CRANFORD – One way of describing “coming through in the clutch” is when a batter is tested with the most pressure.
Three times Cranford batters came up with runners in scoring position with two outs. All three times those Cougars produced.
First was senior catcher Erin Schwerdtfeger, who on a 1-2 pitch drilled a shot over the head of the Dayton right fielder which went for an opposite field RBI-double in the third to get the Cougars on the scoreboard for the first time after they trailed by two.
Second was sophomore shortstop Elizabeth McCaffery, who on a 1-1 pitch also went the other way and blasted a two-run homer over the right field fence in the fourth to give the Cougars their first lead.
“I was focusing on hitting the ball through the infield,” McCaffery said. “I was just lucky.”
Third was freshman left fielder Samantha Brunton, who on a 2-1 pitch drilled a single to center in the fifth that brought home two runs to give the Cougars their second lead and the advantage for good.
“The pitch was right down the middle,” Brunton said. “We couldn’t give up. We just kept fighting.”
Relief pitcher Morrigan Gardiner then held the visiting Bulldogs scoreless the final two innings for a save, striking out four batters, including the side swinging in the seventh.
Cranford also made a key play defensively in the fifth, throwing a runner out who attempted to score on a hit.
As a result, fourth-seeded Cranford advanced to the Union County Tournament semifinals by knocking off 12th-seeded Dayton 5-4 in Wednesday’s quarterfinal round game at Cranford’s Adams Avenue venue named Antoine Field.
The semifinals are Monday at a site still to be determined and the final is next Wednesday, also at a site still to be determined.
UCT SEMIFINALS, MONDAY, MAY 6
At site still to be determined
4-Cranford vs. 1-Westfield
6-Benedictine vs. 2-Roselle Park
Dayton came in with a four-game winning streak since falling at home to Cranford 3-2 in an April 18 Union County Conference-crossover contest. Wins in that stretch included victories over Johnson, Bayonne, fifth-seeded Elizabeth in the UCT’s first round and Oak Knoll Monday.
The Bulldogs are now 5-9.
Cranford, which is now 10-3, won for the fifth time in six games. The Cougars had a four-game winning streak of their own snapped at home Monday by UCC-Watchung Division leader Westfield 11-0.
Dayton took a 2-0 lead in the top of the first when No. 3 batter, sophomore Kaya Mahy, slugged a two-run homer over the left field fence.
Schwerdtfeger’s run-producing hit made it 2-1.
McCaffery gave Cranford its first lead at 3-2 with her second home run of the year, the first one also coming at the same field.
Then Dayton answered with its final two runs in the fifth on RBI-hits produced by Mahy – a double down the left field line all the way to the fence – and a single to center by the next batter, Faith Scott.
However, on Mahy’s hit, the runner attempting to score after Dayton’s third run came across the plate was thrown out on a 7-5-2 relay, with Brunton throwing to Mia Markase at third and then Markase to Schwerdtfeger, who made the tag.
Cranford hit safely in all six innings it came to the plate.
Gardiner had to bear down in the seventh after walking a batter with one out. Mahy was next up, already with two big hits on the day, with the count reaching 2-2.
“I’ve played against her before and she’s very good,” Gardiner said. “I just had to go right at her.”
Gardiner got Mahy swinging on the next pitch and then was able to fan Scott to end the game.
“We got the hits when we needed them,” first-year Cranford head coach Christine Pemoulie said. “Morrigan came in and gave us a lift with the way she throws hard. We did what we needed to do to win this game.”
UNION COUNTY TOURNAMENT QUARTERFINALS
12-Dayton (5-9) 2 0 0 0 2 0 0 – 4 5 2
4-Cranford (10-3) 0 0 1 2 2 0 x – 5 11 0
1-Jesse Thompson, sophomore, RH
6 innings complete
5 runs, 11 hits
3 strikeouts (2 swinging, 1 looking), 1 walk, 1 hit batter
CRANFORD STARTING PITCHER:
11-Gabby Moreno, sophomore, RH
Earned the mound victory.
5 innings complete
4 runs, 5 hits
3 strikeouts (2 swinging, 1 looking), 5 walks
CRANFORD RELIEF PITCHER:
15-Morrigan Gardiner, sophomore, RH
Earned a save.
2 innings complete
0 runs, 0 hits
4 strikeouts (all swinging), 2 walks
Struck out the side in the seventh.
Dayton: Haeley Santos, Maggie Phillips, Faith Scott.
Cranford: Samantha Brunton (2), Mia Markase (2),
Gabby Moreno, Morgan Heim, Jayna Mallon,
Elizabeth McCaffery, Ava Manfra.
Dayton: Kaya Mahy.
Cranford: Erin Schwerdtfeger.
Dayton: Kaya Mahy.
Cranford: Elizabeth McCaffery.
DAYTON HITS IN ORDER (5):
5-Kaya Mahy: 2-run home run over left field fence in first.
2-Haeley Santos: bunt single in fifth
11-Maggie Phillips: single to center in fifth
5-Kaya Mahy: RBI-double to left in fifth
29-Faith Scott: RBI-single to center in fifth
CRANFORD HITS IN ORDER (11)
20-Morgan Heim: opposite field single to left in first
5-Jayna Mallon: single to left in first
11-Gabby Moreno: single to left in second
4-Elizabeth McCaffery: single to center leading off third
19-Erin Schwerdtfeger: opposite field RBI-double to right in third
9-Samantha Brunton: bunt single leading off fourth
2-Mia Markase: infield single in fourth
4-Elizabeth McCaffery: opposite field 2-run home run
over right field fence in fourth
7-Ava Manfra: infield single in fifth
9-Samantha Brunton: 2-run single to center in fifth
(WAS THE GAME-WINNING HIT)
2-Mia Markase: infield single leading off sixth
11-Maggie Phillips, first base, senior
3-Victoria Delia, center field, junior
5-Kaya Mahy, shortstop, sophomore
29-Faith Scott, designated player, junior
26-Colby Dagner, third base, sophomore
14-Casey Janker, left field, junior
9-Abby Wilson, right field
10-Rachel Rodrick, catcher, sophomore
2-Haeley Santos, second base, junior
1-Jesse Thompson, flex, sophomore
24-Nicole Cataldo, sophomore
4-Elizabeth McCaffery, sophomore, shortstop
20-Morgan Heim, sophomore, first base
5-Jayna Mallon, senior, second base
19-Erin Schwerdtfeger, senior, catcher
7-Ava Manfra, sophomore, center field
15-Morrigan Gardiner, sophomore, designated player
9-Samantha Brunton, freshman, left field
11-Gabby Moreno, sophomore, pitcher
2-Mia Markase, sophomore, third base
1-Grace Kisly, senior, right field
10-Emma Ingraham, freshman
13-Ali Litterio, sophomore
12-Bridget Dineen, senior