CRANFORD - Marcus Johnson is getting hot at the right time.
Johnson went 2-for-3 with a double, two walks, and a two-run home run to lead Cranford past Ridgewood, 8-2, in the North Region Elite 8 Round of the NJ Last Dance World Series.
"I saw (the right fielder) turn his body around and yup, I just knew it," said Johnson of his two-run homer in the second inning.
Following a slow start during the pool play round, Johnson, Cranford's leadoff hitter, has reached base four times in consecutive games.
"I went home and I just went off the tee, fixed my stance, worked at it, fixed it, and came back more aggressive," added Johnson.
Johnson got things started for Cranford with a leadoff double that one-hopped off the right field wall. He would come around to score on an RBI single by Jake DiClerico. Mike Murphy followed with another single to put runners on first and second before Luca Limeria plated both with a double off the left field wall as Cranford carried a 3-0 to the bottom of the first.
Number nine hitter Jake Chapman led off the top of the second for Cranford with a single and came around to score on Johnson's home run to right. Ryan Jaros kept things going with an opposite field single to right, and went on to steal second and third. Three batters later, Jaros scored on a Murphy infield single as Cranford opened up a 6-0 lead.
Will Gallagher got his second start of the tournament on the mound and went the full seven innings, allowing just two runs on seven hits. He also recorded five strikeouts, issued two walks, and hit a batter.
"Will Gallagher pitched a great game, said Cranford head coach Dennis McCaffery. "He kept them off balance. That's a very difficult lineup one through nine. He was able to mix up his pitches and keep them off balance."
With the win, Cranford advances to the North Region Final Four to take on Don Bosco Prep at TD Bank Ballpark, in Bridgewater, this Tuesday.
"Stay with a plan," said McCaffery. "If you're 0-for-4 or you're 4-for-4, It's the same mindset. Baseball's a game where you have to have an even mindset, you have to be confident, you can't panic as a player, and you can't panic as a coach. You have to believe in your players, and they have to believe in the program and the work they put in. These kids have been working hard, and they continue to work."