CRANFORD, NJ — In order to reach this weekend’s Union County Tournament championship game and have the opportunity to win it for the third straight year, the Cranford High School softball team needed to get past Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School on Monday, May 15, and then either Elizabeth High School or Jonathan Dayton High School on Wednesday, May 17 – teams it easily handled during the regular season.
If there were no upsets, then a likely second-seeded Governor Livingston High School vs. top-seeded Cranford final is in store for either Friday, May 19, or Saturday, May 20, with the time and site of the championship game still undecided as of Monday, May 15.
Scotch Plains-Fanwood was the only team to win on the road in first-round action on Saturday, May 13, topping in-town rival Union Catholic High School 10-1 at Union Catholic.
Cranford began the week with a Union County-best overall record of 18-4 and a 9-1 mark in the Union County Conference’s Watchung Division. The only loss the Cougars had against a Union County opponent was its 7-5 Watchung Division loss at home to Governor Livingston on Wednesday, May 10. Cranford won at Governor Livingston 2-0 in division play on Tuesday, April 18.
Cranford repeated as Watchung Division champions outright with its 9-1 league mark.
The scheduled quarterfinals for Monday, May 15, included, on the top side of the bracket, ninth-seeded Scotch Plains-Fanwood at top-seeded and two-time defending champion Cranford and fifth-seeded Elizabeth at fourth-seeded Jonathan Dayton. On the bottom side of the bracket were sixth-seeded Union at third-seeded Governor Livingston and seventh-seeded Westfield High School at second-seeded Arthur L. Johnson High School.
Winners advanced to the semifinals on Wednesday, May 17.
In regular season UCC-crossover play, Cranford beat Scotch Plains-Fanwood at home 9-1 in the season-opener for both on Monday, April 3. Cranford later defeated Jonathan Dayton at home 6-1 on Friday, April 14. In Watchung Division action, Cranford bested Elizabeth 8-0 at home on Thursday, April 13, and by the score of 12-5 in Elizabeth on Tuesday, May 2.
Cranford, sparked by the pitching of senior right-hander Avery Toddings and the hitting of junior first baseman-pitcher Sophia DeMarco, is attempting to win the UCT for the third year in a row for a second time. Cranford’s first three-peat came in 2006, with head coach Shannon Norton and 2007 and 2008 with head coach Bob Bruno.
Cranford has won a total of seven UCT championships, the other four crowns coming in 2002, 2010, 2021 and 2022.
In Governor Livingston’s 12-1 first-round win at home against Oak Knoll School of the Holy Child, Anna Popola was 3-for-5 with three RBIs and two runs scored.
Second-seeded Arthur L. Johnson was lifted by the play of pitcher Krista LaBianca, who tossed a one-hit shutout and also homered in her team’s 16-0 home win against Rahway.
Union senior right-hander Alexa Liquori also pitched a one-hitter to lead the host Farmers past visiting Roselle Park High School 10-0 in first-round play. Liquori struck out 12, walked three and hit a batter. At the plate, Liquori was 2-for-4, with a run and a stolen base.
In last year’s semifinals, Cranford defeated Union 1-0, scoring the game’s lone run in the bottom of the seventh.
47th Softball Union County Tournament
Seeds: 1-Cranford. 2-Arthur L. Johnson. 3-Governor Livingston. 4-Jonathan Dayton. 5-Elizabeth. 6-Union. 7-Westfield. 8-Union Catholic. 9-Scotch Plains-Fanwood. 10-David Brearley. 11-Roselle Park. 12-Summit. 13-New Providence. 14-Oak Knoll. 15-Rahway. 16-Kent Place. 17-Roselle Catholic. 18-Linden. 19-Plainfield.
Saturday, May 13
Westfield 7, David Brearley 1
Arthur L. Johnson 16, Rahway 0
Scotch Plains-Fanwood 10, Union Catholic 1
Cranford 10, Kent Place 0
Union 10, Roselle Park 0
Governor Livingston 12, Oak Knoll 1
Elizabeth 12, Summit 1
Jonathan Dayton 18, New Providence 2
Monday, May 15
Top side of the bracket
9-Scotch Plains-Fanwood at 1-Cranford
5-Elizabeth at 4-Jonathan Dayton
Bottom side of the bracket
6-Union at 3-Governor Livingston
7-Westfield at 2-Arthur L. Johnson
Wednesday, May 15
Friday, May 19 or Saturday, May 20