CRANFORD – After finishing 11-9 and making it to the state tournament semifinals, the Cranford High School softball program will graduate nine seniors.
The graduation of this year’s seniors will be bittersweet for head coach Heather West. West just completed her fourth year as head coach, and some of the seniors have been with her since her first day on the job.
“They were a great group. I had a lot of them since they were freshman,” said West. “They bought into my coaching philosophy and we meshed well together. They were true leaders on and off the field. When you looked at our team, there wasn’t a difference between freshmen, juniors, and seniors. Seniors picked up equipment just as much as freshmen did and I think that’s huge. They set a great example, and there will be huge shoes to fill.”
Though they didn’t win a championship, the Cougars can take pride in reaching the state tournament semifinals after failing to make it past the quarterfinals the last three seasons. Some huge wins this season included two against Governor Livingston, who it lost to three times last season, including a 10-0 season-ender in the quarterfinals.
Two key seniors that West will have to replace are pitcher Brenna Dolan, and third baseman Sarah Gluck. Dolan has led Cranford in innings pitched the past three seasons, and Gluck led the senior class in almost all offensive categories, including three home runs.
Despite the losses of Dolan and Gluck, West will look to juniors such as Erin Schwerdtfeger, Jayna Mallon, and Bridget Dineen, along with freshman Elizabeth McCaffery, Morrigan Gardiner, Ava Manfra, and Mia Markase to take on bigger roles next year.
Schwerdtfeger and McCaffery each finished with a team-high 30 hits. Both Dineen and Gardiner tossed a handful of innings this season, and will look to take Dolan’s place in circle.
“I’m really excited to see what these girls can do in their next three years,” said West of her freshman turning sophomore players. “We didn’t have any sophomores this year. We had four freshmen that saw a lot of starting time. Elizabeth was huge for us. She was our starting shortstop and leadoff batter. We found her getting on base quite often, which allowed us to execute early in the game which was great.”
“I’m also looking forward to having my juniors another year,” added West. “I expect big things out of them. I’m also excited to see how they lead this team next year.”