All Essex Softball: McLaughlin, Oh, Olivia Gemma, Cayla Lombardi, Holden, MSD Lions, Huetter, Coaches Roberts and Sarfati among FMTC Honorees in 2014

PLAYER OF THE YEAR: It will be difficult to find another player like Livingston’s Kylie McLaughlin. A natural righthander who bats lefty, just like her father, Dave, himself an All-State baseball player at Livingston High School, and later a professional baseball player, McLaughlin was nearly impossible to strike out, as well as keep off the base paths.

McLaughlin was Livingston’s leadoff batter for the past three seasons. Her power to the opposite field spoke for itself. Her ability to bunt and occasionally slap while beating the throws to first was legendary.

The kid I often called Seattle Slew would fly around the bases at sonic speed. In one game this year, she reached on bunt single, then came around to score, ON A SACRIFICE BUNT. You had to see it to believe it.

In a game against Nutley in 2013, she came to the plate with two outs and the bases loaded. Slew hit a blooper behind third base. As the Nutley player grabbed the ball, McLaughlin was already heading home with what proved to be a grand slam homer.

kylieAlways a menace on the basepaths and never one to dust herself off, Kylie McLaughlin of Livingston was a tremendous high school softball player (Courtesy Elena Lombardi)

Kylie would lead Livingston to three straight 20 win seasons, as well as two straight Super Essex Conference (SEC), Essex County Tournament (ECT) and NJSIAA, North Jersey, Section 1, Group 4 championships. In 2014, she hit .595 with 50 hits, 31 runs scored along with four doubles, four triples and four homers. In her final at-bat, she hit a long homerun in a state game against Roxbury.

Her athletic skills, in both softball and soccer spoke for themselves, but Slew is also an outstanding  student, and when it came to picking a college, the primary focus was on education, so she’ll probably not play at the next level.

km 4Slew getting yet another hit. She batted .595 this season.

And, good for her. She made that decision a while ago and hasn’t wavered from it. We can appreciate her athletic abilities, but more importantly, her style and charisma. The second of three children born to Jill and Dave McLaughlin, she will leave Livingston having provided a lot of softball fans some great memories.

sea slewThe great Seattle Slew.

Thanks, Slew !

PITCHER OF THE YEAR: Mount St. Dominic entered the 2014 season with two established pitchers, but it was a freshman, Kelsey Oh, who would handle the brunt of the pitching chores.

Oh was, in a word, phenomenal. She would guide the Lions to an ECT crown, as well as a SEC American Division title and then, the ultimate, a magical run through the NJSIAA, Non-Public A tourney, culminating with the school’s first-ever Non-Public A state title in 13 grueling innings against Immaculata.

A power pitcher with exceptional control, Oh will most assuredly be one of the state’s top rightys for years to come. Before it’s said and done, she could among the all the time greats in numerous pitching categories.

And, yes, she’s also a very good hitter.

STUD OF THE YEAR: If you follow this blog, you know my penchant for naming certain softball players after stud race horses.

This year, the top stud goes to Mount St. Dominic senior Olivia Gemma, aka Forego. Gemma, a very good pitcher for the Lions from 2011-2013, was the team’s first baseman for 2014. The Stevens Institute-bound Gemma, who is also a tremendous student and president of her senior class, had a great year at the plate for the Lions.

get-attachment.aspxGemma settled in well at first base for the state champion Lions in 2014. (Courtesy of Mike Gemma)

She also hit in the clutch, including a big double that set the stage for a win against Cedar Grove in the county championship game. And she may have saved her best at-bat for the North, Non-Public A final against Immaculate Heart Academy. (More on that, later in the blog).

Forego Willie Shoemaker txtForego in his great days on the track.

Gemma should be back in the circle on the collegiate level at Stevens. In the meantime, let’s just call her a stud among studs.

TEAM OF THE YEAR: Mount St. Dominic was the best team in Essex County, hands down. The Lions won the SEC, ECT and eventually a state title in Non-Public A, as it finished 29-4.

get-attachment.aspxOlivia Gemma and her MSD teammates celebrate a state championship on June 7. (Photo by Gene Nann-nannphoto and courtesy of Sideline Chatter)

It was clearly a team effort for coach Lorenzo Sozio’s team in 2014. The Lions played one of the toughest schedules in the state and also traveled to Ohio in April for a top national tournament.

While there were plenty of talented underclassmen on this team, there’s no question that the senior leadership was the key to its marvelous season. Sam Platt, Bria Bartsch, Olivia Gemma and Ashley Kowalski were incredible, especially in pressure situations for the Lions.

plattSam Platt of Mount St. Dominic had a tremendous high school career. She will play at the College of New Jersey this fall.

Platt and Gemma had monstrous clutch hits in the win over IHA while Kowalski’s defense and speed could never be underestimated. And Bartsch? Well, just read a little further down in this blog to know what she did, if you haven’t already figured it out.

Mount St. Dominic became the first team from Essex County to advance to a state final since Nutley did it in Group 3 four years ago. They were also the first from Essex to win a state championship since Montclair Kimberley won in Non-Public B in 2009 and they are the first team from Essex to win the trifecta of conference, county and state titles since Caldwell, in 2005.

COMEBACK PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Cayla Lombardi of Caldwell battled back from a serious injury in 2013 to pitch very well for the Chiefs this season.

Lombardi, a junior, gained confidence in the circle as the season progressed and could be one of the top pitchers in Essex County in 2015.

get-attachment.aspxCayla Lombardi of Caldwell had a very good season in 2014. (Courtesy of Elena Lombardi)

A wonderful young lady and a natural team leader, it was good to see No. 7 back where she belonged, playing for head coach Mike Teshkoyan’s Chiefs.

Her compassion was especially noteworthy during a game at Livingston on May 5. Sammi Passeri, Livingston’s starting pitcher, had been injured in a game the previous week and wasn’t playing for the Lancers. Lombardi made it a point to seek out Passeri, who was in street clothes on her team’s bench, during the game, to ask about her injury status.

“(Livingston catcher) Marina (Lombardi) is my cousin, so I know some of their players,” said Cayla. “I had heard that Sammi had gotten hurt and just wanted to check on her.”

BO JACKSON COMEBACK PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Nutley’s Emily Holden came back from a serious hip injury to play a key role in Nutley’s excellent 2014 season. She ended up as Nutley’s main pitcher, leading the Raiders to a 17-13 campaign. “What she did was incredible,” said Nutley coach Luann Zullo. “She had a long road back after surgery and I can’t say enough about her work ethic and contributions to this team.”

COACHES OF THE YEAR: The city of Montclair had two excellent high school softball coaches in Dan Roberts and Jess Sarfati.

Roberts guided Montclair to an 11-13 mark in the ultra competitive SEC American Division. In his second year as head coach, he did it by helping to develop some young players while clearly instilling an enjoyment of the game to his kids.

Roberts’ infectious smile and sincere attitude are the very example of why this man understands the role of a coach and mentor to young people.

“Dan did a great job,” said Livingston coach Jason Daily. “He’s a class act and those kids played hard. They were a really tough team by the end of the season.”

As for Sarfati, the hard-working coach, in her fourth full season as head coach and, really her fifth year in that role, led Montclair Kimberley Academy to the SEC Liberty Division crown. It also had its first winning season in five years, with a 15-8 record.

MKA was long a state power and once dominated in Non-Public B, as well as winning back-to-back ECT titles in 2001 and 2002. However, after winning a state title in 2009, the Cougars had struggled with a young team and some uncertainty in the coaching ranks.

Sarfati alleviated that by providing stability and slowly, but surely, the program began to show signs of improvement, culminated by this year’s success. She is also a kindergarten teacher in the MKA school system.

Hopefully, we’ll see more good things from MKA in the years to come.

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: Sami Huetter of West Essex quickly became a stud in Canonero II. The freshman righty took over as the starting pitcher for the Knights in mid April and guided coach Andrea Mondadori’s team to a tremendous year.

Huetter has all the intangibles to be a great one, just like Canonero II was on the race track a generation ago.

samiSami Huetter, here pitching for her summer team, was outstanding as a freshman pitcher at West Essex this spring. (Courtesy Elena Lombardi)

GAMES OF THE YEAR: In Essex County, the two best games, I saw, were Mount St. Dominic’s 9-6 victory over Caldwell in the semifinal round of the ECT on May 18, and Livingston’s 2-0 victory over Caldwell in a SEC game..

In the MSD-Caldwell game, the Lions were, deservedly, a heavy favorite, and had easily defeated Caldwell in two SEC games. But Caldwell battled hard, taking a 2-0 lead in the first inning and, then after falling behind, 5-2,, cut the deficit to 5-4 before Mount St. Dominic went on to win, 9-6.

Caldwell was paced by Gianna Genello and Casey Ward, each of whom had two hits. Mount St. Dominic’s Sam Platt pitched four solid innings of relief to get the win and also had two hits, including a homer. Helyna Bissell also homered for the Lions while Ashley Kowalski and Bria Bartsch had two hits each for MSDA.

A wonderful pitcher’s dual took place at the Stable in Livingston when Caldwell visited Shangri-La on May 5. Caldwell’s Cayla Lombardi pitched a marvelous game against Livingston’s potent lineup, but Livingston sophomore Sydney McCormack was even better, spinning a no-hitter.

Lombardi threw a complete game, scattering seven hits, striking out three, walking two and not allowing an earned run.

In her second varsity start, McCormack struck out eight and walked none. Just two Caldwell baserunners reached safely against McCormack, with Casey Ward  getting on via a first inning throwing error and Christina Guarino walking with one out in the seventh inning. McCormack struck out eight and walked none. At one point of the game, she retired 18 in a row.

HOT DOG OF THE YEAR: Always a piece of Americana, a hot dog during a ball game is as good as it gets. And when you go to Ivy Hill Park for an ECT, State, or All-Star game, Donny’s Dogs are the best. Belleville native Peter Caggiano not only serves up a great meal, but he’s as nice a man as they come. There’s always a smile on his face and a good word from a gentleman. Often, he’ll ask how the game is going, or if there’s a break in the usual line for food, he’ll take a peak at the game.

Copy of lunch truck sale 001It’s always fun to see Peter Caggiano and get something to eat at Donny’s Dogs, during a game at Ivy Hill Park.

FANS OF THE YEAR: My long time friend, Jerry Ross, battled some health issues this spring, but never missed a softball game, especially when it came to watching his talented daughter, Victoria, play, for Bloomfield High.

Jerry often said that recovering from surgery in March was easier knowing that he would be at softball games. A big fan of the game, in general, he was the picture of positive energy and it was clear that his tremendous recovery was, in part, because of the joy he received watching his daughter catch for the Bengals.

When Victoria begins college in the fall, Jerry should be back at work as a teacher at his alma mater, Belleville High. And you can be assured he’ll be switching his team colors from Bloomfield red to the green of Manhattan College. (Although he’ll always be a Bengals fan, having had three daughters go through that program).

For four years, Mo Altchek watched his daughter Alexa play a big role for Livingston’s softball program. As nice a man as they come, he was always supportive of the team.

  1. get-attachment.aspxHarvard-bound Alexa Altchek (right) along with Livingston teammate Kylie McLaughlin, were both honored by the Men of Essex for their academic and athletic prowess, making their parents quite proud.(Courtesy, Elena Lombardi)

You couldn’t find a bigger smile than Mo’s, when Alexa was accepted to Harvard University, where she will also play softball this fall.

Mo is a very knowledgeable man and respected coach in softball.

alexaMo Altchek’s daughter, Alexa, in her familiar stance at the plate. (Courtesy Elena Lombardi)

And let’s not forget Kylie McLaughlin’s parents, Jill and Dave. They were at just about every game, or would split fan assignments, since their younger son played baseball for the Lancers this spring.

jpiJill McLaughlin, Seattle Slew’s mom (LOL) wearing the red for a game at Nutley earlier this year.

INFIELD DEFENSE: Caldwell’s infield defense showed signs of brilliance this past season. For example, in a game at arch rival West Essex on April 15, second baseman Casey Ward fielded a hard grounder and, without flinching, from the back hand, threw the ball to shortstop Gianna Genello, who tagged second base for the force. 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.

PHOTOGRAPHER OF THE YEAR: No doubt, Elena Lombardi took some tremendous pictures this year, as she has in the past three years. Elena’s daughter, Marina, is Livingston’s outstanding junior catcher. Most importantly, Elena is great with the kids and is so unheralded, but invaluable to the Lancers program.

CATCH OF THE YEAR: Bridget Betley, another in a long line of talented West Essex freshmen, made an outstanding shoe string catch, with a near-perfect slide, in traffic, no less, to take away a possible double in a key moment during a NJSIAA state tournament game in North Caldwell. West Essex would go on to edge Parsippany Hills, 7-6, on May 17 in a North Jersey, Section 2, Group 3 contest.

UPSET OF THE YEAR: Cedar Grove stunned two-time defending ECT champion Livingston, 5-4, in the quarterfinal round on May 9, in Livingston. The ninth seeded Panthers had taken a 3-0 lead before Livingston, the top seed, rallied to gain a 4-3 lead into the seventh inning. There, Cedar Grove rallied for two runs and the eventual win. Livingston had swept Cedar Grove in a pair of SEC games earlier in the season.

Cedar Grove would advance to the county final this year before falling to Mount St. Dominic.

HOMER OF THE YEAR: Bria Bartsch of Mount St. Dominic hit the shot heard round Caldwell, if not Toms River, on June 7, in the top of the 13th inning of the Non-Public A championship game against Immaculata.

Bartsch’s three-run homer broke a 1-1 tie and led MSDA to an eventual 5-2 victory. And this was no ordinary homer. It was a bomb, and also one that will be discussed in epic lore, because it came in her final high school at-bat and marked the first homer of her four-year career.

Can’t make that up.

CHAMPIONS! Newark Academy claimed its first-ever conference championship in 2014 as it won the SEC Liberty Division. Coach Sergio Rodriguez’s team was paced by Lauren Catena, who finished her career with a school-record 163 hits, as well as a school-record 120 runs scored. Catena also had 102 RBI for her career. She will attend Boston University this fall.

IS WEST ESSEX THE TEAM TO WATCH IN 2015?: While most will say that Mount St. Dominic will be a quality team in 2015, there’s plenty of talent left in the rest of the county. One team to watch, for sure, next spring will be West Essex.

Coach Andrea Mondadori’s Knights had a solid campaign this year, winning 16 games with a lineup filled with freshmen. Those ninth graders gained a great deal of experience this season and should be a huge force for the North Caldwell-based school next year, and beyond.

Madison Gemma’s first varsity hit came in a big win over Ridgewood last April. Freshman Samantha Huetter was outstanding in the circle. Also excelling for the Knights were Bridget Betley, Monica Onorata, Amanda Garofalo, Kelly Cousoulis, Kate Jencarelli, Rose Pezzuti, Kim Shaw and Jenna Saluce.

Pezzuti, a junior, missed the last few weeks of the season with a foot injury. She should be 100 percent next season.

HUGE MILESTONE FOR COACH TESHKOYAN: Caldwell coach Mike Teshkoyan won his 600th career game on May 15, as Caldwell downed Synder of Jersey City in a state tournament game, in Caldwell. Teshkoyan became just the fifth high school softball coach in New Jersey history to reach 600 wins, joining Pete Fick, Tom Erbig, Ed Levens and Don Panzarella. Teshkoyan has also enjoyed a tremendous career as Caldwell’s girls soccer coach, amassing 329 wins.tesh1

Mike Teshkoyan addresses his Caldwell team after win number 600 this past May 15.
AT BAT OF THE YEAR: In a battle of studs, Mount St. Dominic’s Olivia Gemma (AKA Forego) won by a nose over Immaculate Heart Academy’s Steph Thomas (Affirmed) during a classic showdown in the seventh inning of the North, Non-Public A final at Ivy Hill Park.

With her team trailing, 1-0, in the top of the seventh, Gemma would foul off numerous pitches against Thomas before hitting a single that tied the game at one.

Mount St. Dominic would go on to win the contest, 2-1 and a few days later, captured the school’s first-ever Non-Public A title in softball.

MARINA CALLS THE PITCHES: Livingston’s junior catcher, Marina Lombardi, was so good behind the dish again in 2014 that people almost forget how talented she is.

marinaMarina  Lombardi had another excellent year for Livingston as the team’s catcher. (Courtesy of Elena Lombardi)

A junior, she spent her first two seasons catching the legendary Secretariat, Jess Peslak. After Peslak was graduated in 2013, Lombardi took the role as leader to a young pitching staff at Livingston this season.

Livingston coach Jason Daily has never hesitated in letting Lombardi call the pitches, which is almost unheard of on the high school level. In fact, she’s been calling the pitches since her freshman year while working with Peslak.

Her defense is incredibly smooth and at the plate, she hit .319 with seven doubles while batting second in the lineup.

OUT OF NETWORK STUD OF YEAR: Steph Thomas of Immaculate Heart Academy. Please, it’s not even close. This kid was amazing.

get-attachment.aspxSteph Thomas’ legacy is clear…#31Affirmed113

Thomas Affirmed her career as the state’s all time winningest pitcher, with 113 victories, not to mention the state leader in shutouts, with 69 for her career. She was 113-7 in four seasons, and led IHA to four Big North titles, three Bergen County championships, three North Non-Public A crowns and one Non-Public A championship, as well as the state’s top ranked team in 2012, when IHA finished undefeated.

grandparentsSteph Thomas, here with her grandparents, following her final high school victory on June 2, 2014. She also set the state record for career victories that day. (Courtesy of Steph Thomas)

Thomas was also named the Gatorade Player of the Year in New Jersey this season. A great student, she’ll move on to play on the collegiate level at Lafayette College.

Affirmed was truly a great one.

FINAL FMTC TOP 12

1-Mount St. Dominic (29-4)

2-Livingston (20-6)

3-West Essex (16-8)

4-Cedar Grove (15-14)

5-Nutley (17-13)

6-Montclair (11-13)

7-Caldwell (12-14)

8-Glen Ridge (14-9-1)

9-Columbia (15-11-1)

10-Montclair Kimberley (15-8)

11-Newark Academy (12-13)

12-Bloomfield (13-11)

FMTC FIRST TEAM

Kylie McLaughlin, Livingston

Sammi Rothenberger, Livingston

Kelsey Oh, Mount St. Dominic

Marina Lombardi, Livingston

Sam Platt, Mount St. Dominic

Olivia Gemma, Mount St. Dominic

Alexa Altchek, Livingston

Bria Bartsch, Mount St. Dominic

Gianna Genello, Caldwell

Carly Anderson, Nutley

Victoria Ross, Bloomfield

Sami Huetter, West Essex

Sarah Guy, Belleville

Lauren Catena, Newark Academy

Helyna Bissel, Mount St. Dominic

FMTC SECOND TEAM

Elizabeth Cowell, Mount St. Dominic

Phoebe Labat, Columbia

Ashley Kowalski, Mount St. Dominic

Jahnava Howard, West Orange

Brooke Adams, Cedar Grove

Erin Stacevicz, Cedar Grove

Bridget Betley, West Essex

Gabby Giachin, Newark Academy

Isabella Mendez, Montclair Kimberley

Sam Corio, Bloomfield

Jennie Antonucci, Montclair

Tara Kelly, Glen Ridge

Kate Jencarelli, West Essex

Ally Dabroski, Mount St. Dominic

Sammi Passeri, Livingston

FMTC THIRD TEAM

Jenna Saporito, Nutley

Gabby Lombardi, Mount St. Dominic

Christina Guarino, Caldwell

Cayla Lombardi, Caldwell

Cate Leu, Livingston

Morgan Katona, Montclair Kimberley

Jenna Dembner, Millburn

Zoe Labat, Columbia

Brianna LaFiora, Bloomfield

Olivia Feiger, Verona

Autumn Spinella, Cedar Grove

Kayla Bayard, Caldwell

Erica Robles, Montclair

Daniella Marinaro, Cedar Grove

Elena Garrido, Glen Ridge

Morgan Gualtieri, Nutley

STUDS FOR 2014

Kylie McLaughlin, Seattle Slew. 2014 Essex County Player of the Year. 2013 Stud of the Year. Led Livingston to a 20-6 season this spring.  Versatile enough to switch positions from centerfield, where she was a 2-time All-State player to second base in 2014. Kylie will attend the University of Delaware this fall.

km 2Kyle McLaughlin

Sammi Rothenberger, Riva Ridge. A marvelous athlete who excelled in soccer and basketball as well as softball, she’ll play softball at William Paterson University this fall, joining former LHS teammate and 2013 FMTC Player of the Year, Rachel Wasilak.sammi

Sammi Rothenberger of Livingston. (Courtesy of Elena Lombardi)

Steph Thomas, Affirmed. Headed to Lafayette after a career for the ages at IHA.

Carly Anderson, Spectacular Bid. Just a junior, she battled an arm injury which limited her innings as a pitcher for Nutley, but was still a stud shortstop and one of the best hitters in the county in 2014.

AndersC2_042613_NS_tif_Carly Anderson

Victoria Ross, Sea Biscuit. The youngest of Layne and Gerald’s three daughters, all of whom played for Bloomfield, Ross will continue her softball career at Manhattan College this fall.

bloom-4Victoria Ross collected her 100th career hit during the 2014 season.

Olivia Gemma, Forego. 2014 FMTC Stud of the Year. Headed to Stevens Institute of Technology, where she will continue to play softball, Gemma had a great senior year at Mount St. Dominic Academy. She was also named MVP at the North-South All-Star game on June 17.

get-attachment.aspxOlivia Gemma

Sami Huetter, Canonero II. 2014 FMTC Rookie of the Year. The youngest on the list, she’ll be back for three more years at West Essex. Huetter is a tremendous pitcher and a dangerous batter, as well.

Gianna Genello, Smarty Jones. The junior shortstop at Caldwell might set a lot of records before she’s done playing high school ball next May, or June. She’s the team’s leadoff hitter, with tremendous speed, as well as a stud shortstop. 

sjGianna Genello

 

ALL SEC PLAYERS: (As chosen by the Essex County Coaches)

AMERICAN DIVISION

FIRST TEAM

Kelsey Oh Mount St. Dominic
Marina Lombardi Livingston
Kylie McLaughlin Livingston
Sammi Rothenberger Livingston
Olivia Gemma Mount St. Dominic
Gianna Genello Caldwell
Bria Bartsch Mount St. Dominic
Elizabeth Cowell Mount St. Dominic
Alexa Altchek Livingston
Carly Anderson Nutley
Ally Dabroski Mount St. Dominic
Helyna Bissel Mount St. Dominic
Sami Huetter West Essex

SECOND TEAM

Sammi Passeri Livingston
Jennie Antonucci Montclair
Jenna Saporito Nutley
Gabrielle Lombardi Mount St. Dominic
Jahnava Howard West Orange
Kate Jencarelli West Essex
Brooke Adams Cedar Grove
Erin Stacevicz Cedar Grove
Christina Guarino Caldwell
Sam Platt Mount St. Dominic
Bridget Betley West Essex
Cate Leu Livingston

HONORABLE MENTION

Kayla Bayard Caldwell
Val Murphy Caldwell
Kaitlin Machuca West Orange
Jaime DeAngelis West Orange
Ashley Kowalski MSDA
Alexis Havrilla MSDA
Erica Robles Montclair
Nefertiti Smith Montclair
Ana Chambers Livingston
Yinka Fasehun Livingston
Autumn Spinella Cedar Grove
Daniella Marinaro Cedar Grove
Kelly Cousoulis West Essex
Jenna Salluce West Essex
Brittany Currie Nutley
Morgan Gualtieri Nutley

LIBERTY DIVISION

FIRST TEAM

Tara Kelly Glen Ridge
Victoria Ross Bloomfield
Lauren Catena Newark Academy
Isabella Mendez MKA
Sarah Guy Belleville
Phoebe Labat Columbia
Jalia Santos Bloomfield
Sam Corio Bloomfield
Jenna Dembner Millburn
Rachel Hubertus Millburn
Gabby Giachin Newark Academy
Olivia Feiger Verona

SECOND TEAM

Morgan Katona MKA
Elena Garrido Glen Ridge
Brianna LaFiora Bloomfield
Olivia Haveron Verona
Sophie Silberman MKA
Sophie Rosenberg Newark Academy
Victoria Finlay Glen Ridge
Caroline Chivily Verona
Alisson Samaniego Belleville
Taryn Williams Columbia
Rebecca Mandelbaum Newark Academy
Zoe Labat Columbia


HONORABLE MENTION

Allie Fiorentino Glen Ridge
Emily Marhan Glen Ridge
Jackie Selby Verona
Sam Bass Verona
Nadia Uberoi MKA
Paige Pacifico MKA
Samantha Samaniego Belleville
Jenna Lombardi Belleville
Anna Mandel Millburn
Chloe Radtke Millburn
Hannah Rosenbaum Newark Academy
Chloe Cubbage Newark Academy
Kelly Carter Bloomfield
Alexandra Mercado Bloomfield
Mackenzie Conlon Columbia
Jamie Cutler Columbia

COLONIAL DIVISION

FIRST TEAM

Janay Plaza Bloomfield Tech.
Melissa Budhu Bloomfield Tech.
Mariah McClutcher St. Vincents
Leah Rowan St. Vincents
Shannon Thomas Arts
Amber Hunter Arts
Samantha Sanchez Science Park
Nyasia Sanchez Science Park
Alyssa Morales East Side
Marielis Alicea Bloomfield Tech.
Niajia Belton East Orange
Ayannah Lawrence St. Vincents

SECOND TEAM

Adamaris Cotto Bloomfield Tech.
Karina Ortega Bloomfield Tech.
Diane Cuevas St. Vincents
Hope Meireles St. Vincents
Gabrielle Rosario Arts
Zoe Pozo Science Park
Jaleen Oquendo Science Park
Tiffany Nunez Arts
Yesenia Parada East Side
Ines Caetano East Side
Mercedes Cruz Barringer
Kiara Cruz East Orange

HONORABLE MENTION

Tatiana Gonzalez Arts
Shayla Ware Science Park
Nafeesah Terry East Orange
Alexa Alequin East Side
Selena Santiago Barringer
Yairelis Correa St. Vincents
Tatiyana Sinsletary Bloomfield Tech

INDEPENDENCE DIVISION

FIRST TEAM

Dericka Riley Irvington
Chiquela Dennis Irvington
Tyzhane Lassiter Irvington
Harrell, Jasmine University
Shaquedah Derby Weequahic
Gloria Ekah Orange
Montgomery, Alay Orange
Lansi, Allen Weequahic
Janica, Forde Irvington
Linda Thomas Irvington
Veronica Slater GOA
Ela Urbina Orange

SECOND TEAM

Carleen Villanueva Technology
Karina Gonzalez Technology
Mcgill, Tarrayah Orange
Leanna, Thomas Irvington
Paulina Lagardo Technology
Brooks, Novia Central
Kristan Davis Orange
Ayanna Pettaway University
Kiana Perez Technology
Asia Trutz Central
Ameerah Himes Weequahic

HONORABLE MENTION

Jardon Goa, Central
Ashley Foreman Irvington
Maria Cantallano Orange
Quiyanah, Muse University
Madal Torres Technology
Yazmarry Cespedes Technology

FREEDOM DIVISION
 
FIRST TEAM

Denise Lopez No. 13th Street
Widney Saintil Immaculate
Luz Morales No. 13th Street
Tiffany Maisonave No. 13th Street
Ciarra Rivera No. 13th Street
Talia Lawerence Christ The King
Silvia Chicaiza Newark Tech.
Geonna Moore Immaculate
Carmel Thermezy Christ The King
Jamely Nieves No. 13th Street
Ciara Shabazz
Joelle McLeod Christ The King

SECOND TEAM

Taryn Waynick Immaculate
Rafaela Amancio Newark Tech.
Maritza Perez Christ The King
Jenny Ruiz No. 13th Street
Rachel Colon Immaculate
Anijah Allen Christ The King
Alexa Hart Immaculate
Amethyst Navarro No. 13th Street
Maria Cuevas Newark Tech.
Franchera Martich No. 13th Street
Katherine Montero No. 13th Street
1. Marioly Guzman Newark Tech

HONORABLE MENTION

Eliesha Castro Christ The King
Zane Garris Immaculate
Amber Hichez No. 13th Street
Martina Christie No. 13th Street

By mike051893

Thomas concludes marvelous career as Gatorade Player of the Year

While I didn’t cover Immaculate Heart Academy pitcher Steph Thomas on a regular basis, I did get the chance to watch some of her games over the past four years.

And while Thomas won’t play in a fourth straight Non-Public A championship game this Saturday, what she accomplished in a four-year career at IHA can never be minimized.

She leaves the high school game as New Jersey’s all-time winningest pitcher, with 113 victories.

She graduates as the state leader in shutouts, with 69.

ihaThomas and her coaches celebrated win No. 113 on June 2, 2014.

Her final career record was 113-7.

She led IHA to four conference championships, three Bergen County titles, three North, Non-Public A crowns and one state championship, in 2012.

And in 2014, she garnered the Gatorade Player of the Year award.

gatorade

I liked to call her Affirmed, after the great triple crown winner in 1978. And she was a great winner.

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Steph Thomas signed this ball after winning career game No. 113. #31Affirmed113.  (And she was a ‘throwback’ as the Pepsi bottle behind the ball depicted).

 

Congratulations, Steph. Good luck at Lafayette College.

indexThomas will go from an Eagle to a Leopard this fall.

 

By mike051893

Forego and Affirmed put on a classic show as Mount St. Dominic advances to Non-Public A final

A pair of talented senior stud players put on a classic showdown in the top of the seventh inning of the North Non-Public A softball championship game at Ivy Hill Park on June 4.

Immaculate Heart Academy pitcher Steph Thomas (AKA Affirmed) and Mount St. Dominic Academy’s Olivia Gemma (Forego) had a battle for the ages. To set the stage, IHA led, 1-0, in the top of the seventh inning and were within two outs of advancing to a fourth straight Non-Public A championship game in Toms River.

Forego Willie Shoemaker txtForego had some great races on the track and Olivia Gemma kept that name in the limelight with another tremendous game at Ivy Hill Park.

The Lions of MSDA had been held to two hits by Thomas through six innings, but in the seventh, Kelsey Oh led off with a single and a fielding error put a pair of Lions on base. Eventually, a MSDA base runner was out at the plate on a close play. With a runner still in scoring position, Gemma stepped to the plate.

She would foul off numerous pitches from Thomas, and eventually worked the count to 3-2 before lining a clean single that tied the game at one. Later, a clutch double by another Lions senior, Sam Platt, drove home Gemma with what proved to be the game-winning run as Mount St. Dominic held off an IHA rally in the bottom of the seventh to win, 2-1.

Gemma’s final game at Ivy Hill Park figures to be one she’ll never forget. For that matter, she had four tremendous games there in recent vintage. In the 2013 Essex County Tournament semifinal, she hit a monumental homer to lift MSDA past Cedar Grove. The following night, she pitched well and was a stud at the plate in a close loss to Livingston. In the 2014 ECT final, her big hit in the first inning had the Lions off and running en route to a dominating win over Cedar Grove. And then, last night, in what would very well could have been her final high school at-bat, she got a huge hit against the state’s winningest pitcher.

Mount St. Dominic’s win marks the first time a team from Essex County has advanced to play in a state final at Toms River since Nutley did it in 2010. The Lions will seek its first-ever Non-Public A championship when it plays Saturday against Immaculata, in a 2:30 p.m. start at Toms River East. The last time a team from Essex won a state title was in 2009, when Montclair Kimberley captured the Non-Public B crown.

Gemma, Platt and Thomas will all play softball on the next level, with Gemma attending Stevens Institute, Platt, The College of New Jersey and Thomas, Lafayette College.

Gemma and Platt will have one more game while Thomas’ career ends with numbers that are nothing short of mind-boggling.

Most importantly, all three players have represented their schools with class and grace during an outstanding four years of high school.

 

 

By mike051893

Victory No. 113 ‘Affirms’ IHA’s Thomas as state’s winningest pitcher

She won her first game as a freshman pitcher in early April of 2011, when Steph Thomas of Immaculate Heart Academy defeated Montclair in the IHA Tournament on the Eagles’ home field.

Three years and two months later, Thomas, (aka Affirmed) in her final home game, set a new state record for career victories, surpassing the mark set by Kristen Schindler of Caldwell nine years ago, as IHA downed Lyndhurst, 10-0, in five innings today.

 

grandparentsSteph Thomas of IHA celebrates her historic win with grandparents Diane and Ben Thomas. (Photos courtesy of Steph Thomas)

Thomas’ milestone win was her 113th, as she spun a one-hitter. She also extended her state record for career shutouts with her 69th goose egg. (Schindler had held the state shutout mark of 67, as well, before Thomas broke that record in a 5-0 victory against Paramus Catholic last week).

affirmedThe great Affirmed, after winning the last Triple Crown, to date, in 1978. A triple crown could be won this Saturday, on the same day as the state softball championship games in Toms River.

While the win was nice, especially after a 5-4 loss by IHA to Indian Hills last Saturday in the Bergen County final, Thomas was more reflective on playing her final home game.

“There are some emotions,” she said with a smile. “A lot of memories here, for sure. It’s been an amazing experience.”

ihaIHA head coach Anthony Larezza and assistant Diana Fasano flank Thomas after career win number 113. (#31Affirmed113)

On breaking the record and earning, unofficially a #31Affirmed113 hash tag, marking her uniform number, stud name and new state record, Thomas noted the season is reaching its apex.

 

“We lost in the county final, but with the state tournament, there isn’t much time to think about it,” Thomas said. “We want the chance to win a (Non-Public A) championship. It’s the final week of the season, and we’re excited.”

get-attachment.aspxSteph Thomas and her sisters, Ally (left) and Catherine, celebrate Steph as the state’s all-tine win leader.

IHA improved to 31-1 while Lyndhurst (22-8), which captured a state sectional championship last week, will play High Point tomorrow in a Group 2 semifinal.

iha 4Even the visiting team was proud of Thomas’ accomplishment. That’s Lyndhurst coach Emily Ringen with Thomas after the game. Ringen will lead her team into the Group 2 semifinal today opposite ‘Citation’ (Ally Frei) and High Point.

“This was a good game for us,” said IHA coach Anthony Larezza, who welcomed, among others, legends such as Willie Stargell and Charlie Lau to the ball park, as well as invoking Dan Devine and Rudy when there was actually a question of taking Thomas out after five innings, to rest her for tomorrow’s North Non-Public A final against Mount St. Dominic. (He also, after seeing my Chicago Bears jersey, asked if I was Doug Buffone or Jack Concannon, before settling on Mike Singletary)

rudy-sack-1000wRudy, in his final home game. Larezza felt like Dan Devine in Thomas’ last home game yesterday in deciding when to take her out of the game.

startBaseball greats Willie Stargell and Charlie Lau, whose names were invoked at IHA yesterday. Not easy to get on this list.

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indexDoug Buffone in his Bears jersey and me, in mine at IHA yeserday.

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“I was going to take Steph out after the fifth, but then we scored five in the bottom of the inning to get the 10-run rule. Lyndhurst has some really good players. They wanted the game to get ready for High Point and it was good for us to play after the Indian Hills game last Saturday.”

For Thomas, the talk of the record is now in the past.

“I’m glad it’s out of the way,” she said. “I just want to focus on helping my team win a state championship.”

By mike051893

A tough loss in a classic game means back to work for IHA

His team had just lost an epic contest to Indian Hills in a battle of unbeaten teams in the Bergen County championship game.

With her team trailing, 4-3, Maddie Levine of Indian Hills hit a two-strike, two-out, two-run homer in the bottom of the seventh inning as Indian Hills defeated Immaculate Heart Academy, 5-4, in front of a huge crowd in Saddle Brook.

Head coach Anthony Larezza’s IHA team dealt with its first loss after 30 wins with class, knowing it was within a pitch of beating a 31-0 team for another county title.

It was a game in which Indian Hills (32-0) had built early leads of 2-0 and 3-1 before IHA would rally with a pair of runs in the top of the sixth as Daniella Ibarra hit what appeared to be the clutchest of hits, a two-out, two-run single that put IHA ahead for the first time in the game, 4-3.

“This one is on me,” Larezza said afterward. “I call the pitches. I called for a curve ball and (Levine) hit it. I should have called for the screw ball. I take full responsibility.

“Our kids played great. I told them not to get down. We’ve got a game on Monday (at home, against Lyndhurst, in an independent game) and then we play on Tuesday, at Seton Hall (against Mount St. Dominic for the North, Non-Public A title). We know what it will take to get back to Toms River (for the Non-Public A championship on June 7).

“That’s our focus, and these kids will be fine.”

Just two hours after a one-run game between two teams that were  a combined 61-0, came down to one pitch, Larezza was on twitter.

“We will be home to Lyndhurst on Monday, 4 p.m.,” the tweet read.

Another words, back to work.

 

By mike051893

Thomas ‘Affirms’ greatness, sets new state shutout mark, ties all-time win record

Immaculate Heart Academy coach Anthony Larezza was talking about his star pitcher StephThomas, after another record-breaking performance as IHA continued its quest toward a state championship.

ihaThomas and Affirmed both look good with flowers.

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For the record, Thomas (AKA Affirmed) led her team to a 5-0 win over Paramus Catholic in the semifinals of the NJSIAA, North, Non-Public A tournament. IHA will face the winner of Friday’s Mount St. Dominic-DePaul game, for the championship next Tuesday, most likely at Ivy Hill Park in Newark.

The shutout was Affirmed’s 68th, setting a new state record. The old mark (of 67, as Larezza reminded reporters afterward) had held for nine years, since Kristen Schindler of Caldwell established it. The win was also Thomas’ 112th, tying Schindler for the state’s all time record for career victories.

iha 3IHA players enjoy post-game celebration.

Larezza hopes that Schindler will be able to attend an IHA game before the season ends.

“Kristen was a great pitcher,” said Larezza, who remembers her well. Schindler’s Caldwell team edged Montclair Kimberley in the 2004 Essex County final, 3-2. Larezza was Montclair Kimberley’s coach that season.

When told that Thomas had passed Schindler’s mark for shutouts, Caldwell coach Mike Teshkoyan, who has been the team’s head coach for 28 seasons, was very gracious.

“Steph is a great pitcher, on a great team,” said Teshkoyan. “It (the record) is well deserved.”

Affirmed will have an opportunity to break Schindler’s win record on Saturday, when IHA takes on top-seeded Indian Hills in a much-anticipated game, for the Bergen County Tournament title. Thomas will take a 112-5 career mark into Saturday’s contest.

“Steph does so many things well,” said Larezza. “And it’s not just pitching. She’s a tremendous offensive player. She fields her position very well, too. Sometimes, you see her pitch and think she’s not the hardest throwing pitcher, but she has tremendous control, a good riser and excellent movement.”

Thomas kept a very good Paramus Catholic team off balance throughout the game. She gave up just one hit while striking out nine and walking none. At the plate, IHA’s leadoff hitter was 2-for-3, including a triple. She was the catalyst to a 3-run third inning after 2 1/2 scoreless innings.

“Paramus Catholic is a very good team,” said Larezza. “They’re very athletic and they swung the bats. This was a good win for us. Nothing came easy.”

Thomas appreciated the post-game ceremony, where she received flowers for her latest performance. But she admitted that winning a county and ultimately, a state championship, is the only for she and her teammates.

iha 2Thomas and coach Anthony Larezza enjoy a laugh during the post-game.

IHA has a chance to finish as the state’s top-ranked team for a second time during Thomas’ career (it won it all in 2012) and third time since 2009. While winning a pair of state championships and finishing number one, last year’s team was also outstanding before losing in the state final.

“These are the games you play for,” Larezza said. “It’s when the trophies come out. It’s why you play and do all this work. Steph knows that. She’s a leader, she’s been there before and we’re hoping for the opportunity to win it all again. We know it won’t be easy. We’ll be playing some very good teams in the next couple of days.”

In the meantime, congratulations to Affirmed on another milestone. She’s a truly great player, talented, yet humble, determined, yet reserved.

By mike051893

‘Forego’ tames the demons of Ivy Hill Park with a tremendous stretch-run performance

While there may have been a lack of the suspense which defined the last five Essex County Tournament softball finals, don’t tell that to Mount St. Dominic’s Olivia Gemma.

‘Forego’, as I like to call her, had seen her share of disappointing moments at Ivy Hill Park over the past three seasons. In 2011, she had pitched the Lions to the ECT final before MSD lost a 3-0 decision to Nutley. In 2012, Gemma was a key player on a MSD team which returned to the finals and lost a 2-0 decision to an outstanding Livingston squad. In that game, Sam Platt pitched very well for the Lions, but Gemma was still a force in the lineup.

Last year, Gemma put together two tremendous days at the ECT. In the semifinals, she hit a legendary three-run homer in the sixth inning as the Mount rallied for a big win over Cedar Grove. The following day, she hit a two-run single in the first inning as the Mount took an early 3-0 lead over Livingston. Gemma was a force at the plate in that game, so much so that Livingston, after gaining a 5-4 lead in the seventh inning, was trying everything it could to avoid pitching to her. (Many felt Gemma was the best player on the field during those two days).

Forego Willie Shoemaker txtThe great Forego back in his hey day.

In 2014, Gemma’s two-run double in the first got her team off and running and Mount St. Dominic won its first county crown in five years over Cedar Grove, 10-0.

The suspense may have been different in 2014.

For the first time since 2008, when MSD blanked Cedar Grove, 7-0, the title game didn’t, in essence, come down to the final inning. The Mount had edged Cedar Grove in 2009, 3-1, and in 2010, Cedar Grove got by West Essex, 2-0. The 2011 final was a three run game and the two finals between Livingston and the Mount came down to a big play late in the respective 2012 and 2013 contest.

Most fans had expected to see Mount St. Dominic and Livingston play for a third straight season in the final. But Cedar Grove changed all that, when it rallied for a pair of runs in the top of the seventh, to surprise the top-seeded Lancers, 5-4, in the quarterfinal round.

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Gemma pitching for the Lions. The team’s depth in the circle in 2014 made her its starting first baseman this season.

“We really wanted to play Livingston one more time,” said Gemma. “That’s been such a big rivalry for both of our teams. We split two games with them this season, so obviously a third game would have been really good. But it didn’t happen. Cedar Grove was playing some real good ball coming into the final and we knew that they’d be a tough opponent.”

While there have been some tough defeats at Ivy Hill, MSD’s record there since 2011 is a very respectable 5-4, which includes a 1-0 loss to Immaculate Heart Academy in the Non-Public A final in 2013, as well as the two wins there this year in the semifinals and finals. Mount St. Dominic not only won the ECT for the fifth time in its history (all under head coach Lorenzo Sozio) it also won the Super Essex Conference American Division title for the first time in three years, finishing 13-1 in the rugged division.

“Good memories, for sure,” Gemma said. “My first time at Ivy Hill (in 2011), we played Cedar Grove in the semifinals. I was so nervous, I felt like I was shaking. Amanda Paxson was there to calm me down and hopefully, as a senior now, I’ve done that for some of the younger players.”

There was some irony in that 2011 semifinal game against Cedar Grove, since the Panthers started sophomore Gabby Castelli, but later inserted a freshman who had missed most of that season with an ankle injury. That player was Platt.

“I forgot about that,” said Gemma, with a laugh. “Sam pitched for Cedar Grove that year. The next season, she was my teammate.”

Gemma could make one more trip to Ivy Hill if MSD makes it to the North Non-Public A final again this season. The championship game for the North Non-Public A and B sections have been contested there the past few years, but the site may not be guaranteed this year. If last Monday’s game marked her last visit there as a high school player, she’s fine with that, too.

“It feels great to get a county title,” Gemma said. “Everything is winding down, for high school. Hopefully, we can keep winning a little longer.”

Gemma, who is president of her senior class, will graduate this coming Sunday. The eldest daughter of Angela and Mike Gemma, Olivia’s softball career will continue on the next level. A tremendous student, Forego is heading to Stevens Institute of Technology, where she will probably return to the circle and pitch for the Ducks.

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By mike051893

On Memorial Day, Remembering my Uncle John

He served his country without hesitation. He was a father, husband and son. He loved his country and volunteered for a mission that he knew was dangerous.

He lost his life in Vietnam on Jan. 20, 1967, and while Arthur J. Abramoff’s service to his country as a pilot in the United States Air Force will resemble the bravery and heroics of so many other men and women, his legacy hits home for me a little more because he was my uncle.AJA Memorial Day

I was 8 years old on Saturday, Jan. 21, 1967 when a knock on the door of my grandmother’s house in Margate, NJ would change our family’s life forever. My parents decided to visit my grandmother, as well as my aunt and two young cousins for essentially, the day. It was about a 2-hour drive from our then-home in the Ivy Hill section of Newark to Margate, and in January, there’s not much traffic on the Garden State Parkway, so the drive was uneventful.

Mgatephoto1966I’m standing at the far right, with my uncle Art to my left. Also in photo (left to right) my grandmother, Betty, my father, Elias, Aunt Jane, Cousin Billy, my mother Marilyn and cousin Karen. This was the last photo taken before Art left for Vietnam.

We may have been at the house on Iroquois Avenue in Margate no more than 10 minutes when the doorbell rang. All I remember is my aunt saying to the man, who turned out to be a Military Chaplain, ‘oh, you’re in the wrong house’.

Any military wife knows who the Chaplain is and why he, or she, would be at the front door, especially during war time.

The Chaplain delivered a letter, essentially saying that the aircraft which 1st Lt. Arthur J. Abramoff (Uncle John to me) was piloting on Jan. 20, 1967, was shot down over Vietnam. Despite valiant attempts to save him, Lt. Abramoff was killed in action. His body was recovered and would be flown back to the United States. A second crewman aboard that flight, a United States Army officer, survived the crash.

Mgate old school

The rest of that day was kind of numb for all of us. I remember we stayed the next two nights in Margate, but my father wanted me to get back to school by the following Tuesday, so he drove me back to our home in Newark on the evening of Jan. 23.

My uncle and I were pretty close, and even though I was barely 8 when he died, the memories remain strong to this day.

On May 1, 2006, New York University, my uncle’s alma mater, dedicated a portion of the Helen and Martin Kimmel Center for University Life to Art’s memory. I had the chance to meet a lot of my uncle’s classmates and friends that day.

I also met now retired Col. Devere Henderson, who, like my uncle, was a young pilot stationed in Vietnam on Jan. 20, 1967. Col. Henderson was on the rescue mission that day in an attempt to save my uncle. It was an honor to meet Col. Henderson, a graduate of the United States Air Force Academy that day, and I’ll always be grateful to him for his service and valor.

I always find watching video of Super Bowl I to be surreal for me, because it was played on Jan. 15, 1967, just five days before Art’s final flight. Every time I see that tape of Green Bay playing Kansas City, it’s like ‘wow, he was still with us that day’.

Art Abramoff was 25 years old. He left behind a wife, Jane, daughter, Karen, son, Billy, sister, Marilyn and his mother, Betty.

I’ll never forget his service, nor the countless other Americans who have fought and died for our freedoms.

Saying thank you is not nearly enough.

By mike051893

Jerry Ruess, Capitalism, Pigs and Chickens and Thunder-meters means just another day at IHA with Coach Larezza

There’s never a dull moment when it comes to a trip to Immaculate Heart Academy.

The school’s highly successful softball coach. Anthony Larezza, is a whirlwind, shagging down foul balls, taking the occasional phone call, teaching his players about history and quoting famous lines from classic movies and television shows. (Usually ‘The Godfather’ or the ‘Sopranos’).

IHA generally hosts the Bergen County Tournament softball quarterfinal round, and today was no exception. Larezza’s team, the defending champion, played the first of four games, so the coach had the rest of the day to oversee the tournament as a site director, as well as meet and greet members of the media, players parents and, of course, the legendary Ed Bates.

downloadLarezza, sitting at the spot of his famous Memorial Day speech of 2010. Rain, or shine, he’s always at the forefront when it comes to IHA softball.

Larezza recalls a day at the IHA Tournament a while back, when an amateur umpire handed me a softball and said to tell Anthony, ‘make sure Anthony throws this ball out. This ball is no good. I’m a certified ump. I know these things.”

chylaknestorbioNestor Chylak, a legendary Major League umpire, will always have a seat at an IHA game.

I relayed the message to Larezza, who smiled, looked at me and said about the ump, “Who’s he, Nestor Chylak?”, referring to the legendary Major League umpire.

The ‘Memorial Day’ speech always comes up. It goes back to a IHA game against Livingston in early April of 2010. The Lancers played Larezza’s team in the annual IHA Tournament, and had won a 1-0 decision.

(Jess) Peslak didn’t even pitch that day for Livingston,” Larezza recalled of Livingston’s now-legendary hurler who was a freshman that season. “But she beat us at the plate by hitting a RBI single and we lost 1-0.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALarezza recalled a game in 2010 when Livingston’s Jess Peslak (28) beat his team with her bat, and not her arm, leading to the Memorial Day tirade later in the day at IHA.

Bear in mind, IHA had won the 2009 state championship a year earlier and had finished as the state’s top ranked team. So when it lost an early season game to a good Livingston squad the following spring, Larezza wanted to send his team a message.

He carried on a conversation with a former IHA player, in clear earshot of a few current players, who were sitting a little to the left of home plate.

“It’s going to be one of those seasons,” Larezza said (and I’m paraphrasing) to the former player. “These kids don’t care. They won a championship last year, (so) let’s take this season off, right? We’ll go 22-5 and our season is over by Memorial Day weekend. Let’s go down the shore. Works for me. Play the younger kids now. Memorial Day is coming, right? Season’s over.”

Anyway, this year’s visit brought about a comparison to a former major league pitcher, when he saw someone at the game wearing a baseball jacket.

“Who’s he, Jerry Ruess?” Larezza said.

Larezza couldn’t believe he actually remembered Jerry Reuss, and quickly, the conversation sparked a debate on how good Reuss was. When told that the former Cardinals, Astros, Dodgers and Pirates pitcher won over 200 major league games, and had a career era of 3.64, Larezza was impressed.

Reuss Jerry PP74-381_FL_NLB McWilliamsFormer Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Jerry Reuss

“Hall of Fame numbers to me,” he said.

Larezza then talked about a chicken or a pig, and which animal analogy worked better for his players when it came to team work and sacrifice.

“When producing a dish made of ham and eggs, the pig provides the ham,” Larezza said. “That requires (the pig’s) sacrifice, and the chicken provides the eggs, which are easy for the chicken to produce. The pig is really committed in that dish while the chicken is only involved, yet both are needed to produce the dish.

“After the kids heard it, they all wanted to be the pig.”

pig bacon chicken eggLarezza loves to talk about the chicken and the pig analogy to his players.

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Horse racing analogies always come up. I call his pitcher, Stef Thomas, Affirmed, because she’s a stud player. Larezza likes to talk about a horse named ‘Upset’ and how that horse once defeated the great Man O’War  in a 1919 race.

“That’s where the term ‘upset’ came from in sports,” Larezza said.

upset

When a rain delay occurred in the tournament today, Larezza saw it as a good opportunity for the IHA concession stand to make an extra sale, or three.

“Always thinking sales,” he said. “That’s capitalism, right? Made our country great.”

Always the politician, Larezza thanks a local writer for “the great interviews”, even though he admits the writer asked and answered the questions, not giving the coach much of a chance to respond.

When the umpire thought he heard thunder, necessitating an additional 30 minute delay in a quarterfinal game today, Larezza quickly tried to explain that it wasn’t thunder, and that he knows about thunder.

thun

But that didn’t work. The game was postponed until Sunday.

Just another day at IHA.

 

By mike051893

Livingston’s Rothenberger reflects on a wonderful high school career while looking toward a state title

Sammi Rothenberger of Livingston, (AKA Riva Ridge) has had a tremendous high school athletic career.

She will finish with 12 varsity letters over four years, playing high quality soccer, basketball and softball, where she plays shortstop and bats cleanup in the lineup.

sr 2Sammi Rothenberger makes a throw to first in a 2013 game as Rachel Wasilak watches. The two Livingston teammates will be reunited at William Paterson University this fall.

Riva Ridgewill attend William Paterson University this fall, where she’ll play softball and be reunited with teammate Rachel Wasilak, who just finished her freshman season at WPU this spring. (Wasilak was the FMTC Essex Player of the Year in 2013).

While she can’t wait for college, Rothenberger, like most high school seniors around this time of the year, is seeing the end of a wonderful time in her life, and admits being nostalgic.

RivaRidgeDerbyCCRiva Ridge

“If we win on Tuesday (against Roxbury in the state tournament) and (Morris) Knolls wins, that means it’s my final home game,” Rothenberger said, referring to the fact that the Lancers would play at Morris Knolls in a sectional championship game, based on her scenario.

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“There are so many memories for me on that field. And don’t get me wrong, I loved playing soccer and basketball, too. And when I played my last home games in those sports, it was tough. But with softball, it’s hard to describe. There have been some wonderful times on that field.”

Rothenberger led Livingston to the SEC, ECT and state sectional championships in 2012 and 2013. This year, the Lances are 20-5, and while they won’t win a third straight county and conference title, they’re very much in the mix for another state sectional crown, and possibly beyond.

jasonRothenberger (22) dousing coach Jason Daily after the Lancers won the 2013 state sectional title. She hopes to enjoy a similar celebration later this week.

“We’ve got some big games coming up,” said Rothenberger, who has been battling a knee injury all season and is looking forward to rehabbing the injury for the fall campaign. “I feel like I’ve been playing pretty good defense, but I don’t think I’ve hit as well as I’d like to. We’ll see what happens this week.

“One thing is for sure. I have no regrets. It’s been a great run the past four years.”

By mike051893