Cranford baseball coach gets 500th victory

Dennis John McCaffery, left, hit the game-winning, two-run home run in the bottom of the seventh inning to lift Cranford High School to a 7-5 win at home against New Providence High School on Thursday, April 4. The victory was No. 500 for head coach Dennis Joseph McCaffery, at right, The son delivered for the father, who became just the fourth Union County baseball coach to reach this milestone.

CRANFORD, NJ — It was an eventful initial week for the Cranford Cougars.

First came a combined no-hitter on Opening Day.

Then came a milestone victory.

Third was a high-scoring one-run loss.

A 2-1 first week saw Cranford High School shut out Union High School; beat New Providence High School in a walk-off, after the visiting Pioneers came back to tie; and then the Cougars came back to tie Elizabeth High School–Frank J. Cicarell Academy three times before falling in the bottom of the seventh.

Cranford entered the game on Tuesday, April 9, at Arthur L. Johnson High School, already with 29 runs scored. The offense is there so far. Now it’s a matter of new varsity pitchers catching up.

Seniors Dylan Falk, four innings, and Joseph Paccione, the fifth and final inning, held Union hitless in Cranford’s season-opening 12-0 triumph at home on Monday, April 1. Union had only two batters reach, one on a hit-by-pitch in the first and the other on a walk in the fifth. Falk, a left hander, struck out three and Paccione, a right hander, two.

“They both did a good job for our first game and both had command of the plate,” Cranford head coach Dennis McCaffery said.

Cranford’s other scheduled games this week included against Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School at home on Wednesday, April 10, and then at Summit High School on Friday, April 12. Summit is new to the Union County Conference’s Watchung Division this year.

On Thursday, April 4, at Cranford’s Memorial Field, the Cougars got out to a 5-1 lead before New Providence tied the game in the top of the sixth with four runs.

Not only did Cranford come back to win in the bottom of the seventh, but did so on a two-run home run blasted by senior center fielder Dennis John McCaffery, son of head coach Dennis Joseph McCaffery.

The son delivered the father his 500th victory.

McCaffery also drove in three runs in Cranford’s opening win against Union. He will continue playing in college on scholarship at Division 2 University of Tampa.

Falk and McCaffery had two hits each against New Providence.
Sean Riley and Ryan Carracino slugged two-run homers against Union.
Falk and Michael Tripodi had two RBI each and Riley three hits in the setback at Elizabeth.

Union and Elizabeth are in the Mountain Division and New Providence in the Watchung Division, so Cranford began the week 1-0 in Watchung Division play. The Cougars won the division outright the past four seasons there was baseball, 2019, 2021, 2022 and 2023.

McCaffery now on 500 short list

This is the list.

Now Union County has four baseball coaches with 500 wins.
Bob Brewster of Westfield High School has the most at 655. Ray Korn of Roselle Catholic and Elizabeth is second at 651 and Gordon LeMatty of Union third at 641.

Now Dennis McCaffery of Cranford, in his 25th season at the helm of the Cougars, has 500.

That’s it.

The next Union County coach in line for 500 victories is present Governor Livingston High School mentor Chris Roof, who began the week at 451 victories, following a 3-0 start. This is Roof’s 20th season as head coach at his high school alma mater Governor Livingston, following a three-year stint at Millburn High School from 2001 to 2003.

Riley, with five, and Falk, McCaffery and Tripodi with four, each banged out the most hits for Cranford in Week 1.

Next week’s schedule has Cranford home against John F. Kennedy Memorial High School, Iselin, on Monday, April 15, at 4 p.m.; home vs. Bayonne High School on Tuesday, April 16, at 4:30 p.m.; home against Oratory Preparatory School on Wednesday, April 17, at 4 p.m.; and at St. Mary High School, Rutherford, Bergen County, on Saturday, April 20, at 11 a.m.

None of those games are Watchung Division contests. The games this week against Arthur L. Johnson, Scotch Plains-Fanwood and Summit are division contests.

Photo by JR Parachini