The Cranford baseball team never won the Union County Tournament until 1999. The year before, the Cougars reached the final for the first time in 20 years and fell to Summit.
Since 1999, Cranford can’t lose.
On Sunday in the 60th annual baseball Union County Tournament championship game at Kean University’s Jim Hynes Class of 1963 Field in Union, the Cougars added another championship to an already impressive trophy case.
Sparked by another stellar pitching performance from North Carolina State-bound senior left hander Ryan Williamson, top-seeded Cranford was decisive in downing third-seeded Westfield 8-0.
Cranford tied Union for the second-most UCT championships with eight and is 8-0 in the final under present head coach Dennis McCaffery, who was an assistant coach under best friend James Shriner in 1998 before becoming the head coach in 1999.
Westfield is now 13-9 in UCT finals, with the most crowns and most title-game appearances. Head coach Bob Brewster, at the helm since 1983, is now 9-7 in the final.
Westfield has lost four of the last six finals, while Cranford has won three of the last four.
Williamson tossed a four-hitter, striking out seven and walking four, for his second UCT shutout. He went 4-0 in the UCT and gave up only one run in 28 and 1/3 innings of tournament work. He beat 16th-seeded Roselle Park 6-1 in a complete-game first round performance and then in relief against eighth-seeded Union Catholic he earned the mound victory after pitching six and 1/3 innings in a 6-5, 11-inning triumph.
Williamson then blanked fifth-seeded Elizabeth 1-0 in last weekend’s semifinals at Elizabeth’s Williams Field tossing a four-hitter that included 12 strikeouts and four walks, one of them intentional.
He begins the week with a record of 7-0 this season and 24-5 lifetime.
Offensively, the Cougars were led by Rutgers-bound senior catcher Chris Folinusz, who banged out three hits in four official at-bats. Folinusz slugged two doubles, drove in a run and scored twice.
Westfield senior right hander Kevin Galasso took the loss, falling to 4-2. It was his first setback since Opening Day against Scotch Plains, which was a 5-3, eight-inning defeat at home.
Cranford, ranked No. 2 in the state, improved to 17-0 and extended its winning streak – dating back to last season – to 25 games.
Cranford’s next game is a Union County Conference-Watchung Division clash at Westfield Tuesday. Cranford defeated Westfield 11-5 at home in division play back on April 11.
The next Cougar goal is to 3-peat as Watchung Division champions. Cranford begins the week 6-0 in Watchung Division play, with its final six division games including at Westfield Tuesday, Scotch Plains home Thursday, at Union Friday, Governor Livingston home May 21, Elizabeth home May 24 and a game at Scotch Plains still has to be re-scheduled.
Cranford also hosts Bergen County parochial school power Don Bosco Prep Saturday at 1 p.m.