UNION COUNTY, NJ — The gold standard in Union County baseball for some time now has been set by Cranford, Governor Livingston, Westfield and Scotch Plains–Fanwood high schools.
Since 2009, only those four schools have been able to capture Union County Tournament championships.
The 68th annual UCT is scheduled to be seeded on Monday, May 2. The championship game has already been set for Monday, May 23, at 6 p.m. at Kean University’s field in Union.
Jonathan Dayton High School has also been solid in North 2, Group 1, over the past decade, under the leadership of head coach Michael Abbate, winning that sectional championship a couple of times.
New Providence High School has captured that section’s championship the past three times it was held, in 2018, 2019 and 2021, and last year reached the Group 1 final after finally winning in the Group 1 semifinals.
New Providence head coach Chris Brodeur has another solid cast, one that defeated both Cranford and Governor Livingston when they were previously undefeated.
As the fourth week of the 2022 season commenced on Monday, April 25, the teams in the lead for the top seed for this year’s UCT were Governor Livingston, Cranford and New Providence.
On Tuesday, April 26, in Union County Conference–Watchung Division play, Governor Livingston was scheduled to host Cranford, weather permitting. The teams will play again in division play later in the season at Cranford.
New Providence moved up to the UCC’s Watchung Division this year, and Elizabeth High School moved down to the Mountain Division.
As of Monday, April 25:
Governor Livingston (10-1): Highlanders had only one loss against a Union County opponent, and that was last week’s 4-3 setback at New Providence in nine innings when the Highlanders were 7-0.
Cranford (8-3): Cranford lost at New Providence, 9-3, on Tuesday, April 12, when the visiting Cougars were 5-0. Cranford’s other losses were to out-of-county foes Middletown South High School on Wednesday, April 13, and James J. Ferris High School of Jersey City on Friday, April 22.
New Providence (7-2): When New Providence defeated Governor Livingston last week, it was win No. 7 in a row for the Pioneers. They then lost at home to Oratory Preparatory School, 4-3, the next day. Oratory Prep of Summit entered the game at 0-9. New Providence then lost to Madison High School, 5-2, on Friday, April 22, also at home. New Providence’s first loss was at home to Mountain Division rival David Brearley High School, 5-2, on opening day, Saturday, April 2.
That meant Governor Livington and Cranford had only one loss to a Union County school, both to New Providence, and New Providence had two, to Mountain Division schools David Brearley and Oratory Prep.
Governor Livingston was the only team that did not have a loss to a team from out of Union County and had the fewest losses of the three teams and the best record.
Governor Livingston won the UCT last year for the third time, beating Westfield High School, 16-6, in the final over two days at Elizabeth High School’s Williams Field.
Cranford head coach Dennis McCaffery, at the helm since 1999, and Governor Livingston head coach Chris Roof, at the helm since 2004 and the three years before that at Millburn, have each won more than 400 games.
The only coaches in Union County who have won more are Bob Brewster of Westfield (655), Ray Korn of Roselle Catholic and Elizabeth (651) and Gordon LeMatty (641) of Union, who are all retired. LeMatty turns 89 on Sunday, May 15.
McCaffery has guided Cranford to all nine of its UCT championships, which came between 1999 and 2015. He is 9-1 in the UCT final, with the only loss being to Westfield in 2017, which was the last year the Cougars reached the championship game. Cranford last won the UCT in 2015.
McCaffery has also led Cranford to Group 3 state championships at all three Toms River fields: in 2010 at TR North, in 2012 at TR South and in 2013 at TR East.
“Baseball is not a sport where you can look ahead,” McCaffery said. “The best team doesn’t always win. It’s who executes the best.”
Roof has led Governor Livingston to all three of its UCT championships, which came in 2016, 2018 and 2021.
Roof has also led Governor Livingston to Group 2 state championships at Toms River North in 2011 and Toms River South in 2015.
“Bill Howard is my inspiration, a dear friend and I owe him everything,” Roof said last year after he won his 400th game and before he guided the Highlanders to another UCT crown. Howard was the baseball coach Roof played for and briefly coached for at Governor Livingston. Roof is a 1992 Governor Livingston graduate.
Notes: Since 2009, Cranford has won UCT crowns in 2010, 2011, 2013 and 2015.
Governor Livingston won the title in 2016, 2018 and 2021.
Westfield won the championship in 2012, 2014 and 2017, under the guidance of Bob Brewster, and Scotch Plains–Fanwood won in 2009 when led by Tom Baylock and in 2019 with current head coach Joe Higgins.
Baylock and McCaffery are both Roselle Park graduates. Baylock graduated in 1992 and McCaffery in 1987.
Westfield has won the most UCT championships with 15, while Cranford is next with nine. Brewster guided the Blue Devils to their last 11 crowns.
Elizabeth was the last team other than Governor Livingston, Cranford, Westfield and Scotch Plains–Fanwood to win the UCT, which was in 2008 behind senior right-hander Gio Caraballo; they beat Westfield, 4-2, in that year’s championship game at Elizabeth.
The Minutemen were still guided then by Korn, who was in his second-to-last season. Matt Belford took over in 2010 and is still the head coach.
Elizabeth began the week with a record of 5-2-1 after falling to Sayreville, 10-3, on Sunday, April 24, in the Autism Awareness Games at North Brunswick’s Community Park.
Elizabeth had a four-game winning streak snapped.