Sectional champions Cranford, Dayton, Westfield gear for Tuesday’s baseball group semifinals

Cougars, Bulldogs, Blue Devils one win away from reaching Toms River

PHOTO BY JR PARACHINI - Dayton junior right hander Tommy Walsh earned the mound victory vs. Roselle Park in Saturday's North 2, Group 1 championship game at Ruby Field in Springfield.
PHOTO COURTESY OF EMILY MacDONNELL – Dayton junior right hander Tommy Walsh earned the mound victory vs. Roselle Park in Saturday’s North 2, Group 1 championship game at Ruby Field in Springfield.
PHOTO COURTESY OF EMILY MacDONNELL - Dayton celebrates its first sectional title, with the Bulldogs capturing the North 2, Group 1 crown.
PHOTO COURTESY OF EMILY MacDONNELL – Dayton celebrates its first sectional title, with the Bulldogs capturing the North 2, Group 1 crown.
PHOTO COUTESY OF EMILY MacDONNELL -Roselle Park first baseman Nick Muccia holds on a Dayton baserunner in Saturday's sectional championship game at Ruby Field in Springfield.
PHOTO COUTESY OF EMILY MacDONNELL – Roselle Park first baseman Nick Muccia holds on a Dayton baserunner in Saturday’s sectional championship game at Ruby Field in Springfield.
PHOTO COURTESY OF EMILYMacDONNELL - Roselle Park designated hitter Mike Figueredo reached second base with a double. The Dayton shortstop is Mike DePalma.
PHOTO COURTESY OF EMILY MacDONNELL – Roselle Park designated hitter Mike Figueredo reached second base with a double. The Dayton shortstop is Mike DePalma.

Westfield was there for the first time two years ago.

Cranford has been there four times since 2003.

Dayton is seeking to get there for the first time.

Where is there?

There is Toms River to play for a state championship.

Union County baseball will be well-represented in Tuesday’s group semifinals, with three schools coming off sectional championships that seek that one more necessary win to play for all the marbles.

 

TUESDAY’S 4 P.M. SEMIFINALS INVOLVING UNION COUNTY TEAMS

 

GROUP 4: North 1-Randolph (25-6) vs. North 2-Westfield (18-11)

At Ramapo College

 

GROUP 3: North 1-Paramus (17-12) vs. North 2-Cranford (23-1)

At East Brunswick Tech

 

GROUP 1: North 1-Pompton Lakes (24-3) vs. North 2-Dayton (20-4)

At William Paterson University

 

For Dayton this is extra special because it’s the first time for the Bulldogs. Because of constant rainouts, Dayton had to win its final three sectional games in three days.

Not only did the Bulldogs come through, but Dayton outscored those three foes by a 27-4 margin at its Ruby Field in Springfield to capture North 2, Group 1.

“This is a dream come true,” said Dayton slugging senior left fielder-pitcher Chas Bohannon. “Even though it rained and we couldn’t play we still practiced all week.

“Now we have to continue playing on Tuesday like we’ve been playing.”

Dayton is 71-28 (.717) under fourth-year head coach Mike Abbate. The Bulldogs lost in the North 2, Group 1 semifinals the last three years, including last year in extra innings in a game that had to be continued the next day because of rain.

“We took the next step today,” Abbate said Saturday.

Cranford has taken that next step many times under head coach Dennis McCaffery, who earlier this year in his 15th season at the helm of the Cougars gained his 300th victory.

Repeating as North 2, Group 3 champions Friday with a closer-than-the final-score-indicated 5-1 home win over South Plainfield was nice, but not the final championship the Cougars will be satisfied with this season.

Cranford not only expects to get back to Toms River, but expects to capture a second straight Group 3 state championship for the first time in program history. Anything less and the 2013 season will not be complete.

“Our ultimate goal is to win two more games,” undefeated (9-0) Cranford senior left hander Ryan Williamson said. “We have to continue to work hard and execute.”

Cranford (23-1) and Westfield (18-11) have won six straight. Dayton (20-4) has won 13 in a row.

Westfield was 6-8 after losing to South Plainfield 4-3 at home on April 26. Since then the Blue Devils are 12-3, including reaching another Union County Tournament championship game and then handing Cranford its only loss.

Westfield had a last-at-bat, thrilling, comeback kind of run to its 2011 North 2, Group 4 championship and then after winning the Union County Tournament title last year following head coach Bob Brewster’s 500th victory, the Blue Devils fell in their first state tournament game.

Westfield won Thursday’s sectional semifinal home game in dramatic fashion in the bottom of the seventh vs. Perth Amboy and then on Friday won at North Hunterdon 4-2 in the final. Westfield also won the 2011 North 2, Group 4 final on the road, winning at Perth Amboy 9-7.

In addition to Williamson, who on the mound is 26-5 lifetime and on a 15-game winning streak, Cranford has also received solid starting pitching from senior right hander John Armstrong (7-0) and junior righty Matt Ravitier (4-1).

Westfield has been sparked in the pitching department by senior right hander Kevin Galasso (8-2), junior righty Michael Androconis (5-1), junior left hander Brad DeMartino (4-4) and in relief by senior lefty Quinn Dursee.

Dayton junior right hander Tommy Walsh went the distance to improve to 8-1 Saturday when he scattered seven hits in a 13-3, five-inning sectional championship game victory over visiting Roselle Park.

Abbate said that likely candidates to start Tuesday against Pompton Lakes include Bohannon, a right hander, and Alec Marcantonio, a junior left hander.

 

CRANFORD HAS WON 8 SECTIONAL TITLES UNDER McCAFFERY

Cranford has captured eight sectional titles under head coach Dennis McCaffery,at the helm since 1999.

The Cougars won North 2, Group 3 seven times and Central Jersey, Group 2 once.

Cranford is 5-2 in group semifinals under McCaffery.

Here’s a closer look:

1999: Lost Group 3 semi to Demarest 6-1 at Watchung Hills, finished 28-3.

2000: Won Group 3 semi vs. Sparta 8-4 at Jaroschak Field in Jersey City.

2003: Won Group 3 semifinal against Paramus 16-1 at Union.

2005: Lost Group 2 semifinal to Seneca 12-2 at New Egypt, finished 23-6.

2007: Won Group 3 semifinal against Montville 12-10 at Elizabeth.

2010: Won Group 3 semifinal against Lakeland 7-1 at Kean University.

2012: Won Group 3 semifinal against West Milford 7-4 at Ramapo College.

Did you know? McCaffery’s first team, his 1999 squad, was 9-0 before it lost its first game at Columbia 9-6. Its only other regular season loss that season came five games later when it was downed at another Essex County school, Bishop Francis, by the score of 7-5. Bishop Francis was formerly known as Essex Catholic.

 

WESTFIELD HAS WON 2 SECTIONAL TITLES UNDER BREWSTER

Westfield has captured North 2, Group 4 three times under head coach

Bob Brewster, at the helm since 1983. The Blue Devils are 1-1 in group semifinals.

Here’s a closer look:

1988: Lost Group 4 semifinal to Memorial, West New York at Rutgers.

2011: Won Group 4 semifinal against Morris Knolls 8-5 in 8 innings at Kean.

Did you know? In 1988, Hudson County power Memorial of West New York finished No. 1 in the state in The Star-Ledger and also No. 1 in the nation in USA Today.

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