Mount wins a pair at its tournament; Livingston splits 2, remains No. 1 in FMTC poll; Beware of West Essex

With a busy week coming up in Essex County softball, last Saturday’s Mount St. Dominic Invitational was a nice time to see the local teams playing schools from outside of Essex.

Livingston, which remains No. 1 in the FMTC Essex poll, split two games, dropping its first contest of the season to Pequannock, 4-3, before coming back to defeat Caravel Academy of Delaware, 6-3.

The host school looked really good, defeating Pennsbury of Pennsylvania, 10-0, then blanking High Point, 4-0, as freshman Kelsey Oh outdueled perhaps the best pitcher in the state, Ally Frei.

It’s hard to really grasp the meaning of an in-season tournament. For the kids, it’s a nice opportunity to see some unfamiliar faces, since the Essex circuit is a grind, with the Super Essex Conference and Essex County Tournament games taking up a bulk of the season.

On the other hand, since a lot of the kids play summer ball, they’ve gotten to know a lot of different players. Livingston’s Sammi Rothenberger was telling me she played with a few of the High Point kids, including Frei.

Anyway, playing two games, on a Saturday, provides a different dynamic than the usual game after school, and that was the case at MSDA.

But it was an excellent day at the Mount, with good weather, great food and camaraderie among the parents, players and fans throughout the day.

Mount St. Dominic and Immaculate Heart Academy both run nice early-season tourneys, with MSDA and Livingston competing in both, and doing a good job overall, with a 5-1 combined mark in the respective tourneys.

Livingston coach Jason Daily, who always says he never forgets the losses his team endures (and there aren’t many), was pleased with the way his team bounced back after losing its first game.

“We’re still working on a few things defensively,” said Daily. “We had some lapses on defense in the Pequannock game and you can’t do that against a team as talented as they are. We helped ourselves with some pick off plays in the field, but that was a game we eventually hurt ourselves in by not playing with the same focus we’re accustomed to.

“In the second game, we fell behind (3-1 in the fifth inning), but we found a way to come back and win a game against a very good team. When you leave the tournament with your last game being a win, it makes it a little easier.”

When the Lancers needed a boost in its game against Caravel, it got it from Seattle Slew, (Kylie McLaughlin), who laced a two-run triple in the bottom of the fifth to give her team a 4-3 lead.

Sammi Passeri continues to pitch well for Livingston (8-1) and the Lancers’ defense was much better in its second game of the day at MSDA.

And let’s not forget the tremendous defense and timely hitting by junior catcher Marina Lombardi of Livingston.This kid can flat out play.

The Lions of MSDA were dominant in its two games, including a 5-inning win in the first contest against Pennsbury.

But it was the second game, where Oh and Frei met up in a much-anticipated pitcher’s duel, which had the fans buzzing. Oh fanned 12 and walked none. Frei, for her part, was outstanding with 15 strikeouts, but her defense made some key mistakes which accounted for a pair of MSD runs in the sixth inning.

Ally Dabroski had a huge double, when she laced a long drive which hit the fence on a hop to drive in a pair of runs in the third inning.

Nutley and Bloomfield both won a pair of games at the Linden Tournament on April 19. With the upcoming Essex County Tournament seeding meeting set for April 22, it will be interesting to see who gets the seeds from 4-8.

Speaking of Nutley, I just have to say, one more time, the umpires who worked the Raiders’ game with River Dell last week at Ivy Hill Park, STUNK !

YOU 2 MEN WERE AN EMBARRASSMENT. YOU SHOULD BE ASHAMED OF YOURSELVES AND TO ACTUALLY GET PAID FOR THAT DISASTER IS A BIGGER DISGRACE.

ONE MORE TIME, THE TWO UMPIRES WHO WORKED THE NUTLEY-RIVER DELL GAME LAST WEEK STUNK !!!!

The top three seeds are pretty much set, with Livingston, Mount St. Dominic and West Essex expected to go 1, 2 and 3, but after that, it’s going to be interesting to see what the committee comes up with. A lot of teams are bunched together in the middle of the Essex County pack. The results of games on April 21 and 22 could go a long way to break the log jam at Tuesday’s seeding meeting.

West Essex may be one of those teams no one wants to play in the ECT, as well as conference games. The Knights have won four straight, starting with a win over Ridgewood last Sunday, which was keyed by Madison Gemma’s first varsity hit.

West Essex will face Livingston on April 24 and Mount St. Dominic the following day. The game with MSD will be interesting, since Gemma’s older sister, Olivia, is a key player for the Lions.

The Knights have been paced by a host of talented freshmen, including Gemma and pitcher  Canonero II, (Samantha Huetter). Also doing a great job have been Bridget Betley, Kelly Cousoulis, Kate Jencarelli, Rose Pezzuti, Kim Shaw and Jenna Saluce.

As for Tuesday’s seeding meeting for the 37th Essex County Tournament, still thinking Nutley would be the 4 seed, but after that, good luck.

Columbia dealt Bloomfield its only loss, Bloomfield edged Verona, Verona defeated Cedar Grove and Cedar Grove beat Caldwell. And while they’re not in this week’s top 10, don’t discount Newark Academy, which gave Livingston a great game the other day before losing a 3-2 decision.

It’s hard to believe Montclair Kimberley had only played four games through last Saturday, but coach Jess Sarfati’s team was 2-2 heading into a game on April 21.

MKA, Montclair, West Orange, Newark Academy, Belleville and Millburn will probably garner seeds from 11-16, in no particular order. And there will be some teams from the third division of the SEC which could be in the mix, too, from 11-16.

Look for a host of play-in games, perhaps with some teams playing twice in play-in contests, before the tourney hits the first round of games. Newark Academy actually made a big time run as a play-in team a few years back.

The committee will have plenty to talk about on Tuesday, for sure. Anyway, here is what I have for the weekly Top 10.

1-Livingston (8-1)

2-Mount St. Dominic (10-2)

3-West Essex (6-3)

4-Nutley (6-4)

5-Columbia (4-1-1)

6-Bloomfield (7-1)

7-Verona (4-4)

8-Cedar Grove (5-7)

9-Caldwell (5-6)

10-Glen Ridge (5-2-1)

STUD WATCH: No new stud names to add this week in Essex County. Here’s the updated list.

Kylie McLaughlin, Seattle Slew

Carly Anderson, Spectacular Bid

Sammi Rothenberger, Riva Ridge

Stef Thomas (Okay, she plays for IHA, but with Mr. Larezza, it’s an Essex thing, too…LOL) Affirmed

Sami Huetter, Canonero II

Gianna Genello, Smarty Jones

By mike051893

Essex Softball: Caldwell not too far away, especially with ‘Smarty Jones’ and that talented infield defense

It appeared to be a routine play in a game seemingly out of hand.

During the sixth inning of the Caldwell at West Essex softball game on April 14 in North Caldwell, West Essex’s Kate Jencarelli hit a hard grounder which seemed destined for a single past second base. West Essex was already leading, 6-1, and had the bases loaded, with one out. When the ball left the bat, it appeared to easily be a two-run single.

Instead, Jencarelli’s shot was fielded on a hop by second baseman Casey Ward, who, without flinching from the back hand, threw the ball to shortstop Gianna Genello, who tagged second base for the force.

 

sjCaldwell shortstop Gianna Genello has outstanding range.

(Softball photos courtesy of Jeff Stiefbold)

1st baseFirst baseman Val Murphy

But it gets better. Genello, in a single stride after hustling to cover the bag, and a little off balance, threw the ball to first, where it short hopped in front of first baseman Val Murphy, who made a perfect swipe of the ball. The play almost seemed routine for the three Caldwell players.

Had Jencarelli not been hustling, it would have been a magnificent double play, but she was safe at first. A run scored, but the inning ended when the next hitter popped up.

wardCasey Ward’s reliable glove at second base solidifies a solid Caldwell defense.

Caldwell lost the game, 7-1, but that kind of athleticism and determination in the infield has to be an indication that Caldwell, one of the most successful high school softball programs in Essex County over the past 30 years, may be getting close to making a move in the ultra competitive American Division of the Super Essex Conference (SEC).

West Essex coach Andrea Mondadori was impressed.

“Caldwell is really close to putting it all together,” the coach said afterward. “I couldn’t believe that play they made on defense in the sixth.  Those kids can play, and they swing the bats.”

Caldwell was 3-4 following the loss to West Essex. It had also lost to powerful Livingston, Mount St. Dominic and Nutley, clearly the best teams in the American Division, along with arch rival West Essex. The Chiefs have wins over Holy Angels, West Orange and New Providence. SEC games with Cedar Grove and Montclair are on tap for later this week, as well as an appearance at the Mount St. Dominic Invitational on Saturday against Raritan.

Caldwell coach Mike Teshkoyan has been at the helm since the later days of the Reagan Administration. He is Essex County’s all-time wins leader for softball coaches and ranks among the top coaching records in New Jersey. He is closing in on 600 career wins (he should reach the mark this season) and has guided the Chiefs to eight of its record 10 Essex County Tournament championships.

And while he’s had plenty of success, he appreciates the teaching aspect of the game.

“When I see kids make plays on defense like that, it shows we’re making progress,” Teshkoyan said. “Val, Casey and Gianna are all juniors, as well as (pitcher) Cayla Lombardi and (left fielder) Jess Mattheiss. They’re the nucleus of this year’s team. Our seniors, Kayla Bayard and Danielle Pesante have big shoes to fill, with the graduation of Gabby Roselle and crew, but they have done a great job showing this team the ropes, while we gain valuable game experience.”

caylaJunior pitcher Cayla Lombardi is back in the circle, where she belongs, for Caldwell.

At the plate, Genello is almost impossible to get out. The team’s leadoff hitter, she is considered a slap hitter from the left side of the plate, with outstanding speed. The term ‘Smarty Jones’ applies to her, since she’s a stud player, similar somewhat in style to Livingston’s Kylie McLaughlin, AKA Seattle Slew, albeit with a little less lower power to the opposite field than ‘Slew’.

The 129th Preakness StakesThe ‘other’ Smarty Jones.

Nevertheless, Genello is on a pace to shatter records for hits at Caldwell.

With Lombardi back in the circle after an injury kept her on the sidelines for most of 2013, Caldwell could be a tough out as the season progresses.

“We should be a more experienced team during the second half of the season, and into the (county) tournament,” said Teshkoyan.

 

 

 

 

 

By mike051893

Essex Top 10: Livingston still No. 1; new ‘Studs’ in Riva Ridge, Canonero II and Smarty Jones

Livingston continues to hold the No. 1 ranking in the FMTC Essex County Softball poll. The Lancers improved to 5-0 on the season heading into this week’s action.

While Livingston remained at the top, there were some changes in the Top 10, so here goes. And keep in mind, the rankings aren’t a perfect science, especially in the early going of a season.

1-Livingston (5-0) Lancers defeated Mount St. Dominic, 7-2 and Caldwell, 7-1, last week.

2-Mount St. Dominic (6-2) The Lions were in Ohio this weekend for the Wendy’s Classic and fared well, winning two of three.

3-West Essex (3-3) The Knights blanked Nutley for its first win over the Raiders in four years. West Essex also had a big victory over Ridgewood to close out the week.

4-Nutley (3-2) Strange week for Raiders, who lost to West Essex and Cedar Grove before a win on Saturday against St. Dominic of Jersey City.

5-Columbia (3-1-1) Cougars have impressive wins over Bloomfield and Newark Academy in the early going.

6-Bloomfield (3-1) Bengals bounced back from a loss to Columbia by edging Newark Academy.

7-Verona (4-2) Hillbillies have been solid so far, including a 10-4 win over arch rival Cedar Grove.

8-Cedar Grove (4-5) Panthers surprised Nutley on April 11 and split two games at their annual tournament the following day.

9-Glen Ridge (4-2-1) Ridgers have been solid thus far, with a win over Newark Academy and Millburn last week.

10-Montclair (3-3) Mounties had a good win over Cedar Grove. A game with Nutley on April 14 will be interesting.

New studs in the paddock: Livingston shortstop Sammi Rothenberger is now ‘Riva Ridge’ in the FMTC softball stud watch and West Essex’s Samantha Huetter, a pitcher, is dubbed ‘Canonero II’. Caldwell shortstop Gianna Genello got the ‘Smarty Jones’ name. Genello is an outstanding leadoff hitter for the Chiefs, a team that could very well be among the top 10 soon.

The Mount St. Dominic tournament is this Saturday, with the host school and Livingston representing Essex County in the highly competitive tournament.

There should be some tremendous games at the Mount on Saturday, with some of the better schools in New Jersey and out of state, playing.

Here is the MSDA tourney schedule for Saturday, April 19.

There are two fields on the school’s campus where the games will be played.

Lodi Immaculate vs. Caravel (Delaware), 8:30 a.m.

Pequannock vs. Livingston, 8:45 a.m.

Mount St. Dominic vs. Pennsbury (Pa.) 10:30 a.m.

High Point vs. Paramus Catholic, 10:45 a.m.

Caravel vs. Livingston, 12:30 p.m.

Lodi Immaculate vs. Pequannock, 12:45 p.m.

Mount St. Dominic vs. High Point, 2:30 p.m.

Pennsbury vs. Paramus Catholic, 2:45 p.m.

Raritan vs. Caldwell, 4:30 p.m.

 

 

 

 

By mike051893

Gemma’s first high school hit a classic as West Essex rallies past Ridgewood, 4-3

Madison Gemma had been waiting for nearly two weeks to get into her first high school game.

On April 13, the West Essex freshman got that opportunity and capitalized in a big way. Her two-out, two-strike, double to left centerfield opened the floodgates in the fifth inning as West Essex rallied from 3-0 down to edge Ridgewood, 4-3, in the 11th EDSAF & Emerson Softball Tournament, on the campus of Emerson Jr. and Sr. High School.

It was a good ending to a frustrating weekend for West Essex (3-3), which had been blanked twice, on April 12 in a tournament at Chatham, including a heartbreaking 1-0 loss to a very good Morris Knolls team.

West Essex coach Andrea Mondadori had decided to make some changes in the lineup, including Gemma batting leadoff.

“Madison would usually be a three, or four hitter in the lineup,” said Mondadori. “But we hadn’t been hitting well over the weekend, so with Madison ready to start playing, I figured we’d give her a chance to lead off.

The left-handed hitting Gemma flied to right in her first two at-bats. It appeared Ridgewood was well on its way to a win, leading 3-0 with two outs and no one on in the bottom of the fifth when Gemma stepped in again.

“I was really nervous coming into the game,” Gemma said. “I couldn’t sleep very well last night, I was so pumped. In my first two at-bats, I pulled the ball straight, and I realized I wasn’t reading the pitches as well as I should.”

Gemma stayed back a little in the batter’s box in her third at-bat and laced a long double to centerfield.

“I could tell I made good contact,” Gemma said. “I just wanted to get something going for our team.”

Did she ever.

Alexa Vardiman followed with a single that scored Gemma. Vardiman went to second on the throw to the plate and she scored on Bridget Betley’s single to make it 3-2. Kate Gencarelli reached on an error to keep the inning going and Jenna Salluce singled to score Betley with the tying run. Winning pitcher Samantha Huetter followed with a double in the game which plated Gencarelli with what proved to be the winning run.

Huetter, another freshman in West Essex’s arsenal, was outstanding in the circle. She gave up no earned runs while striking out three and walking two. Once she had the lead, Mondadori wanted to see what Canonero II (Huetter’s ‘stud’ name) would do under pressure.

“Sami wanted the ball with the lead, no doubt,” said Mondadori. “She pitched really well.”

Huetter was outstanding in a 1-0 loss to Morris Knolls a day earlier and had shutout hard-hitting Nutley, 4-0, on April 9.

Against Ridgewood, she worked out of a seventh inning jam when a Ridgewood batter reached on a double with one out, by retiring the final two hitters to seal the win.

For Gemma, it was good to be playing.

“I just wanted to play and it was great being out there,” Gemma said. “We play Caldwell on Monday (April 14), so I’m glad I have a game behind me now.”

The EDSAF tournament benefits Ari Solimando, a 2004 Emerson High graduate and former catcher for then head coach Steve Mondadori, who was paralyzed in an accident back in 2003.

Steve Mondadori is Andrea’s dad and for many years, Steve’s team would play Andrea’s West Essex team in the tourney. Steve coached at Emerson for many years, then for a few seasons at St. Mary (Ruth.) before retiring as a coach at the end of the 2013 season.

The tournament is held over two days and features a number of excellent softball programs in Northern New Jersey.

By mike051893

Huetter (2-hitter), Onorata, Betley lead West Essex past Nutley; Big Green Machine remains unbeaten as Passeri, Riva Ridge and Seattle Slew excel

She may be a freshman pitcher with two varsity starts to her credit, but West Essex’s Samantha Huetter is quickly making a name for herself in the rugged Super Essex Conference.

Huetter spun a two-hit shutout against one of the more potent hitting teams in the SEC, Nutley, at the Raiders’ home field on April 9. She struck out two and walked three, including a pair of walks in the first inning. At one point, she retired 16 of 17 batters and 19 of 21, including 10 in a row from the first through the fourth inning before a routine pop up landed in no-man’s land, between the catcher and pitcher, with two outs, for Nutley’s first hit. Nutley’s other hit came with two outs in the sixth inning, a sharp line drive to centerfield.

“I knew Nutley can hit,” said Huetter. “I’ve played with some of their girls in summer ball, so I kind of had an idea of what to do to keep them off balance. They’re a really good team, but I also knew that if I threw strikes, my teammates in the field would do the job.”

West Essex’s defense was especially impressive and while the Knights collected just five hits off Carly Anderson, West Essex made pretty good contact throughout the game.

“We’re pretty young, but the kids are gaining confidence,” said West Essex coach Andrea Mondadori. “Sammi did a nice job today against a tough team. We haven’t had much success against them recently. You know how it is in this league. Each game is a grind. This was a good win, but we’ve got a busy weekend coming up, so it will be time to get back to work soon.”

It was West Essex’s first win against Nutley since April, 2010. Nutley (2-1 this year) had won the last six meetings and swept the series with the Knights from 2011-2013.

While it’s probably too early to tag the proverbial ‘stud’ name to Huetter, (Canonero II comes to mind right away), it is safe to say she’s a composed righty who has good velocity and throws, in essence, a very heavy pitch that is difficult for hitters to pull.

“She’s good,” said Nutley coach Luann Zullo of Huetter. “We weren’t as aggressive as I would have liked today, but give West Essex all the credit. They came here and played really well.”

Monica Onorata, a junior shortstop and West Essex’s lead off hitter, had two hits and scored a pair of runs. She was also outstanding on defense as West Essex improved to 2-1.

Bridget Betley, a freshman, hit a big two-run single in the sixth which extended West Essex’s lead to 4-0. Betley had three RBI in the game while Huetter drove in a run in the second when she walked with the bases loaded.

Anderson pitched pretty well. She struck out seven and walked six, which is a high number of passes for the junior righty.

“It’s one game, and we’ll be back,” said Zullo. “We didn’t create enough opportunities today to win.”

Livingston improved to 38-1 in Super Essex Conference and Essex County Tournament play since 2012 with a 7-2 victory over Mount St. Dominic on April 9, in Caldwell.

It was the seventh straight win for Livingston over its toughest rival. The teams met three times each in 2012 and 2013, including a pair of ECT championship games. Chances are good they’ll probably meet up again sometime in the 2014 county tournament, and there will be a second conference meeting, at Livingston, later this season, between the two.

Livingston, the No. 1 team in the FMTC Top 10, improved to 4-0 overall this season while No. 2 Mount St. Dominic fell to 4-1.

“I thought our kids played really well today,” said Livingston coach Jason Daily. “We played solid defense and came through with timely hitting. Sammi Passeri is doing a nice job, as well. She really matured as a pitcher today against a very good team.”

Livingston took control quickly, scoring twice in the first inning when Kylie McLaughlin singled and scored on a two-run homer by Sammi Rothenberger (the new Riva Ridge).

“I thought that set the tone,” said Daily. “Sammi hit a nice shot off a real good pitcher in (MSD freshman) Kelsey Oh. And let me tell you, Kelsey can really bring it. She’s something special in the circle.”

Leading 3-1, Livingston picked up a two big runs in the fourth inning, and it came with two outs. Cate Leu beat out an infield single, stole second and scored on a clutch double by Blake Saperstein. Seattle Slew followed with a single which scored Saperstein, making it 5-1.

“Cate getting on base was huge,” said Daily. “And Blake stepped up with a big time double.”

 

 

 

 

 

By mike051893

Livingston’s Rothenberger will play at William Paterson University

Mount St. Dominic coach Lorenzo Sozio generally throws compliments around about opposing players with the ease of the proverbial manhole cover.

So when the veteran coach was asked for his input regarding a first-team group of All-Essex players at the end of the 2012 season, Sozio was quick to add his support for then-sophomore shortstop Sammi Rothenberger of Livingston.

“If you’re putting together a first team, and Rothenberger isn’t on it, something’s wrong,” Sozio said. “Seriously, she’s that good. Her defense was the reason why we lost to them (in the 2012 Essex County final).”

srLivingston’s Sammi Rothenberger

Rothenberger has put together a tremendous career at Livingston. A three-sport standout athlete, she recently announced that she’ll be playing softball on the collegiate level at William Paterson University.

“I’m just glad it’s done, and I’m so grateful to (William Paterson softball) coach (Hallie) Cohen for this opportunity. It’s a tremendous school and I’m so excited.”

sr 2Rothenberger is as tenacious as they come in the field.

Rothenberger will see a few familiar faces at WPU this fall, including former Livingston teammate Rachel Wasilak and one-time Cedar Grove standout pitcher, Gabby Castelli. Wasilak and Castelli are freshmen at the NJAC school this year.

“Obviously, I know Rachel real well, and Gabby Castelli has been a big time opponent for three years,” Rothenberger said. “It will be good to play with them next year.”

Called a ‘stud’ by a number of opposing coaches, Rothenberger is the new ‘Riva Ridge’ of this blog.

RivaRidgeDerbyCCThe ‘other’ Riva Ridge.

More importantly, Rothenberger guided Livingston to a tremendous soccer season last fall, including a berth in the Group 4 semifinals as the team’s goalie. An excellent basketball player, too, she has been one of the key players in Livingston’s phenomenal run as a softball program since 2012.

The Lancers have won back-to-back Super Essex Conference, Essex County Tournament and state sectional championships. The team is 37-1 in county and league play over that period and 58-5 overall.

Livingston softball coach Jason Daily is pleased with Rothenberger’s college choice.

“I’m glad she’s made her final decision,” Daily said. “Sammi is a great kid, a hard worker, and I’m confident she can do the work at the next level to succeed. I’m very happy for her.”

WPU-PioneersRothenberger’s uniform will go from green and white to orange and black this fall at WPU.

By mike051893

Essex Rankings for April 6: Big Green Machine remains in familiar position

Some of the faces have changed, but Livingston keeps on winning. The Lancers remained No. 1 in the FMTC Top 10 for 2014 after winning its first three games of the season last week, defeating West Essex, Cedar Grove and Pascack Hills.

Jason Daily’s team will face some big tests this week, starting on Monday when it hosts Nutley. The Livingston-Nutley rivalry has become one of the better ones in the Super Essex Conference. I still say Nutley’s come-from-behind, 5-4 win over Livingston in the 2011 Essex County Tournament semifinals, was one of the better games I’ve ever seen.

Anyway, following Monday’s game, Livingston travels to Mount St. Dominic on April 9. Those two teams have clearly been the two best in Essex County since 2012.

Mount St. Dominic is also 3-0, including an impressive 4-2 win over DePaul Catholic last Saturday at the IHA Tournament.

This may not be breaking news, but MSD is good. Real good.

What was most impressive about last Saturday’s win was the way the Lions responded to an early 1-0 deficit. Its 6, 8 and 9 hitters were a combined 3-for-6, with a homer, two doubles, two walks and three runs scored. Helyna Bissel homered and Bria Bartsch’s run-scoring double in the fifth tied the game at one, but clearly gave the Lions the momentum.

Later in that inning, Alexandra Dabroski hit a big two-out, two run double that plated Ashley Kowalski, who had walked, and Sam Platt, who reached on a fielder’s choice.

This team has experienced players and some talented youngsters, including winning pitcher Kelsey Oh, a freshman, who fanned 11 and walked one against DePaul.

So, a big week approaches. Let’s take a look at the updated rankings. It’s still kind of early, so past the top four, it’s still a process to see which teams qualify for the top 10.

1-Livingston (3-0)

2-Mount St. Dominic (3-0)

3-Nutley (2-0)

4-West Essex (1-1)

5-Bloomfield (2-0)

6-Columbia (1-1)

7-Newark Academy (1-1)

8-Verona (3-1)

9-Cedar Grove (1-2)

10-Glen Ridge (2-1)

By mike051893

A trip to Larezza Country is always unique

Anthony Larezza not only coaches the highly successful Immaculate Heart Academy softball team, but he’s also the program’s biggest advocate.

Generally, the IHA Invitational is held the first weekend in April and Larezza not only coaches his team, but he’s there all day, making sure all facets of the event goes well. He’ll be chasing down foul balls, greeting some fan or, as I like to say, working the room, even though said room is outdoors.

He’ll let you know who the home team is, make sure you know where the food stand is and offer a bottle of water, or to even get you something to eat.

He’s provided memorable moments at the Invitational, including the epic 2010 Memorial Day tirade which you had to see to believe.

So when I walked down to the diamond this afternoon to see the two Essex County schools that would be playing in back-to-back games (Mount St. Dominic and Livingston) it took Larezza about 5 seconds to size up what I was wearing and to begin a series of quick-hit questions.

Seeing the old-school Indiana Pacers jacket, circa 1973, I had on, he laughed and said, ‘name me one player on the ’73 Pacers?’

pacersThe jacket which started the questioning today…LOL

When I was able to counter with George McGinnis, I caught him a little off-guard, but truth be told, if he asked me to name a second guy on that team, I was screwed.

george-mcginnisGeorge McGinnis, a member of the 1973 ABA champion Pacers.

“What was World B. Free’s real first name?” he asked me next. (I knew that one, it was Lloyd).

“Who were the 4 ABA teams that went into the NBA in 1976?” he wanted to know next. (He actually got that one right, Nets, Pacers, Spurs and Nuggets).

With that, he was done asking me questions, but clearly on a roll. After a quick phone call where Renaldo “Skeets” Nehemiah’s name came up, he was back at it again.

Larezza decided to ask some of his players, who had already won their game earlier in the day and were staying around to watch the other games and help out with 50-50s and stuff, some quick sports questions.

“Name me four active professional basketball players?” he said quickly to one young lady, who struggled but got a few correct answers.

“Name me two current hockey players?” he asked another.

“Who is the best singer, ever?” he mused to a third youngster, who countered with Frank Sinatra, which kept Anthony quiet for a few seconds.

With Stef Thomas, IHA’s star pitcher close by, Larezza looked at me and said ‘what stud-name do you call her?’

052813IHAMahwahP‘Stud’ pitcher, Stef Thomas.

When I replied, Affirmed, Larezza said to her, ‘Triple Crown winner, 1978. Don’t forget it.’ (I explained to Stef that the stud term is something used by coaches about an outstanding player, and since she got a triple crown winner’s name in my blog, she had to be a very good player).

affirmed.1Triple Crown winner Affirmed, AKA star pitcher Stef Thomas.

To Thomas’ credit, she was a good sport,  saying ‘cool’. She was also told that the ’77 Triple Crown winner, Seattle Slew, would be arriving soon with her Livingston teammates. (Slew, being Kyle McLaughlin).

“Who was Secretariat again,” Larezza asked, already knowing the answer to that question. (Livingston’s Jess Peslak, who graduated last spring).

“I still can’t believe Secretariat won the Belmont by 31 lengths (in 1973).”

 

Secretariat The PhotoSecretariat really did win the ’73 Belmont by 31 lengths.

This went on, and on, but it’s what makes going to IHA for the tourney a lot of fun. It’s a well-run event, with excellent competition and a good fan base.

So, whether the conversation revolves around legendary Umpire Nestor Chylak, or fictional character Ritchie Aprile from the Sopranos, or the trivia question as to which horse defeated the great Man O’War nearly a century ago. (It was ‘Upset’, thus the term for when a favorite loses, and Stef Thomas certainly will never forget that), you’re most assured of having a good time when you arrive in Larezza Country.

chylaknestorbioNestor Chylak (above) and Ritchie April (below, right) are always a conversation piece at IHA.

beansie

 

 

By mike051893

Far from Seattle, this Slew’s speed keeping SEC teams on its hoofs

A parent of a player at an opposing Super Essex Conference school decided to stop by today to watch Livingston take on Cedar Grove at Panther Park. This parent enjoys the game and understands some of the nuances that go into making a team successful.

By the time Livingston was getting ready to hit in the seventh inning, the parent just shook his head in amazement. The Lancers were up, 10-3, against a pretty good, albeit young, Cedar Grove squad.

“I guess this game is pretty much wrapping up,” the man said. “But let me watch Seattle Slew hit one more time.”

km 2That familiar stance of Kylie McLaughlin in the batter’s box.

Seattle Slew, of course, is Livingston’s senior second baseman and two-time All State player, Kylie McLaughlin. So, when Slew, a right hander by genetics who hits lefty and redefines a slap hitter with her power and tremendous speed, reached safely for the third time on a ball that didn’t leave the infield, the man just smiled and said, “I guess she’ll be at second base in about 10 seconds, huh?”

True enough, McLaughlin stole second, but was left stranded there. Livingston went on to win the game, 10-3, to improve to 2-0 on the season.

McLaughlin, who will attend the University of Delaware this fall, but will probably not play softball, is excited about her senior year and her team, which will seek a third straight SEC, Essex County Tournament and state sectional championship.

km 4With the crack of the bat, Slew heads to the first furlong.

“This team is different than last year in that we lost some key players,” she said. “But in a way, not a lot has changed. We play good defense and everyone (in the lineup) gets a good swing. When you put the ball in play, good things can happen.”

McLaughlin, the only daughter and middle child of Jill and Dave McLaughlin, certainly puts a charge into her at-bats. A lead off hitter, she started today’s game with what appeared to be a routine grounder to second base.

Only the Cedar Grove fans knew right away was going to happen.

As the hard hit ball was cleanly fielded by the second baseman, who would normally have a second to adjust and snap the throw, the Panther fans started yelling ‘throw it’. The ball beat McLaughlin, but by barely a step.

In her next at-bat, she beat the throw on what seemed to be a routine grounder, igniting a four-run rally in the third inning which gave Livingston (2-0) a 6-0 lead.

It was another example of never giving Livingston extra outs to work with.

For the past two years, Kylie excelled in centerfield, but this season, so far, has seen her playing at second base, with the graduation last spring of Rachel Wasilak, who now plays at William Paterson University.

“Actually, second base is where I played when I first started to learn the game as kid,” McLaughlin said. “I never moved from that position until, really, two years ago, when I started playing center. So, playing here is fine. I like it.”

Slew made a tremendous play in the sixth inning when she grabbed a hard grounder to the back hand, ran to second for a force play, then threw on to first for a double play.

Her chemistry with senior shortstop Sammi Rothenberger has made for a flawless exchange between the two on balls hit up the middle, and on potential double play combos.

The Seattle Slew moniker was attached to Kylie, by me, because of her speed and the ‘stud’ analogy that many high school coaches like to tag on a really good player.

SeattleSlew_576_060711The ‘other’ Seattle Slew, who won a Triple Crown in 1977.

The season is obviously very young. Livingston has some big tests coming up with a game against Pascack Hills on Saturday at the IHA Tournament, then a pair of road games against perhaps the two best teams in the SEC American Division, Nutley (on April 7) and Mount St. Dominic (April 9).

Livingston coach Jason Daily is taking it one game at a time, and for that matter, one inning at a time.

“We struggled in the pre-season, but once these kids got outside, things started to come together,” said Daily, noting the exceptionally cold weather in March made it tough to get much work outdoors. “There are a lot of moving parts to this team and we’ll be adjusting things as the year goes on.”

Livingston’s win over Cedar Grove improved their record to 37-1 in SEC and Essex County Tournament action since the start of the 2012 season. The success of the program hasn’t gone unnoticed but opposing coaches, either.

“Look, let’s be honest, what Jason does with that program is incredible,” said Nutley coach Luann Zullo. “For four years (2010-2013) they had (Jess) Peslak, one of the most dominant pitchers we’ve ever seen. She’s graduated, but look at the way they’ve adjusted. They’re just so well coached.”

NOTES: Livingston, Mount St. Dominic and Nutley are all 2-0 in SEC American action while West Essex and Cedar Grove are 1-1. Caldwell, West Orange and Montclair have started the season 0-2.

Next week will provide a much closer look at the teams as they’ll begin a Monday-Wednesday-Friday schedule.

In the SEC Liberty Division, Bloomfield is off to a 2-0 start while Columbia defeated Newark Academy and Verona improved to 2-1 (1-1 in the league) by blanking Glen Ridge in games played today.

Cedar Grove is slated to host Verona tomorrow in a cross over contest at Panther Park.

 

 

By mike051893

Essex softball tidbits, after 1 day, no less

Welcome to the world of Essex County high school softball, where no day is uneventful.

If ‘All My Children’ ever decided to make a comeback, it could be filmed throughout Essex County during the three months of March-June.

Obviously, I’m kidding. I’ve always said the softball season is eight weeks of fun, when it comes to dealing with the coaches and kids who make up the landscape.

Anyway, Day 1 of the regular season began on April 1, with some interesting games.

In the Super Essex Conference’s (SEC) American Division, Livingston, Mount St. Dominic, Cedar Grove and Nutley all won their games against SEC American opponents.

Livingston’s 9-1 win, at The Stable, against West Essex, was impressive, especially considering the team had not practiced, once, on its home field during the entire pre-season. In fact, there were rumors the game was going to be played at West Essex, because the field, which is owned by the Town, might not be ready in time for the opener. Livingston had actually played the final week of March at Diamond Nation, in Flemington, at the indoor softball facility.

best_70eb59715b999e4ef674_1044631_10201216813889944_325606993_nLivingston coach Jason Daily will rely on senior Kylie McLaughlin (AKA Seattle Slew), who played second base in the season opener but will most likely see action in centerfield, too.

As West Essex coach Andrea Mondadori said after the season opener, Livingston can flat out hit. The Lancers are now 36-1 in conference and county play since the start of the 2012 season. The lone loss came at home to Cedar Grove last April. Livingston will visit Cedar Grove this Thursday, at Panther Park.

And, trust me on this one, West Essex will be heard from in a big way this year. They’re good. And late in the game at Livingston, Mondadori unveiled a new pitching threat in freshman Samantha Huetter, who threw GAS in the one inning she worked, striking out three batters. West Essex’s senior pitcher, Jenny Shaw, is also a talented righty, and there are two other pitchers on that roster who will help the Knights, as well.

Speaking of pitching surpluses, Mount St. Dominic beat Montclair, 10-0, as freshman Kelsey Oh won her varsity debut in the circle. Oh, along with seniors Sam Platt and Olivia Gemma give The Mount three (should I say the word?) stud pitchers. Most baseball/softball coaches will say you can never have enough pitching, so the Mount’s surplus in the circle should make it very interesting.

Nutley defeated Caldwell, 6-2. The Raiders’ Carly Anderson (Stud name: Spectacular Bid) was impressive in the circle and also had two hits. Nutley will swing the bats this year, no question. Breanna DeMaio and Morgan Gualtieri excelled at the plate for Nutley, which faces West Orange on Thursday.  And let’s not forget Caldwell, which returned pitcher Cayla Lombardi to the lineup. Lombardi will be a key to the Chiefs’ success this season. It’s great to see her back and playing again.

1124515785The ‘other’ Spectacular Bid

Cedar Grove defeated West Orange, 5-2. Rianna Marinelli, a freshman, pitched a solid game for the Panthers. Over the last four seasons, Gabby Castelli did just about all the pitching for Cedar Grove, but she’s now a freshman at William Paterson. And speaking of West Orange, how about Jaime DeAngelis, who struck out 12?

In my first ‘Harry’s Corner’ yesterday, it was noted that there will be few surprises this year in the SEC American, meaning most of the teams are pretty well matched. It will be hard to call a particular victory a huge upset within the division. Most of these kids are playing year round, and it’s obvious the pitching is getting better and better.

In the SEC Liberty, Glen Ridge, Bloomfield and Newark Academy all won its April 1 openers. Newark Academy is the slight favorite to win the division, but Bloomfield is always tough, and their 6-3 win over MKA in the opener is evidence of that. And Glen Ridge’s has a really good pitcher in senior righty Tara Kelly, who struck out 10 in a win over Belleville.

So, for one day, there was plenty to talk about. A busy week continues with conference games on Thursday. This Saturday, Livingston and Mount St. Dominic are among the Essex County teams that will travel to “Larezza Country”, better known as the IHA Tournament in Bergen County. That’s always been an excellent tournament and this year should be no exception.

Here are the list of games at IHA this weekend.

2014 Softball Tournament Schedule
IHA Invitational
Saturday, April 5

IHA vs. Pennsbury (PA), 9 a.m.
Ursuline (NY) vs. Pennsbury (PA), 11 a.m.
Mount St. Dominic vs. DePaul, 1 p.m.
Livingston vs. St. John Vianney, 3 p.m.
Sunday, April 6
IHA vs. St. Joe’s, 9 a.m.
Saddle Brook vs. Raritan, 11 a.m.
Caravel Academy (Del.) vs. Ursuline (NY), 1 p.m.
Indian Hills vs. High Point, 3 p.m. – See more at: http://blog.northjersey.com/varsityaces/31809/scoops-the-almost-first-blog-of-2014-softball-season/#sthash.TfOz93N2.dpuf

 

2014 Softball Tournament Schedule
IHA Invitational
Saturday, April 5
IHA vs. Pennsbury (PA), 9 a.m.
Ursuline (NY) vs. Pennsbury (PA), 11 a.m.
Mount St. Dominic vs. DePaul, 1 p.m.
Livingston vs. Pascack Hills, 3 p.m.

Sunday, April 6
IHA vs. St. Joe’s, 9 a.m.
Saddle Brook vs. Raritan, 11 a.m.
Caravel Academy (Del.) vs. Ursuline (NY), 1 p.m.
Indian Hills vs. High Point, 3 p.m.

 

 

 

2014 Softball Tournament Schedule
IHA Invitational
Saturday, April 5

IHA vs. Pennsbury (PA), 9 a.m.
Ursuline (NY) vs. Pennsbury (PA), 11 a.m.
Mount St. Dominic vs. DePaul, 1 p.m.
Livingston vs. St. John Vianney, 3 p.m.
Sunday, April 6
IHA vs. St. Joe’s, 9 a.m.
Saddle Brook vs. Raritan, 11 a.m.
Caravel Academy (Del.) vs. Ursuline (NY), 1 p.m.
Indian Hills vs. High Point, 3 p.m. – See more at: http://blog.northjersey.com/varsityaces/31809/scoops-the-almost-first-blog-of-2014-softball-season/#sthash.TfOz93N2.dpuf
2014 Softball Tournament Schedule
IHA Invitational
Saturday, April 5

IHA vs. Pennsbury (PA), 9 a.m.
Ursuline (NY) vs. Pennsbury (PA), 11 a.m.
Mount St. Dominic vs. DePaul, 1 p.m.
Livingston vs. St. John Vianney, 3 p.m.
Sunday, April 6
IHA vs. St. Joe’s, 9 a.m.
Saddle Brook vs. Raritan, 11 a.m.
Caravel Academy (Del.) vs. Ursuline (NY), 1 p.m.
Indian Hills vs. High Point, 3 p.m. – See more at: http://blog.northjersey.com/varsityaces/31809/scoops-the-almost-first-blog-of-2014-softball-season/#sthash.TfOz93N2.dpuf
By mike051893