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Veteran coach Dennis McCaffery has once again guided his Cranford Cougars into the North 2, Group 3 state sectional final as the Union County team will now host South Plainfield in Friday's sectional title tilt after Tuesday's 5-1 victory over West Essex. (Photos by Gene Nann-nannphoto)

Lehigh-bound left-hander Ethan Frohman (8-2) is an outstanding front line starter for GL

Despite not winning a Union County Tournament title, Governor Livingston, under coach Chris Roof, is in thick of Central Jersey, Group 2 title hunt as Highlanders host Robbinsville Friday.

Cranford & GL Last Two Standing
As Union County's Best Eye Friday
By JR Parachini
For sidelinechatter.com

Sometimes it works out that the last two teams that have yet to pack their gear for good are the two best.

That’s the case this season as far as Union County baseball is concerned.

The only schools still alive in state tournament play are the two best teams – Union County Tournament champion Cranford and runner-up Governor Livingston.

The gold standard in baseball in Union County, Cranford and GL also tied for first in the Union County Conference’s Watchung Division and will share that division championship after each finished 8-2 in league play and split with each other.

In sectional semifinal action Tuesday, both were convincing winners at home.

In North 2, Group 3, top-seeded Cranford downed fourth-seeded West Essex 5-1. The 21-4 Cougars, who will host third-seeded South Plainfield (21-8) in Friday’s final, are one win away from winning N2, G3 for a program-best fourth straight season.

In Central Jersey, Group 2, second-seeded GL handled 14 th-seeded Matawan 12-2 in five innings. The 25-6 Highlanders, who will host fifth-seeded Robbinsville (20-10) in Friday’s final, are one win away from winning CJ, G2 for the first time in four years and are also a victory away from tying the program record for most wins in a season.

The third-best team in Union County this year was Scotch Plains, which saw its season come to a conclusion Tuesday. In North 2, Group 4, the second-seeded Raiders fell at home to sixth-seeded Ridge 9-7 in eight innings.

First-year head coach Joe Higgins guided Scotch Plains, which split with Cranford and GL in UCC-Watchung Division play, to a fine 21-8 record.

Dayton , seeking to win North 2, Group 1 for the third straight season, fell as the fourth seed at top-seeded Ridgewood 5-1. The Bulldogs finished 15-11 under sixth-year head coach Mike Abbate, who earlier this season gained his 100 th victory.

Dayton lost at Ridgefield 3-2 in eight innings in the 2012 N2, G1 semifinals and then last year lost to Ridgefield 6-5 in the Group 1 semifinal played at Ramapo College.

Union County ’s other team that played on Tuesday was Roselle Catholic in a Non-Public, South B quarterfinal. The 14th-seeded Lions fell at sixth-seeded Gill St. Bernard’s 8-4 and finished 5-18.

When GL last won CJ, G2 in 2011, the Highlanders went on to win the Group 2 state championship for the second time. This is the fifth time head coach Chris Roof has GL in a sectional final in his 12 seasons at the helm.

He also guided Millburn to sectional finals in two of the three seasons he was a head coach there, Roof, who is three wins shy of gaining his 300 th victory in this his 15 th season as a head coach, has a 3-3 record in sectional finals – 1-1 at Millburn and 2-2 at GL.

On Tuesday Roof saw his Highlanders score eight runs in the bottom of the fourth to take a 12-0 lead.

On the mound, Roof used Lehigh-bound senior left hander Ethan Frohman for the first four innings and senior righty Dan Belfer for the fifth. Frohman improved to 8-2 after a line that read four innings, no runs, two hits, six strikeouts and one walk.

“The best thing was that he threw only 54 pitches,” Roof said.

Belfer, 5-1 on the season, gave up two runs in his one inning, with one of them earned. He allowed two hits and walked one.

Both will be available to pitch against Robbinsville on Friday.

“This is my first time in 15 years as a head coach that my team has had the opportunity to win three titles,” Roof said, referring to division, county and section crowns. “Our kids are here every day and work very hard in practice to make this possible.”

Offensively for the Highlanders Tuesday, senior Mike Falk was 3-for-3 with three RBI. In GL’s eight-run fourth, Falk delivered an RBI-double and smacked a two-run triple.

Senior Ryan Zucker was 2-for-3 with two RBI, senior Ian Lynch was 1-for-2 with two runs and one RBI, senior John Tedesco scored two runs and freshman Danny Serretti scored twice and drove in one run.

Follow JR Parachini on Twitter @parachini_jr

Dennis McCaffery's Cranford Cougars are a win away from copping fourth straight N2G3 title

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