Freehold hoped to make history Saturday.
The Colonials hoped to win their first state group championship since the NJSIAA began playing out to overall group baseball champions in 1971.
Ryan Williamson and Chris Folinusz put history on hold.
Williamson tossed a two-hitter and Folinusz slugged two solo homers, leading Cranford to a 4-1 victory in the Group III state championship game at Toms River High School South.
“It’s painful,” Freehold senior catcher Kyle Mogilski said after the Colonials’ first appearance in a state group final. “We came up a little short. I can’t believe it’s over. For a lot of us, this is our last game together.”
Williamson, a junior left-hander, pushed his record to 6-0. He found the conditions at the Ken Frank Baseball Stadium to his liking, striking out nine and walking two.
“I felt real good,” he said. “It was a nice, warm day, perfect weather, nice and sunny. My arm was loose. Toward the end of the game, it got really hot and I got tired. I used my legs more.”
Williamson struck out nine and walked two, forcing the Colonials (18-13) to spend the bulk of the game doing the 1-2-3 cha-cha-cha.
“I threw first-pitch strikes,” he said, “and I let my fielders do the work. I listened to what my catcher called. I threw the ball to where I was supposed to throw it.”
Williamson allowed a leadoff double to right-center in the bottom of the second inning to Mogilski and a one-out single to right in the seventh to senior second baseman Ed Zaleski. Both connected on 1-2 pitches.
“My fastball was moving,” the 6-foot-2 Williamson said, “and my curveball was OK. My curveball was on and off depending on the inning, but it was mostly on.”
Williamson said he entered the game with a plan against the Colonials.
“I knew a little bit about them,” he said. “My coaches told me to jam them inside — up and in.”
“We did not come out hitting the way we usually do,” Mogilski said. “We usually come back in the late innings. He overpowered us a little bit. We took a lot of pitches. We got deep into counts as we did not attack him early.
“He’s obviously a great player. He’s mature. I want to congratulate him on doing a great job for them.”
Williamson was on the Cougars’ roster in 2010 when they won the Group III state title. However, he was hit in the left hand by a line drive and suffered a broken hand.
Last fall, playing wide receiver, he sustained a broken left collarbone as the Cougars won the North Jersey Section II Group III diadem.
“I had no jitters,” he said. “I was kind of excited to play today. I have been here before. I knew how to prepare for it. All of the titles are sweet to be honest. Every second of being a champion is the best feeling in the world.”
The Cougars (22-4) took a 1-0 lead in the first on an infield out by Andrew DiFrancisco.
They made it 2-0 in the fourth when Folinusz , a junior catcher, blasted a 1-2 pitch from junior lefty Jake Yanez (two strikeouts, one walk, four hits) onto the gymnasium roof in dead center field. It was his seventh homer of the season.
The lead grew to 3-0 in the fifth on a sacrifice fly to left by junior shortstop Sean Feeney. The Colonials shaved their deficit to 3-1 in the fifth on an infield out by junior center fielder Jason Lundy.
Folinusz drove a 1-1 pitch from Yanez over the left-field wall to lead off the sixth for a 4-1 lead.
“Give credit to them,” 19th-year Freehold coach Jon Block said. “We received a taste of what it takes to win a state group championship. You pretty much have to be perfect.”
Cranford 4, Freehold 1
2B: (C) Plick; 3B: (C) Feeney; HR: (C) Folinusz 2; WP: Williamson 6-0. LP: Yanez 7-4.