High school baseball begins section state tournaments this week

Jonathan Dayton High School Bulldogs seniors stand with baseball head coach Mike Abbate as he holds the second-place Union County Tournament trophy. Jonathan Dayton High School earned the top seed in North 2, Group 1. The Bulldogs last won the section in 2014.

SPRINGFIELD, NJ — Although the start of the high school baseball season in New Jersey reverted back to its usual commencement of April 1 throughout the state this year, for the second straight season, the sectional state tournaments began after Memorial Day.
Pre-pandemic, the sectional semifinals were played the day after Memorial Day, with the sectional finals contested three days later, on the Friday of that week.

Last year, the states began June 2 for the public schools, and, this season, they were to begin Wednesday, June 1, after press time, with first-round action set. Non-public schools were scheduled to begin their sectional state tournaments on Tuesday, May 31, also after press time.

Union County did well, as far as teams qualifying. Of the 19 schools that are in the Union County Conference, 16 of them made it this far this year.

The only three that didn’t make it to the UCT this year were Union High School and Linden High School in North 2, Group 4, and Hillside High School in Central Jersey, Group 2.

This is the 20th anniversary of the last time Union won North 2, Group 4, in 2002. That season, the Farmers went 26-3, and, after winning the overall Group 4 state championship by beating Jackson, 8-2, in the final played at East Brunswick Vocational Technical High School, Union ended up finishing No. 1 in the state for 2002 in the final Star-Ledger Top 20 rankings.

The most recent Union County school to win a sectional state title was New Providence High School, which captured North 2, Group 1, last year for the third year in a row.

The last Union County school to win an overall state championship was Governor Livingston High School in 2015, when the Highlanders won Group 2 for the third time overall and for the second time in five seasons.

The Union County public schools that qualified for the states this year are Roselle Park, David Brearley, Jonathan Dayton, Summit, Governor Livingston, Elizabeth, Rahway, Cranford, Arthur L. Johnson, Westfield, Plainfield, Scotch Plains–Fanwood and New Providence; the Union County nonpublic schools that qualified are Oratory Preparatory, Roselle Catholic and Union Catholic.

Cranford High School, which captured the Union County Tournament championship for the 10th time overall and for the first time since 2015, improved to a 20-4 record on Thursday, May 26. The Cougars posted another 20-win season by downing Notre Dame High School of Lawrenceville, 13-4, at home.

The only common game involving Union County schools that made it was third-seeded Cranford hosting 14th-seeded Rahway High School in its North 2, Group 3, first-round matchup on Wednesday, June 1. Cranford last won the section in 2017. In last year’s final at Millburn High School, Cranford was edged 1-0.

Millburn is the top seed and James J. Ferris High School of Jersey City is the second seed. Cranford played James J. Ferris on Sunday, April 24, at Weehawken High School’s field-turf field, which is located right before the entrance to the Lincoln Tunnel. James J. Ferris came out on top, 4-2.

Jonathan Dayton High School, which last won North 2, Group 1, for the second year in a row in 2014, is the top seed this time, and three-time defending champion New Providence High School the second seed. If both teams win their first three state tournament games, then Jonathan Dayton will host New Providence in the final on Friday, June 10, at Ruby Field in Springfield.

Jonathan Dayton and New Providence clashed in a UCC crossover game on Wednesday, May 25, at Somerset Patriots’ stadium in Bridgewater. New Providence prevailed, 15-11.

The schedule for all 16 Union County schools playing first-round games is as follows:

North 2, Group 4 (four schools from Union County)
Wednesday, June 1:
• No. 9 Elizabeth at No. 8 Franklin.
• No. 12 Scotch Plains–Fanwood at No. 5 Bayonne.
• No. 11 Dickinson at No. 6 Westfield.
• No. 15 Plainfield at No. 2 Ridge.

North 2, Group 3 (three schools from Union County)
Wednesday, June 1:
• No. 14 Rahway at No. 3 Cranford.
• No. 11 Summit at No. 6 Mendham.

North 2, Group 1 (four schools from Union County)
Wednesday, June 1
• No. 16 Secaucus at No. 1 Jonathan Dayton.
• No. 13 Dunellen at No. 4 David Brearley.
• No. 10 Whippany Park at No. 7 Roselle Park.
• No. 15 Belvidere at No. 2 New Providence.

Central Jersey, Group 2 (two schools from Union County)
Wednesday, June 1
• No. 13 Arthur L. Johnson at No. 4 Voorhees.
• No. 14 Delaware Valley at No. 3 Governor Livingston.

North Jersey, Non-Public A (one school from Union County)
Tuesday, May 31
• No. 12 Oratory Prep at No. 5 St. Peter’s Prep.

North Jersey, Non-Public B (one school from Union County)
Tuesday, May 31
• No. 10 Hawthorne Christian at No. 7 Roselle Catholic.

South Jersey, Non-Public A (one school from Union County)
Tuesday, May 31
• No. 10 Union Catholic at No. 7 Donovan Catholic.

For the public schools, the first-round games were to be played Wednesday, June 1, and the quarterfinals on Saturday, June 4. The sectional semifinals are scheduled for Tuesday, June 7, and the sectional finals for Friday, June 10.

The state semifinals at neutral sites to be determined are scheduled for Monday, June 13, and the state finals for Saturday, June 18, at Veterans Park in Hamilton. The state finals were moved from Toms River’s three high school fields to Veterans Park in Hamilton in 2018.

For the nonpublic schools, first-round games were to commence on Tuesday, May 31, while second-round contests are scheduled for Friday, June 3. The third round is set for Tuesday, June 7. They are all to be played at the higher-seed location.

Sectional finals are set for Friday, June 10, at the higher seeds, and then the state finals are scheduled for Wednesday, June 15, at Veterans Park in Hamilton.

Photo by JR Parachini

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