CRANFORD – Despite terrible weather for a majority of the season, the Cranford High School baseball team managed to squeeze out 21 games to finish with a 12-8-1 record.
Coming off a 21-8 2017 season, the Cougars graduated 11 seniors, including some big hitters in Ryan Bakie, Brian Oblachinski, and Tom Armstrong. Though the losses, the Cougars returned Jimmy Shriner, Tyler Szczech, and Patrick Connolly among others. Along with the three, Gordon Graceffo was back to lead the rotation in his senior year.
In what can be described as a learning year, the Cougars fought hard throughout the whole season, and until the state tournament, did not lose a game by more than three runs. Cranford made it to the quarterfinal round of the North Jersey, Section 2, Group 3 tournament, but fell to West Morris 10-2.
The Cougars put together two three-game winning streaks in April, and went into the state tournament hot with another three-game win streak, and extended it to a season-best four straight with a first round win over Mendham.
The first three-game winning streak for Cranford started with a double-header 13-1 victory over Memorial and a 5-3 win over Linden on April 14th. With the victories, head coach Dennis McCaffery joined the 400 wins club. McCaffery, in his 20th year in charge, has led the Cougars to 12 sectional championships and three state titles.
Cranford took on Gov. Livingston, a top five team in the state, twice this season, and managed a 4-4 tie, and more impressively, a 3-2 win in which the Cougars were no-hit.
The Cougars will graduate four seniors in Connolly, Graceffo, Sean Petrucci, and John Markase. With another year of experience, Cranford will look to lean on next year’s seniors in Shriner, Szczech, and Michael Meola at the plate, as well as Jake Van Dam and Kevin Donovan on the mound.