has won the crown two of the last three years and four times this decade. The Highlanders have advanced to the last eight championship games.

The last final that did not include GL was 2009 when Union defeated Linden 3-1 at Linden for its last crown.

Union has won the most titles with 11, Westfield is next with nine and GL is third with seven.

43RD ANNUAL SOFTBALL UNION COUNTY TOURNAMENT

SEEDS: 1-Roselle Park. 2-Gov. Livingston. 3-Westfield. 4-Johnson.

5-Elizabeth. 6-Cranford. 7-Brearley. 8-Union Catholic.

9-Dayton. 10-Benedictine. 11-Scotch Plains. 12-Kent Place.

13-Summit. 14-Union. 15-Oak Knoll. 16-Rahway.

17-Plainfield. 18-Linden. 19-Roselle Catholic.

Roselle Park beat Brearley, Westfield and Cranford.

GL, which improved to 8-2 with Monday’s win at Elizabeth, defeated Westfield, while its only county loss was to Cranford.

On Monday, Westfield won at Johnson to improve to 5-6. Johnson fell to 7-3.

Elizabeth defeated Cranford, Cranford beat Brearley and Brearley just defeated Union Catholic Saturday 4-3 at home, scoring the winning run in the bottom of the seventh.

Union Catholic fell to 9-3 Monday after falling at Cedar Grove. The Vikings were 9-1 before falling at Brearley.

 

PRELIMINARY ROUND:

Wednesday, April 25

19-Roselle Catholic at 14-Union

18-Linden at 15-Oak Knoll

17-Plainfield at 16-Rahway

 

FIRST ROUND:

Saturday, April 28

TOP SIDE OF THEBRACKET:

17-Plain./16-Rah. at 1-Roselle Park

9-Dayton at 8-Union Catholic

13-Summit at 4-Johnson

12-Kent Place at 5-Elizabeth

BOTTOM SIDE OF THE BRACKET:

18-Lin./15-Oak Knoll at 2-Gov. Livingston

10-Benedictine at 7-Brearley

19-RC/14-Union at 3-Westfield

11-Scotch Plains at 6-Cranford

 

QUARTERFINALS:

Wednesday, May 2

At the higher seeds.

 

SEMIFINALS:

Saturday, May 5

At Kean University.

 

FINAL:

Sunday, May 6

At Kean University.

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