Cranford repeats as softball champs in county tournament

The members of the Cranford High School softball team wear county championship medals around their necks. First-year head coach Melissa Moreno, who became the first person to win county championships as both a player and as a coach for Cranford, stands to the left of her team.

UNION, NJ — The formula for repeating as county champions for the second time in school history was this for the Cranford High School softball team: give the ball to junior pitcher Avery Toddings and then let the offense do the rest.

Cranford played four teams in the county tournament and outscored them by an impressive margin of 27-1. David Brearley High School was able to produce a solo home run in the seventh inning of its quarterfinal at Cranford. That was it.

In the championship game at Kean University on Wednesday, May 18, Toddings tossed a four-hitter as top-seeded Cranford rolled past second-seeded Elizabeth High School, 9-0.

Cranford scored five runs in the top of the first and then added single additional insurance runs in the second and third and the final two in the fifth.

Samantha Brunton went 3-for-3 with three runs and three singles. Maddy DeLong and Sophia DeMarco both banged out two hits and scored two runs, each slugging home runs.

Cranford was just as dominant against Elizabeth in the regular season in Union County Conference–Watchung Division action.
Cranford won at Elizabeth, 9-3, on Monday, April 11, and then downed the Minutemen, 12-3, at home on Thursday, April 28.

The Cougars also won the Watchung Division championship outright and did so with a 7-1 record. Cranford swept Elizabeth and Westfield High School, split with Governor Livingston High School, and went 1-0 against Union and Arthur L. Johnson high schools. Cranford will not make up its other division games against Union and Arthur L. Johnson, because it already clinched the division title.

So, as the week began, two goals were already met: winning a division title and repeating as county champions. Cranford’s other county championships came in 2002 under coach Terry Biunno; 2006 under coach Shannon Norton; 2007, 2008 and 2010 under coach Bob Bruno; and 2021 under coach Christine Pemoulie. The first time Cranford repeated as UCT champs was when the Cougars won three straight from 2006 to 2008.

First-year head coach Melissa Moreno became the first to win county championships as both a player and a coach for Cranford. She won a UCT title as a player as Cranford’s starting catcher in 2010.

“We’ve been able to focus and settle into what we’ve been doing,” Moreno said. “To be here, where I started playing, and to be in this position now feels really great.”

“As long as we stick together, focus and play as a team, good things usually happen,” Toddings said.

North 2, Group 3, title was on the line again

Also the top seed in North 2, Group 3, for its sectional playoffs, Cranford blanked 16th-seeded North Plainfield High School 14-0 at home on Tuesday, May 17, and then shut out eighth-seeded Colonia High School, 7-0, on Friday, May 20, to advance to the semifinals.

Cranford was scheduled to host fourth-seeded West Morris High School on Tuesday, May 24, in the semifinals after the press deadline. If the Cougars won, then they will be hosting either second-seeded Nutley High School or third-seeded South Plainfield High School in the championship game on Friday, May 27, at Cranford’s Adams Avenue Field, since the higher-ranked seed gets to host.

Last year, Cranford beat West Morris, 5-0, at home in the semifinals and then won at Nutley, 4-0, to win the section for the first time since 2009.

Cranford then blanked North 1, Group 3, champ Roxbury High School, 1-0, in the Group 3 semifinals before falling to Colts Neck High School, 2-0, in the Group 3 state championship game at Kean University. Sparked by senior pitcher Morrigan Gardiner, Cranford finished 24-6 last year.

Photo Courtesy of Melissa Moreno