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Cranford Softball Celebrates 30th Anniversary 'In Style'

The township's local teams enjoyed a successful season.

Cranford softball celebrated its 30th anniversary in style this summer, as its most competitive summer travel teams posted an unprecedented number of wins, it honored its leaders of the past, and it provided for a bright future as well.

Kristen Mallon’s 10 and under (10U) A-squad again led the way, posting a 7-3 regular season record in the extremely competitive American Division of the Parkway Invitational Softball League. Its impressive record earned it a second-place regular season finish, and a berth in the PISL championship game in Long Hill. Although bested in that game, Mallon’s squad brought home no shortage of hardware for the summer. It won the 10U Woodbridge Tournament, beating host Woodbridge in the final after surviving a nail-biter in the semis, coming from behind to tie the game in the sixth inning, then winning it with a walkoff hit in the in the extra 7th frame. The team also came second in the Long Hill Tournament.

The team boasted a final record of 16–9 against the very best 10U all-star teams the area had to offer. No 10U squad in the program’s 30-year history has come close to posting that many wins in a summer.

The 12U/A squad managed by Keith Hoffman also had a fine summer, posting a 6-4 regular season record in the American Division of PISL, widely considered to be league’s most competitive age bracket and division. That record earned it a berth in the 12U/A playoffs, making it the first Cranford team to participate in the 12U/A playoffs in nearly a decade. Although the team was beaten by an extremely strong Chatham squad in that playoff game, it couldn’t dampen the spirits of girls who just the previous day had won what was almost certainly the most exciting and significant 12U/A game in the program’s recent history.

Having reeled off five victories in a row in the Woodbridge 12U Tournament, the club found itself matched with well-respected adversary Woodbridge in the tournament final. Down two runs going into the seventh inning against a talented and disciplined Woodbridge squad, the girls rallied for three runs
to go up one, then preserved the victory in the bottom of the seventh, winning their first tournament championship as a group, and earning the respect of the stunned but appreciative home crowd in the host’s tournament championship game. Overall, the girls posted a 17-9 record playing the toughest teams
they could find.

Scott Wetherell’s 14U/A team enjoyed another strong season, this time competing with the top-tier teams in the PISL 14U/American Division. Its 6-4 regular season record earned it a trip to the A Division Tournament. That marked the first time in the nearly 20-year history of the Parkway League that the three Cranford A squads (10U, 12U and 14U) all earned berths in the Parkway League’s premier division playoffs. Earlier in the season, Wetherell’s squad worked its way to the final of the inaugural Cranford Summer 14U Tournament. Although it was defeated by Maplewood – South Orange (MSO) in that final, its second-place finish in the tourney was more than respectable. And, as it happened, it would get another chance at MSO.

In the Parkway playoffs, Cranford again squared off with that very strong and athletic MSO squad. Things looked bleak late in the game, as Cranford trailed. But the girls pulled off a miracle rally to tie the game and send it into extra innings. Cranford scored in its half of the 8 th, and then held on to win, sending it to the championship game. Although the girls gave it their best, they were beaten in that game by a very powerful Rahway team. Overall, Wetherell’s team ended the summer 12-6, while playing the best 14U opponents around. As a group, the A squads posted a remarkable overall record for the summer of 45-24.

The B-level squads also got some fine experience for the girls this summer. The 12U/B squad of Tim Dineen rallied to a 4-6 record in the Parkway 12U National Division after surviving a very rough start. Under the tutelage of Coach Dineen the girls stayed positive, and ended the year a much-improved club.
They were very competitive in the same 12U Woodbridge Tournament won by  the A squad. Perhaps most impressively, before that tournament, they gave that same strong Woodbridge 12U team a scare, taking them to extra innings before eventually falling. Eric Kiamie’s 10U/B squad also ended the year strong,
finishing at 4-6 in Parkway League with a squad of girls, many of whom were getting their first taste of competitive summer softball.

But this summer at the Adams Avenue complex was not just about the present. The league honored its past and provided for its future as well. Cranford had the honor of hosting the Parkway League’s 10U and 12U all-star games. In mid-July girls came to Cranford from the five counties and 80 teams that take part in the league to participate in PISL’s premier annual event. During the festivities, CBSL officials honored three of the people whose dedication to Cranford and its softball program helped put the town on the softball map. Bob and Joanne St. Amand and Jim Donnelly were all presented with plaques from the league, in recognition of their years of service to Cranford Softball, and for building the program’s strong foundation. Bob St. Amand was also among the group of Cranford residents who first proposed and organized the Parkway League in 1994.

This summer also marked the inaugural editions of the 12U and 14U Cranford Summer Softball Tournaments. The tournaments were a success, and will form a basis for an even more aggressive summer tournament schedule to be hosted at the Adams Avenue complex in the future.

And speaking of the future, the town’s two 8U entries had their own remarkable summer. Jim Litterio’s 7- and 8-year-olds on the 8U Gold squad played a stunning 25 games this summer. They finished second in the Long Hill 8U Tournament, and made it to the semifinal round of the 8U Woodbridge Tournament. They dominated play in regular season league-play, going undefeated in the Sayreville League, ending the year in style by winning the championship with their last game of the summer. As if that weren’t enough to assure future success for the Cranford softball program, the team they played in
that championship was the other Cranford entry in the league, Cranford Blue, managed by Bill Demcher and Frank Padovano. In addition to their second placed finish in the Sayreville League, the 8U Blue squad was competitive in tournaments in Verona and Woodbridge, and finished the year with a more than
respectable 7-5 record.

The program also entered a team in the High School division of the Parkway League, managed by former CHS standout shortstop Deanna Russomanno. That team also posted a winning record, at 6-4.

Although the number of wins was substantial, the most important number for the softball program this summer was the number of girls who had fun playing competitive softball. Cranford fielded eight teams with a total of 120 girls. That is more teams, and more girls, than have ever before participated in Cranford summer softball.

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