Cranford and Elizabeth square off in UCT softball finals

CRANFORD, NJ — Not often do the top two seeds make it to the championship game.

However, that was the case this year, as defending champion and top-seeded Cranford High School was to clash with second-seeded Elizabeth High School in the 46th annual softball Union County Tournament championship game.

The game was rescheduled to be played on Wednesday, May 18, after press time. It had been rained out on Friday, May 13.

If the contest was rained out again on Wednesday, May 18, the second makeup date might be sometime this weekend.

Cranford and Elizabeth began the week alike, with each team having only five losses and both winning their semifinal-round games by just one run.

They are not alike when it comes to winning UCT championships. Cranford has won six, capturing the crown in 2002, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010 and 2021, while Elizabeth has never hoisted the trophy.

“We’re so excited to be playing in these games,” Cranford junior pitcher Avery Toddings said last week, after Cranford eliminated eighth-seeded David Brearley High School, 3-1, at home.

“The main thing for us is to keep our focus,” said first-year head coach Melissa Moreno, who as a sophomore was the catcher on Cranford’s 2010 championship team, with standout left-handed pitcher Julie Siragusa, who went on to play collegiately at Moravian University.

In the semifinals played on Wednesday, May 11, at Kean University’s Cougar Field in Union, Cranford scored in the bottom of the seventh to oust fourth-seeded Union High School, 1-0, while Elizabeth edged third-seeded Governor Livingston High School, 2-1, scoring single runs in the fourth and fifth innings after Governor Livingston jumped out to a 1-0 advantage in the top of the third.

Toddings tossed a four-hitter for Cranford, striking out seven and walking two. Katie Bendert, a junior left fielder, had one of Cranford’s five hits and was credited with driving in the game’s only run.

Elizabeth sophomore pitcher Gabby Duran allowed only three hits in halting GL, striking out five and walking one. Sophomore first baseman Pamela Lozano and junior catcher Destiny Medina, both going 1-for-3, drove in the runs for the Minutemen.

Cranford began the week 17-5 overall and Elizabeth 15-5. The Cougars clinched the Union County Conference’s Watchung Division title, owners of a 7-1 division mark with two division games to go. Elizabeth stood at 5-4 in the division with one more division game to be played.

In Watchung Division play, Cranford had Elizabeth’s number, beating the Minutemen both times. The Cougars won 9-3 at Elizabeth on Monday, April 11, and then, at their home field on Adams Avenue in Cranford, they defeated the Minutemen 12-3 on Thursday, April 28.

Cranford began the week on a five-game winning streak, and Elizabeth were winners of four straight.

Usually, tournament games are much closer than regular-season ones. If the UCT final was played on Wednesday, May 18, at Kean, a much closer score would have been expected.

Cranford shut out 16th-seeded Oak Knoll School of the Holy Child 14-0 at home in the first round and then beat eighth-seeded David Brearley 3-1 at home in the quarterfinals. Including the 1-0 win against Union at Kean, Cranford outscored its first three UCT foes by an impressive 18-1 margin.

Elizabeth beat 15th-seeded Roselle Catholic High School 15-1 at home in the first round and then downed seventh-seeded Arthur L. Johnson High School 6-1 at home in the quarterfinals. Including its 2-1 win against Governor Livingston in the semifinals at Kean, the Minutemen outscored their first three UCT opponents by a stellar mark of 26-3.

Notes: Both received high seeds in their state tournament sections — defending champion Cranford the top seed in North 2, Group 3, and Elizabeth the second seed in North 2, Group 4.

Cranford’s first state tournament game was to be played at home on Tuesday, May 17, vs. 16th seeded North Plainfield High School, after press time.

Elizabeth’s first state tournament game was to be played at home on Tuesday, May 17, vs. 15th seeded Ridge High School, also after press time.

No. 2 Elizabeth Minutemen (15-5)
April 1: (H) Elizabeth 8, David Brearley 7
April 4: (A) Elizabeth 6, Union 0
April 8: (H) Elizabeth 11, Westfield 7
April 11: (H) Cranford 9, Elizabeth 3
April 13: (H) Elizabeth 7, Jonathan Dayton 6
April 14: (H) Elizabeth 7, Governor Livingston 5
April 16: (H) Elizabeth 19, Mount St. Mary 1
April 18: (A) Arthur L. Johnson 4, Elizabeth 2
April 20: (A) Elizabeth 12, Summit 8
April 21: (H) Elizabeth 3, Union 2 (9 innings)
April 23: (A) Manasquan 7, Elizabeth 6
April 25: (A) Elizabeth 13, Westfield 7
April 27: (A) Elizabeth 7, Roselle Park 0
April 28: (A) Cranford 12, Elizabeth 3
April 30: (H) Elizabeth 17, Trinity Hall 0
May 3: (A) Governor Livingston 7, Elizabeth 6
May 4: (H) Elizabeth 6, Hudson Catholic Regional 2
May 5: (H) No. 2 Elizabeth 18, No. 15 Roselle Catholic 1 (UCT)
May 9: (H) No. 2 Elizabeth 6, No. 7 Arthur L. Johnson 1 (UCT)
May 11: (N) No. 2 Elizabeth 2, No. 3 Governor Livingston 1 (UCT semifinals at Kean)
May 17: vs. Ridge (North 2, Group 4, playoffs)
May 18: vs. Cranford (UCT final at Kean)
Head coach: Maggie Margadonna

No. Cranford Cougars (17-5)
April 1: (H) Cranford 10, Summit 2
April 4: (H) Cranford 12, Governor Livingston 3
April 8: (H) Old Bridge 5, Cranford 3
April 10: (A) Immaculate Heart 6, Cranford 4
April 11: (A) Cranford 9, Elizabeth 3
April 12: (H) Cranford 4, Columbia 0
April 14: (A) Cranford 4, Westfield 0
April 16: (A) Cranford 4, Scotch Plains–Fanwood 0
April 18: (H) Cranford 9, Union 1
April 19: (A) Cranford 10, Immaculate Conception 8
April 20: (A) Cranford 2, David Brearley 0
April 22: (A) Governor Livingston 12, Cranford 6
April 23: (A) Nutley 1, Cranford 0, at Cedar Grove
April 25: (H) Cranford 6, Arthur L. Johnson 1
April 27: (A) Cranford 18, Union Catholic 0
April 28: (H) Cranford 12, Elizabeth 3
April 30: (A) St. Thomas Aquinas 4, Cranford 0
May 2: (H) Cranford 7, Westfield 2
May 3: (H) Cranford 6, Jonathan Dayton 0
May 5: (H) No. 1 Cranford 14, No. 16 Oak Knoll 0 (UCT)
May 9: (H) No. 1 Cranford 3, No. 8 David Brearley 1 (UCT)
May 11: (N) No. 1 Cranford 1, No. 4 Union 0 (UCT semifinals at Kean)
May 17: North Plainfield (North 2, Group 3, playoffs)
May 18: Elizabeth (UCT final at Kean)
Head coach: Melissa Moreno