CRANFORD, NJ — While its brand of baseball has not reached the brilliant bar yet, Cranford High School’s baseball team began the week with a 4-0 record as it continued Union County Conference competition.
The Cougars, defending Watchung Division champions, improved to 5-0 overall and 3-0 in the Watchung Division after defeating Arthur L. Johnson High School 6-2 at home on Monday, April 11.
Cranford was next scheduled to play at division newcomer New Providence High School on Tuesday, April 12.
Cranford was then scheduled to play at Middletown South High School on Wednesday, April 13.
Cranford is next scheduled to play at Mountain Division school Union Catholic High School this Monday, April 18, at 1 p.m.
“We have a lot of work to do,” said head coach Dennis McCaffery. “Although Will Gallagher and Sean Woodruff have both pitched late into games, we’ve walked too many guys. Offensively, we need to improve our at bats and our execution. We have a lot of stuff to tighten up.”
Cranford followed wins against Mountain Division teams Summit High School and Jonathan Dayton High School with its first two Watchung Division triumphs. The Cougars defeated Scotch Plains–Fanwood High School, 7-2, at home on Tuesday, April 5, and then edged Westfield High School, 4-3, at home three days later.
Cranford won the Watchung Division championship last year at 11-1, splitting with second place Union High School, which came in at 10-2. It was the first time the Cougars won the Watchung Division since sharing the crown with Governor Livingston in 2015. Cranford previously won it outright in 2011, 2012 and 2013, after winning the Mountain Division title outright in 2010, which was the first year of the UCC.
Perhaps no program in New Jersey adheres to “just the game at hand” more than Cranford.
The results, for a quarter of a century now, speak for themselves.
“The expectations are the same every year, regardless of how many players we have back or how many we don’t,” McCaffery said.
There are plenty back this year from last season’s 20-3 squad, which reached the Union County Tournament semifinals and the North 2, Group 3, final, falling in both by just one run.
At first base is senior Tony Silva, at second base is junior Shea Grady, at third base is junior Ryan Jaros, at shortstop is senior Will Gallagher, in center field is junior Jake Carter and in right field is senior Shane Van Dam. Carter played in left field last year.
Back on the mound are Gallagher; Woodruff, who is a junior; and junior Matt Chapman. Others in the mix include senior Kurt Petschow, senior Dan Abrahamsen, senior Liam Kwiatkowski and senior Ryan Nicholas.
Handling the staff is returning senior catcher Lucca Limeira.
McCaffery’s son Dennis, a sophomore, plays left field.
“Baseball is not a sport where you can look ahead,” McCaffery said. “The best team doesn’t always win. It’s who executes the best.
“We were behind in three of our first four games. We can’t be content.”
Photos by JR Parachini and Gene Nann