Cranford wins North 2 Group 3 semifinals
Dennis McCaffery fines nothing to be gained from confining his hitters. Any kind of restraint would only seem to curtail Cranford’s finest offensive quality.
The coach offers an environment conducive to hitting by entrusting his players to be aggressive at the plate as long as it’s within reason. That line of thinking has struck a chord with a cast that’s unwilling to let pitch they deem swing worthy to pass them by.
“You’re swinging at every pitch until your mind says no,” is the way McCaffery preaches his program’s offensive mission statement and it’s one Eric Garguilo is a devout believer in.
The senior second baseman made that point clear on the very first pitch he saw from Morristown starter Ryan Brunnock leading off the bottom of the first, which he lined back up the middle for a base hit.
“I like jumping on the first pitch because a lot of pitchers throw fastballs in that spot to get ahead,” Garguilo said “It was right down the middle, but if you take it, it might be the best pitch you see in the at bat. Then you’re stuck swing at curveballs and stuff in the dirt. You just can’t get the barrel on the ball the rest of the at bat. I wanted to set a tone.”
Garguilo did more than that. He laid the foundation for a three-run rally that featured three hits driven on the initial pitch of each at bat. Furthermore, he touched off a display of the depth within a Cougars order that supplied plenty of support for the pitching trio of Kurt Rutmayer, Ryan Williamson and Vinnie Colaneri as Cranford registered a 7-1 victory over Morristown on Tuesday in the semifinals of the NJSIAA North Jersey, Section 2, Group 3 tournament in Cranford.
Cranford (19-4), which will host West Morris in the sectional final on Friday, pounded out 11 hits with each of the nine starters providing at least one.
“That’s what you want, to have balance throughout the lineup,” McCaffery said. “That’s a credit to the kids. They work very hard and have taken a lot more swings lately and they show up at morning hitting.”
Garguilo did more than use his bat to establish a tenor for Cranford. He put his feet to work by stealing on the very next pitch after his single. Sean Feeney, who went 2-for-3, walked and the two were sacrificed to second and third to set the table for Chris Folinusz.
The junior catcher lined a two-run single to right and Sean McGovern added a sacrifice fly as to-seeded Cranford maximized its productivity in the first, generating three runs on four hits and just 12 pitches by Brunnock.
After Brunnock responded for 12th-seeded Morristown (14-13) with an RBI single in the third to pare the deficit, Cranford countered by breaking the contest wide open. It paraded nine batters to the plate in the bottom half of the frame and scored tacked on four mores runs on the strength of five hits.
Johnny Oblachinski, who went 2-for-3, and Feeney each singled home a run and Andrew DiFrancesco lopped a two-run single to cap the scoring.
In the meantime, Rutmayer (8-1), a senior right hander, scattered five hits, walked one and struck out two before handing the ball over to Williamson, a junior southpaw who retired five of the six he faced in two innings of relief. Colaneri closed out the triumph by working the seventh..
Folinusz isn’t the least bit envious of what opposing hitters must go through in terms of adjusting to the
“Kurt is more of a middle-velocity guy and his balls move a lot,” Folinusz noted. “Then, when Ryan comes in, he’s a high 80s guy. It’s a real hard adjustment.”
Pat Murphy went 2-for-2 with a pair of singles for Morristown, which got solid relief appearances by David Smith and David Montesero.
Gregg Lerner covers baseball for MSG Varsity. Follow him on Twitter: @gregglerner