Cranford baseball looks to repeat as UCT champion … again

Cranford High School senior third-baseman Ryan Jaros, one of the best players in the state, who will play in college at Georgia Institute of Technology, runs around the bases during a game. He had an RBI-single in the 3-1 home win against St. Mary High School, Rutherford, on Monday, May 8. Cranford improved to 18-0.

CRANFORD, NJ — Who was the last repeat baseball Union County Tournament champion?

The Cranford Cougars.

That was in 2011, when Cranford High School defeated Governor Livingston High School 14-1 in a final at Kean University that simply got away from the Highlanders, who at the time were still seeking their first UCT crown. Cranford came back from a 5-0 deficit to defeat Westfield High School 6-5 in the 2010 title contest played at Elizabeth’s Williams Field.

Governor Livingston did rebound from that UCT final loss to Cranford to win its second Group 2 state championship in 2011. While Cranford did not repeat as Group 3 state champs in 2011, the Cougars would go on to win Group 3 again in 2012 and 2013.

Cranford began the week with a perfect record of 17-0 and was two wins shy of playing in the UCT final for the second straight year and having an opportunity to become the first team to repeat as champs since they did so a dozen years ago.

First, the Cougars had to get past ninth-seeded David Brearley High School in one of four quarterfinal round games played at the ballpark of the higher seed on Wednesday, May 10. David Brearley was the only team that won a first-round game on the road, winning at Union High School 9-3.

Cranford is off to its best start since its 2013 team also began 17-0, before losing its first game. That turned out to be its only loss that season, as Cranford won the UCT and Group 3 and finished as the No. 1 team in New Jersey, with a final record of 25-1.
Cranford, leaders of the Union County Conference’s Watchung Division at 9-0, was scheduled to play St. Mary High School, Rutherford, on Monday, May 8, before facing David Brearley in UCT play on Wednesday, May 10.

The other quarterfinal round matchups on Wednesday, May 10, included fifth-seeded Arthur L. Johnson High School at fourth-seeded Westfield, seventh-seeded Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School at second-seeded Governor Livingston and sixth-seeded Elizabeth High School at third-seeded Summit High School.

The semifinals are set to be played at Arthur L. Johnson High School in Clark on Saturday, May 13.

The championship game is scheduled for Monday, May 15, at Kean University in Union.

Times for the semifinals and final have not been determined.
Governor Livingston began the week 12-4 and winners of 10 of its last 11 games, following a 2-3 start. The Highlanders were scheduled to play at Montclair Kimberley Academy on Tuesday, May 9.

Governor Livingston has won the UCT three times: 2016, 2018 and 2021.

Summit also began the week at 12-4, winners of four of its last five. The only loss in that stretch was a 7-2 Union County Conference-Mountain Division setback at Elizabeth on Thursday, May 4. On Wednesday, April 12, at home against the Minutemen, Summit rolled to a convincing 11-1 triumph in Mountain Division competition.

Summit won the last of its four UCT crowns in 1998. The first three came in 1972, 1979 and 1992.

Summit beat Cranford in the 1998 final, which was the first time in 20 years that the Cougars advanced to the championship game. Cranford then won the UCT for the first time the very next year in 1999 and then repeated in 2000 and three-peated in 2001.

Cranford is not only the last team to win two straight UCT titles, but the Cougars are also the last to win three in a row.

Westfield is the only program to win four in a row: 1994, 1995, 1996 and 1997.

Westfield has won the most UCT championships with 10, its last coming in 2017. Cranford is next with 10 and then Union with eight. Elizabeth and Scotch Plains-Fanwood have both won five.

Seniors Sean Woodruff for Cranford and Wes Hellings for Summit and junior Johnny Schmidt for Governor Livingston are among the top pitchers in Union County who are candidates to get UCT mound starts.

Championship game

Monday, May 15, at Kean University


Saturday, May 13, at Arthur L. Johnson High School


Wednesday, May 10

Top side of the bracket

9-David Brearley at 1-Cranford
5-Arthur L. Johnson at 4-Westfield
Bottom side of the bracket
7-Scotch Plains-Fanwood at 2-Governor Livingston
6-Elizabeth at 3-Summit

First round

Saturday, May 6

Cranford 12, Rahway 2
David Brearley 9, Union 3
Westfield 6, Union Catholic 4
Arthur L. Johnson 4, Oratory Prep 3, 8 innings
Governor Livingston 11, Roselle Catholic 0
Summit 7, Linden 0
Scotch Plains-Fanwood 13, Jonathan Dayton 10
Elizabeth 6, New Providence 1

Preliminary round

Wednesday, May 3

Rahway 6, Plainfield 4

Photo Courtesy of Gene Nann