Cranford Cougars baseball team takes top seed for UCT

CRANFORD, NJ — It’s now been five years since Cranford High School advanced to the baseball Union County Tournament championship game.
It’s been seven years since the Cougars have captured the crown.

Last year’s squad, the top seed and quite capable, was stymied by Westfield High School senior right-hander Chris Ho, 2-1, in the first semifinal played at Elizabeth’s Williams Field.

Cranford won its first UCT title in 1999, and, from that year until 2015 — a total of 17 seasons — the Cougars were 9-0 in the event.

Cranford is now 9-1 in the UCT championship game under head coach Dennis McCaffery, at the helm of the Cougars since 1999. The last time Cranford reached the final they lost, falling to Westfield in the 2017 game.

Cranford last won the UCT in 2015. The Cougars feel it’s time to win that 10th championship.

For the second straight year, Cranford is the top seed, with a resume that included a 13-3 record that showed only one loss to a Union County opponent.

Cranford lost at New Providence High School, 9-3, on Tuesday, April 12, in Union County Conference–Watchung Division play, but more recently, on Thursday, May 5, the Cougars downed the Pioneers, 13-3, at home.

Cranford’s only other two setbacks were at Middletown South High School, 2-1, on Wednesday, April 13, and to fellow North 2, Group 3, school James J. Ferris High School of Jersey City, 4-2, in a game played at Weehawken on Sunday, April 24.

On Monday, May 9, Cranford also won at Union High School, 19-6, to repeat as Union County Conference–Watchung Division champions.

Cranford won its sixth straight to improve to 14-3 overall and 10-1 in the Watchung Division, with one more division game to go at home vs. Governor Livingston High School on Monday, May 16.

In Cranford’s game against Union on Monday, May 9, senior Jack Conley went 3-for-4 with four RBIs and three runs. Two of his hits were singles and the other a double.

Cranford erased a 3-2 deficit by scoring 11 runs in the top of the sixth, right after Union took its only lead by scoring its first three runs in the bottom of the fifth.

Senior Dan Abrahamsen was credited with the mound victory for Cranford. Abrahamsen did not allow a run in four innings pitched, striking out six and walking one. He allowed one hit and also hit three batters.

“Baseball is not a sport where you can look ahead,” McCaffery previously said. “The best team doesn’t always win. It’s who executes the best.”

Rounding out the top eight seeds are New Providence as the second seed, defending champion Governor Livingston as the third, Westfield as the fourth, Union Catholic High School as the fifth, Arthur L. Johnson High School as the sixth, Scotch Plains–Fanwood High School as the seventh and Elizabeth High School the eighth.

In all, 18 of the 19 Union County Conference schools were seeded, with Valley Division member Hillside High School the only one that wasn’t.

Preliminary-round games were scheduled to be played on Wednesday, May 11, after press time.

The UCT is to continue on Saturday, May 14, with eight first-round games at the higher seeds.

The quarterfinals are set for Wednesday, May 18, at the higher seeds.

The semifinals are scheduled for Saturday, May 21, at a site still to be determined.

The championship game is set for Monday, May 23, at 6 p.m., at Kean University in Union.

68th annual baseball
Union County Tournament seeds
• 1: Cranford.
• 2: New Providence
• 3: Governor Livingston.
• 4: Westfield.
• 5: Union Catholic.
• 6: Arthur L. Johnson.
• 7: Scotch Plains–Fanwood.
• 8: Elizabeth.
• 9: Summit.
• 10: Union.
• 11: Jonathan Dayton.
• 12: David Brearley.
• 13: Oratory Prep.
• 14: Roselle Catholic.
• 15: Linden.
• 16: Plainfield.
• 17: Rahway.
• 18: Roselle Park.

Preliminary Round:
Wednesday, May 11
At the higher seeds.

First Round:
Saturday, May 14
At the higher seeds.

Wednesday, May 18
At the higher seeds.

Saturday, May 21
At a site to be determined.

Monday, May 23
At Kean University
Semifinals winners, 6 p.m.