ECT Final should be an excellent matchup; Montclair’s Delgado ‘Living the Dream’ (And he really is); Bergen Tourney shaping up as a classic

The 38th Essex County Tournament should feature an excellent championship game on May 25, as the top two seeds meet at Ivy Hill Park.

Top-seeded Mount St. Dominic, the defending champion, will take on the second seed, West Essex, at 6 p.m. Both teams won exciting semifinals last week, as West Essex edged Nutley, 1-0, thanks to a classic slide at home by Monica Onorata in the bottom of the sixth, while Mount St. Dominic defeated Livingston, 5-1, in a well-played game.

The pitching should be tremendous, as West Essex’s Sami Huetter (Canonero II) and Kelsey Oh of Mount St. Dominic have to be considered the top two hurlers in Essex County. Most will also counter that Oh is the best high school pitcher in the state, or among the top three, for sure. And what makes this matchup so intriguing is that both pitchers are sophomores, and the nucleus of West Essex and Mount St. Dominic consists of underclassmen, meaning a potentially great rivalry is brewing here.

Mount St. Dominic has had the better of this rivalry, lately. The Lions have beaten the Knights twice this year and haven’t lost to West Essex since 2012. But a tremendous game earlier this season at West Essex, which MSD won, 1-0, in extra innings, may give a good indication of an intense rivalry brewing. Huetter and Oh hadn’t faced each other until that game in April and it was everything expected of a classic horse race.

This is the second time the schools will meet for the ECT championship. Eight years ago, West Essex prevailed, 2-0, in the final. The Knights last appeared in the county final in 2010, when it lost to Cedar Grove, 2-0. Mount St. Dominic is seeking its sixth county title, which would put it second, all time, in ECT history, trailing only Caldwell’s 10 crowns. This is also the eighth time in the last nine seasons that MSDA will play for a championship. The Lions are 3-4 in title games during that span, and a win will mark the second time the program has repeated as champs.

Not surprisingly, Montclair coach Phil Delgado was at last Sunday’s ECT semifinals at Ivy Hill. The guy lives for softball and the first-year coach for the Mounties couldn’t be happier that he’s coaching in Essex County.

“This is home, this is where I want to be,” said Delgado. “I’m living the dream. I just love what I do. Coaching these kids is great.”

Delgado’s enthusiasm speaks for itself. He could easily have complained that competing in the SEC’s American Division wasn’t in his team’s best interest in 2015, but he’ll hear none of it. Instead, he embraced the challenge his team has faced, playing the likes of Mount St. Dominic, Livingston, Nutley and West Essex twice.

His respect for opposing coaches is also infectious.

“I enjoy coaching against ‘Mondo’ (West Essex’s Andrea Mondadori), Bob (Bloomfield’s Mayer), Lorenzo (Mount St. Dominic’s Sozio) and Luann (Nutley’s Zullo),” he said. But Delgado holds the biggest accolade for Livingston’s Jason Daily.

“The guy is incredible,” said Delgado of Daily. “Look what he does, year in, and year out. He’s had great players, but that doesn’t always mean you’re going to win, either. And look at this year. He guides a young team to the county semifinals, when I don’t think many expected him to get this far. I’ve learned a lot from him over the years. Jason’s a tremendous coach.”

In the off-season, Delgado coaches and trains a number of the kids who play in Essex County, and it’s clear the respect those players have for him.

Montclair has had its share of coaching changes. Since 2009, Delgado is the fourth different head coach, which can’t help a program’s stability. The stronger programs in Essex, such as West Essex, Bloomfield, Livingston and Mount St. Dominic have enjoyed the comfort of a head coach who averages 15 years on the job, maybe longer.

Let’s hope Delgado is the long-term answer for the Mounties.

The Bergen County Tournament will certainly test a team’s mettle. The semifinals will feature two tremendous games, as Immaculate Heart takes on Indian Hills, at 11 a.m. and Demarest faces Northern Highlands at 1 p.m. Both games will be played at Indian Hills, in Oakland, on Saturday, May 23. Last Sunday’s quarterfinals were riveting, according to IHA coach Anthony LaRezza.

“All four games came down to basically the final pitch,” said LaRezza. “Great pitching and timely hitting by all eight teams in the quarters. The intensity in each game was good to see. We’ll have a huge test against a tremendous Indian Hills team on Saturday.”

Fans will recall that IHA and Indian Hills met in a classic championship game last season, with Hills winning on a walk-off homer in the bottom of the seventh inning.

LaRezza has the highest regard for Indian Hills’ Joe Leicht, and it’s pretty obvious the feeling is mutual. After Hills’ victory in last year’s title game, Leicht made it a point of reaching out to LaRezza before taking part in any kind of celebration. You have to think with the quality of softball in Bergen County, all of the Final Four teams will be favorites to win, or advance to a final, in its respective state section.

ihaCould be a couple of studs in this photo ! (Courtesy of IHA softball)

As far as IHA, the Eagles lost back-to-back games a few weeks ago, and have been on quite a run, since. LaRezza had said at the outset of the season he wasn’t sure how good this year’s team could be, but at this point, you have to think they’re a favorite to be in the running for a county and possible state crown.

As a mater of fact, Indian Hills and Northern Highlands could meet in a sectional semifinal, as well as a county championship game, with wins in their respective games. And don’t discount Demarest, who is also in the same section as Highlands and Hills. Demarest faces Hills in a sectional quarterfinal on May 20 and could face them again in a county championship game.

Crazy, for sure, and some great games for fans to enjoy.

Stay tuned.

Here are the updated FMTC Top 10 rankings.

1-Mount St. Dominic (26-1)

2-West Essex (18-9)

3-Nutley (21-7)

4-Livingston (17-9)

5-Cedar Grove (19-7)

6-Caldwell (21-6)

7-Verona (15-6)

8-Columbia (17-8)

9-Newark Academy (8-14)

10-Bloomfield (6-16)


The Essex studs, so far, in 2015.

Sami Huetter, Canonero II

Gianna Genello, Smarty Jones

Carly Anderson, Spectacular Bid

Sydney McCormack, Syd The Kid

Marina Lombardi, Silver Charm

Erin Stacevicz, California Chrome

Sophie Rosenberg, Arts and Letters

Sarah Guy, Charismatic

Ally Dabroski, Real Quiet

Out of Network

Southpaw Secretariat, IHA

Amanda Ayala, (DePaul), Whirlaway




By mike051893

ECT semifinals feature four storied programs; Genello nears Capardi mark

Sunday’s Essex County Tournament semifinals at Ivy Hill Park will feature two outstanding games, with four teams that have enjoyed tremendous success in the tournament.

The 38th ECT is down to the Final Four, with West Essex and Nutley meeting first in a battle of the second and third seeds, at 5 p.m, followed by a 7 p.m. contest between fifth seeded Livingston and Mount St. Dominic, the top seed and defending champion.

Between the four schools, 15 county titles have been won, with MSD and Livingston tied for second, all time, in the tourney’s history, with five championships each. (Caldwell has the most titles, with 10). West Essex has three championships, with the last coming in 2007 while Nutley has won two titles, in 1993 and 2011.

Current Nutley coach Luann Zullo led West Essex to back-to-back crowns in 1997 and 1998, then guided the Raiders to the 2011 championship. Zullo is the only coach to have coached two different schools to ECT championships.

The games themselves should also be interesting, since Nutley and West Essex generally have really intense matchups. The two could also meet in the NJSIAA tournament later this month. Last year, Nutley eliminated West Essex in the state tourney.

And it goes without saying that a Livingston-Mount St. Dominic game never disappoints. The two schools met in the 2012 and 2013 ECT finals, with the Lancers winning two close, hard-fought games. This year, the Mount has to be considered the favorite, but Livingston has been playing well of late, including a very impressive win over Cedar Grove last Saturday in the quarterfinals.

The dates of the semifinals and finals were changed recently, because of a conflict with possible first round state tournament games. And with that said, the NJSIAA tourney could have a good Essex showing this spring, with teams like Cedar Grove, Verona, West Essex, Nutley, Mount St. Dominic, Livingston, Caldwell and Newark Academy advancing deep in their respective brackets.

So, with that said, enjoy the ECT games this Sunday. The semifinal winners will meet on Memorial Day, Monday, May 25, for the championship at Ivy Hill. And by next week, we’ll have a good idea of what teams will be making serious runs in the state tournament, too.

Caldwell’s senior shortstop Gianna Genello was closing in on a coveted school record. Entering  her team’s May 14 state game with Harrison, Smarty Jones was two hits shy of breaking Gina Capardi’s mark of 209 career hits. Capardi played at Caldwell from 2002-2005.

Here are the updated FMTC rankings.

1-Mount St. Dominic (24-1)

Sort of a quiet week for the Lions, who were set to play Livingston in a SEC game on May 13, then face Livingston again on May 17 in the semifinals. Sophomore pitcher Kelsey Oh will be tough to handle in the county tournament.

2-Nutley (20-6)

Coming down to the wire for a talented team, which already has 20 wins. The Raiders are the top seed in its state section, but also have eyes on bringing home that ECT crown. An ECT semifiinal pitching matchup between Spectacular Bid (Carly Anderson) and Canonero II (Sami Huetter) should have the fans buzzing on Sunday.

3-West Essex (16-9)

Are the Knights playing its best softball now? Could be, especially with impressive wins over Bergen powers Lodi Immaculate and Indian Hills, as well as a 2-0 mark against Livingston, something that hasn’t happened since 2010. A trip to the ECT final for the first time in five years means beating Nutley in the semis. Should be fun.

4-Livingston (16-7)

Coach Jason Daily’s team played six games in six days from May 4-9, and were 4-2 in those matchups, including a big win at Cedar Grove last Saturday night in an ECT quarterfinal. While they’re the underdog in this year’s semifinal, expect a young Livingston team to give a good effort. Lancers could also be a team to watch in the state tournament.

5-Cedar Grove (17-7)

Panthers will be among the favorites to win a state sectional title. An aggressive offense and good pitching will make them formidable.

6-Caldwell (20-5)

Senior pitcher Cayla Lombardi won her 20th game in a win over Passaic Valley on May 12. Chiefs have a long and storied history in state tournament play and this year’s team could add to that tradition. Caldwell could have at least two home games in the states, starting with a May 14 contest against Harrison.

7-Columbia (16-7)

Seventh seeded Cougars having a very good season, and will host a first round state game against Piscataway.

8-Bloomfield (5-14)

It’s been a frustrating year for the Bengals, but this team plays hard every time out. A first round state game against a familiar foe in Bloomfield will be interesting.

9-Verona (13-6)

Hillbillies having a very good season and will host Hasbrouck Heights in a first round state game.

10-Newark Academy (7-12)

You always wonder if this team can make a good run in the Non-Public B tournament. Minutemen get a bye in first round of states and could face top-seeded Lodi Immaculate in the North semifinals.


The Essex studs, so far, in 2015.

Sami Huetter, Canonero II

Gianna Genello, Smarty Jones

Carly Anderson, Spectacular Bid

Sydney McCormack, Syd The Kid

Marina Lombardi, Silver Charm

Erin Stacevicz, California Chrome

Sophie Rosenberg, Arts and Letters

Sarah Guy, Charismatic

Ally Dabroski, Real Quiet

Out of Network

Southpaw Secretariat, IHA

Amanda Ayala, (DePaul), Whirlaway

By mike051893

First jewel on the crown as Mount St. Dominic seeks a rare back-to-back Triple Crown; California Chrome and Smarty Jones reach 200 hits

This blog has long had a race horse theme when it comes to Essex County softball. And, of course, the ultimate goal for any racehorse is to win a triple crown.

In Essex County, that’s a rare accomplishment. The triple crown for high school softball is generally a conference title, county championship and ultimately, a state championship.

Caldwell accomplished that feat a decade ago, behind their great pitcher, Kristen Schindler. If stud nicknames were being used back then, she would have been called ‘Citation‘.

In 2012 and 2013, Livingston accomplished it, somewhat, by winning the conference, county and state sectional title, but the Lancers fell short in the Group IV semifinals both years.

Last year, Mount St. Dominic won its triple crown in the most impressive fashion, dominating in its conference and county, then winning two incredible games in the Non-Public A tournament to secure a state championship.

crown-jewelsMSDA is beginning to build its crown for 2015, having added already the first diamond with a conference title.

A year later, some of the names have changed, but the Lions (22-1 entering games of May 6) are probably stronger this year, as coach Lorenzo Sozio’s team seeks what would be an unprecedented second TC by an Essex-based team. Jewel one is already on the crown, as the conference title is secured, with the team unbeaten in league play.

In about a week, we’ll find out if the Lions’ bid to repeat as Essex County champions is fulfilled. Mount St. Dominic is a clear favorite to win there, but that road could be challenging, with some good matchups possibly in the Final Four.

If Mount St. Dominic does win the county title, it will be the program’s sixth crown, moving it ahead of Livingston for second most ECT championships. (Caldwell has the most, with 10). Sozio has guided the Mount to all five of its titles, thus far.

A team’s success relies mainly on good pitching, and there’s no question that MSD has the stud of studs in the circle in sophomore righty, Kelsey Oh. In 2014, Oh led the Mount to the state championship with some incredible pitching down the stretch. She’s been nearly unhittable in 2015.

But let’s not forget a potent offense, and outstanding defense, featuring Ally Dabroski, Elizabeth Cowell, Helyna Bissell and up-and-coming freshman Sarah Taffett.

Dabroski, the lone senior on the team, is clearly a stud, a ‘Real Quiet‘, kind. She just plays the game at a high level, every time out.

RealQuietDerbyCCThe other Real Quiet.

So, sit back and enjoy some good softball leading up to the county championship, and following that, the road to a state title begins.

Get your popcorn ready !

Congratulations to Erin Stacevicz of Cedar Grove and Gianna Genello of Caldwell on collecting their 200th hit a few days apart this past week. Stacevicz (California Chrome) and Genello (Smarty Jones) are both senior shortstops, with exceptional speed at the plate and a tremendous defensive presence.

Here are the updated FMTC rankings.

1-Mount St. Dominic (22-1)

The Lions are far and away the best team in Essex, thus far.

2-Nutley (18-5)

Honestly? You can almost flip a coin from 2-5 in the rankings, but the Raiders are here for a few reasons. They have the best offense, outside of MSD, and maybe the best pitcher in senior Carly Anderson, who will make a Spectacular Bid for a county championship.

3-West Essex (13-8)

When Canonero II (Sami Huetter) is in the circle, they’re as good as anyone. West Essex is still a very young team, however, and with that comes inconsistency at times. Knights face Livingston on May 6 in what should be a really good game.

4-Livingston (13-6)

The Big Green Machine has gotten really good pitching from senior Sami Passeri and junior Sydney McCormack. Both have different strengths and head coach Jason Daily won’t hesitate in using both during the course of a game. Lancers face Cedar Grove on Saturday in a ECT quarter.

5-Cedar Grove (15-5)

There is absolutely no question that Cedar Grove can compete with any team in the county, including Mount St. Dominic. California Chrome is so good, it’s scary. The Panthers can swing the bats and have above average pitching.

6-Caldwell (17-4)

The Chiefs made it to a county semifinal last year, and if they do it again in 2015, it will mean beating long-time nemesis, Nutley, on May 8 in the quarterfinals. Caldwell has been playing well, led by Smarty Jones, Christina Guarino, Val Murphy and ‘The Bear‘, Cayla Lombardi.

7-Columbia (13-5)

The Cougars are putting together a very good season and will play West Essex in a ECT quarterfinal game on May 9. It won a thriller last Saturday over Millburn in a first round ECT game.

8-Bloomfield (4-13)

Don’t let the record fool you, this team can play. Bengals have lost five games by one run and two more by two runs. Still think they’re capable of getting a big upset before the end of the season. Bloomfield is in the county quarters and play at top-seeded MSD on May 11.

9-Verona (10-5)

Hillbillies are out of county tournament, but have to think they’ll be a factor in its state section.

10-Newark Academy (6-10)

Minutemen gave Nutley all it could handle in the first round of the ECT and had a good win the other day against Columbia.


The Essex studs, so far, in 2015. Note a few new names since last week.

Sami Huetter, Canonero II

Gianna Genello, Smarty Jones

Carly Anderson, Spectacular Bid

Sydney McCormack, Syd The Kid

Marina Lombardi, Silver Charm

Erin Stacevicz, California Chrome

Sophie Rosenberg, Arts and Letters

Sarah Guy, Charismatic

Ally Dabroski, Real Quiet

Out of Network

Southpaw Secretariat, IHA

By mike051893

Essex Softball: Teshkoyan passes Levens; Cayla7 loves the challenge, despite those pink crocs; Guy a ‘Charismatic’ player for Bucs; Canonero enjoying her sophomore year at West Essex; Delgado’s teaching moments keying Montclair

Congratulations to Caldwell High softball coach, Mike Teshkoyan, who won his 615th career game last week, surpassing retired Jefferson coach Ed Levens on the state’s all time win list.

Teshkoyan is Essex County’s all time winningest coach. He’s been at the helm in Caldwell since 1987 and has guided the Chiefs to eight county championships. Caldwell has won the most titles, 10, since the ECT began in 1978.

The 38th Essex County Tournament heads into the quarterfinal round, with four very good matchups. Livingston will visit Cedar Grove while West Essex is host to Columbia, on Saturday, May 9. Caldwell travels to Nutley on May 8 and Mount St. Dominic, the top seed, will host Bloomfield on Monday, May 11.

The semifinals and finals are set for Ivy Hill Park, in Newark, on May 15 and 16.

Caldwell senior pitcher Cayla Lombardi has been throwing very well of late. Her resiliency in close games is one of the reasons why the Chiefs were 17-4 through games of May 5.

Lombardi has closed the door in the late stages of close games, as Caldwell won low-scoring, intense contests against Paramus Catholic, Bloomfield, Verona (twice) and Belleville over the past few weeks.

As hard-nosed as she appears in the circle, it’s those pink croc shoes she wears after games, which are indeed a classic.


Seriously, she’s been a very effective player in 2015, and with a veteran squad behind her, Caldwell could be a major factor in both the ECT and state sectional tournament.

And speaking of Caldwell, keep an eye on sophomore catcher Christina Guarino, who is quickly becoming one of the best behind the plate in Essex County and also has a potent bat.

Sami Huetter appears to be very happy in her role as West Essex’s number one pitcher. The sophomore righty is having a tremendous season in 2015, and is one of the reasons why a young team is among the favorites to advance in the county tournament.

Huetter stopped by the Livingston-Montclair county game last Saturday, to watch a few friends from her club team play.

“We’re having a good season,” said Huetter. “It’s been fun. Everyone seems to be getting better by each game.”

When asked about possible college plans, the affable Canonero II wasn’t thinking that far ahead, yet.

“I know that junior year is a big year for starting to think about college,” she said with a smile. “But right now, I’m just enjoying my sophomore year and being a part of a good group of players.”

If you haven’t seen Belleville play this year, you should. Chris Cantarella has an exciting young team playing well in 2015.

One of the few seniors on the team is Sarah Guy, a third baseman who excelled in Belleville’s first round county tournament game against Caldwell on May 2. Guy homered and also made two outstanding defensive plays at third base.

The newest FMTC ‘Stud’, Charismatic plans to attend Montclair State University in the fall.

sgThe ‘other’ Charismatic, pulling ahead in a race.

Montclair’s first-year coach Phil Delgado must sleep well at night. He’s so intense in coaching his team that it’s hard to believe he has much energy left past dinner time.

Delgado doesn’t believe in grass growing under his players’ feet. Every pitch is a teaching moment, every swing has a message. He is quick to point out a mistake, not to embarrass a player, but to help her get better.

As much as there’s a laser focus, he’s quick to encourage a player, even if she misses out on a catch, or a tag.

For Delgado, it’s about hustling, intensity and trying hard. And as long as the Mounties are doing that, the improvement will come as well.

“No check swings today,” he told his players during a county game with Livingston. “Every pitch counts, every swing counts. Make the most of it. This is what it’s all about.”








By mike051893

Marina Lombardi and teammates help raise funds for young lady with rare disease

Livingston came together to help a young lady battling a rare disease.

Sara Gebert is a 19-year-old girl from Pittstown, New Jersey. Over the past two years, the competitive softball pitcher had shed 30 pounds, and was forced to drop out of Fairleigh Dickinson University because she was often too sick to get out of bed.

967Sara and Marina share an embrace after Sara threw out the first pitch on May 1. (Photos courtesy of Elena Lombardi)

Sara was diagnosed with Chronic Intestinal Pseudo Obstruction (CIPO) and Gastroparesis. These conditions are so severe that she is considered to be in intestinal failure. She is fed overnight straight into her heart with Total Parenteral Nutrition (IV nutrition). She has to drain her stomach 24/7 because her body is unable to contain its own digestive contents.

970A special day at Livingston’s softball field. (AKA ShangriLa)

On May 1, the Livingston High softball team, led by senior catcher Marina Lombardi, welcomed Sara to the team’s game against Montclair. Marina gave a stirring speech to the crowd, and then Sara threw out the first pitch. The event was also a fundraiser, where baked goods and bracelets were sold.

976Marina (left) and Sara had a good day on the field.

“The generosity from people at the game was incredible,” said Elena Lombardi, Marina’s mom. “We raised $614.00, which is a pretty good amount for people who attended a softball game. So many people reached out. I’d like to thank (Mount St. Dominic softball coach) Rob Stern, who made a very generous donation. It meant a great deal.”

979Sara (back row, center) joins the Big Green Machine for a photo prior to the team’s game.

There are only about 150 cases of CIPO diagnosed a year worldwide,  and there is no cure. Symptoms can be managed, but this usually requires very invasive surgeries and expensive medications that often are not covered by insurance. Sara lives every day with severe pain and constant nausea. She has good days and bad days.

Sara has set out to form ‘Sara’s Army’, a nonprofit organization created to raise awareness and funding for her own medical treatments as well as research towards a cure for this disease.

Marina subsequently befriended Sara through her website and talked about softball, and how the Lancers would like to build awareness on CIPO and support Sara’s Army.

If you’re interested in learning more about Sara’s Army, or possibly making a donation, check out the website at

By mike051893

Caldwell’s Genello notches 200th career hit, teammate Murphy collects 100th hit on the same day

Caldwell’s seven game winning streak may have come to an end with a 4-3 loss to a good Montville team on May 5, but it was still a memorable day for the Chiefs’ lofty program.

The most successful team in Essex County history (Caldwell has won 10 county titles) added a pair of lofty milestones, as Gianna Genello, a senior shortstop, reached the 200 hit plateau while Val Murphy, also a senior, picked up her 100th career hit. Both milestones came in the respective player’s final at-bat of the day.

“This means a lot,” said Genello (aka Smarty Jones). “It really does. I think back over the four years and now I’m at 200. There have been some great players here for so many years.”

IMG_20150505_174300_866Gianna Genello (right) and Val Murphy after the duo reached tremendous milestones on May 5.

Genello needed three hits entering the Montville game and finished 3-for-4 with two runs scored, a typical game for Smarty Jones.

The record for most hits in a career at Caldwell is held by Gina Capardi, who had 209 from 2001-2005. Genello is well within that mark, as well, since Caldwell (17-4) has at least eight games left in its season, and possibly more.

Murphy knew she was somewhat close to the century mark, but had no idea she needed two hits to reach 100 entering today’s game.

“I had no idea until I rounded first (in the sixth inning) and my dad kind of gave me a message that I was at 100. It really feels good, but first and foremost, I want to help this team win.”

Mike Teshkoyan, who is in his 29th season with the Chiefs and is the winningest coach in Essex County history, was very pleased for the two.

“We’ve had maybe 12 kids get to 100, and obviously, just two who made it to 200,” said Teshkoyan. “It’s something to be very proud of. They’re both great kids. I couldn’t be happier for them.”

By mike051893

Canonero II, Gemma, Onorata get West Essex back on track; Bloomfield wins a big county game

Sami Huetter generally has a smile on her face, and West Essex’s sophomore righty was grinning a little more after her team’s hard-fought 2-0 win over one of the state’s better teams, Lodi Immaculate, on April 30, in North Caldwell.

“It was fun today,” said Huetter (aka Canonero II) after her team improved to 11-7 and snapped a two-game losing streak. “We’ve got some big games coming up, starting with Bloomfield (on May 1) and heading into the (Essex) County tournament on Saturday. Getting a win today against a good team is a big step.”

Huetter struck out six and worked out of a few jams during the game with Lodi Immaculate. And her ERA (thanks to Bob Pezzuti for this stat) is 0.61 against the likes of Ridgewood, Mount St. Dominic and Lodi Immaculate.

Monica Onorata drove in a run when West Essex scored the game’s only runs in the bottom of the first. Good defense by West Essex made the lead hold, especially a tremendous play by Madison Gemma in the top of the third.

With one out, Lodi Immaculate had loaded the bases. Huetter got the next batter to pop up, but the wind carried the ball into short right field. Gemma, playing second, circled under the ball and made the catch.

The runner on third tagged on the play and Gemma made a perfect throw to the plate, where catcher (A) Rose (By Any Other Name) Pezzuti applied the tag to end the inning.

West Essex coach Andrea Mondadori Llauget was happy to see her team get back on track after losing a pair of games to Ridgewood and Mount St. Dominic, both by shutout.

“We had to get going with the bats,” said ‘Mondo’. “We’ve lost five game by one run (including three 1-0 setbacks), and another by two. This was an important game for us. Madison has been playing a very strong second base and Sami gets better with every game.”

Bloomfield picked up a huge win on April 30, when it defeated a good Verona team, 6-5, in the first round of the Essex County Tournament, in Bloomfield.

The Bengals (4-10) will most likely face top-seeded Mount St. Dominic in the quarterfinals on, or about May 9.

Bloomfield coach Bob Mayer was happy for his team.

“We’ve lost some close games recently,” said Mayer, referring to a 6-5 setback to Caldwell and a 7-6 loss to Cedar Grove in the past two days prior to the win over Verona. “Our kids needed this.”

Verona, which was seeded ninth in the ECT, fell to 9-4. The Hillbillies will have a huge game in the Super Essex Conference’s (SEC) Liberty Division on May 1, when it visits Caldwell at 4 p.m.

Bloomfield and West Essex will meet in an SEC American Division matchup on May 1, in Bloomfield.

By mike051893

Livingston’s ‘Silver Charm’ has a Heart of Gold, as she plans a fundraiser for an ailing softball friend

There’s never been a question when it comes to Marina Lombardi’s ability as a catcher for the Livingston High School softball team. ‘Silver Charm’ has been behind the plate now for four years, putting together an but incredibly consistent softball career.

Perhaps it was her head coach, Jason Daily, who summed up Lombardi’s attributes best.

“She’s not only a tremendous player, but as nice a person as you’ll ever meet,” Daily said of the senior who will attend Montclair State this fall.

mlMarina Lombardi (center), here with her mother, Elena, and dad, Chuck, is working hard on a fundraiser to help a friend in need.

And that gentle spirit, which defines a compassionate young woman, is shining even more, as Marina attempts to help a friend, who is battling an illness.

Sara Gebert is a 19-year-old girl from Pittstown, New Jersey. Over the past two years, the competitive softball pitcher had shed 30 pounds, and was forced to drop out of Fairleigh Dickinson University because she was often too sick to get out of bed.

0504131316Sara Gelbert, a vibrant young woman, battling a rare illness.

Sara was diagnosed with Chronic Intestinal Pseudo Obstruction (CIPO) and Gastroparesis. These conditions are so severe that she is considered to be in intestinal failure. She is fed overnight straight into her heart with Total Parenteral Nutriton (IV nutrition). She has to drain her stomach 24/7 because her body is unable to contain its own digestive contents.

There are only about 150 cases diagnosed a year worldwide and there is no cure. Symptoms can be managed, but this usually requires very invasive surgeries and expensive medications that often are not covered by insurance. Sara lives every day with severe pain and constant nausea. She has good days and bad days.

Sometimes she can behave like a normal 19 year old girl, and other times she is so sick she can’t even get out of bed. CIPO is a complex and rare disease that gets minimal funding and little awareness. Sara has set out to form ‘Sara’s Army’, a nonprofit organization created to raise awareness and funding for her own medical treatments as well as research towards a cure for this disease.

Through the help of Lisa and Ally Royce, a video of Sara’s story at our first was shared at Livingston High’s first softball parent meeting last fall.

Marina subsequently befriended Sara through her website and talked about softball, and how the Lancers would like to build awareness on CIPO and support Sara’s Army.

After several emails back and forth, Sara informed Marina that she’s been in and out of the hospital but is now home and getting back on her feet. She was also thankful and appreciative for the Lancers support and hoped to come to one of Livingston’s games.

Marina spoke to Coach Daily, and in an effort to raise awareness of the little-known disease, the Livingston softball team is selling baked goods, snacks, drinks and wristbands this Friday, May 1, when the Lancers play Montclair , with all proceeds going to Sara’s Army.

“We’re hoping Sara will throw out the first pitch on Friday,” said Lombardi. “We should all be aware that at any time, things can change in our lives. What Sara is battling is very rare, and awareness is necessary to help those afflicted. I just want to be able to help in any way I can. Sara was seemingly healthy in high school and as she began college. You just never know, in life.”

It’s far too often that we hear of mistakes kids make while growing up. In this case, here’s a young athlete in Marina Lombardi who not only wants to help someone in need, but has gone the extra mile to put together what should be a very nice event on May 1.

For more information about CIPO and Sara’s Army – visit her website:

And if time permits, please stop by Friday’s game at Livingston and support a very worthy cause.




By mike051893

Syd the Kid, Arts and Letters battle to the finish line, as Livingston edges Newark Academy; Championship heritage at MSD; Nutley playing very well; ECT begins on Derby Saturday, which is no coincidence

Livingston and Newark Academy played an interesting game on April 28, with the Lancers edging the Minutemen, 3-1.

Couple of observations. The pitching, on both sides, was solid and Newark Academy has a very talented infield, with kids who can flat out make plays.

For Livingston, Sami Passeri pitched 6 2/3 solid innings before giving way to Sydney (Syd the Kid) McCormack, who gave up a bases-loaded single before retiring Newark Academy’s talented third baseman, Sophie Rosenberg, (AKA, Arts and Letters) to finish the game. (Rosenberg, a junior, is the newest stud).

“None of these games are easy,” said Livingston coach Jason Daily afterward. “We were trying to avoid facing Rosenberg with the bases loaded and two outs, but it came down to Syd making a good pitch. Sophie is a very talented player and Newark Academy is really coming around.”

On April 27, I saw Cedar Grove and Mount St. Dominic play a good game at MSD, with the top-ranked Lions winning, 2-0.

Obviously, pitching dominated, as the Mount’s Kelsey Oh spun a two-hitter, while striking out nine and walking one. Cedar Grove freshman pitcher Kali McCabe allowed just four hits against a potent lineup. Cedar Grove will have an interesting draw in the upcoming Essex County Tournament. The Panthers could face Livingston in the quarterfinals, then MSD in the semis.

As far as the Lions of Mount St. Dominic, we’ve all known how good they are since the season started. But even more was learned last Saturday when the Lions fell behind by three runs in the second game of the MSDA Lions Softball Invitational, against a strong Notre Dame team, before rallying back with five runs before Notre Dame could catch its collective breath in the field. (The Mount went on to win, 7-3).

Mount St. Dominic is not only good, they’re very hungry. While this team won a state championship last year to cap a triple crown season (SEC, ECT and Non-Public A), this is a much different group in 2015, since graduation took its toll from a year ago.

There’s only senior on the roster, in Alexandra Dabroski, a very talented second baseman who sparks this team at the top of the lineup.

Oh continues to be nearly unstoppable in the circle. As a freshman last year, she showed the mettle to lead the team to a state championship. That savvy, along with a year’s experience, could make her even tougher in 2015.

While we’re at it, let’s not forget about Nutley. The Raiders would make Al Davis proud. They pretty much, just win. They’re unbeaten on the road in league play and its only two setbacks within the SEC came in extra innings, at home.

MSD and Nutley have yet to play this season, and that could be an interesting matchup. As a matter of fact, the teams could meet three times in a 16-day span, starting on April 30, in Caldwell, continuing six days later in Nutley, and a possible third meeting in the county championship game on May 16.

The Kentucky Derby is this Saturday, May 2, which is also the day of the first round of the ECT. Some interesting games await, including Newark Academy at Nutley, Montclair visiting Livingston, Verona at Bloomfield and Belleville traveling to Caldwell. The quarterfinals are set for May 9, at the home of the higher seed, followed by the semifinals and finals, at Ivy Hill Park, on May 15 and 16.

Here is the updated Top 10.

1-Mount St. Dominic (18-1)

The Lions swept two games at its tournament last Saturday, then defeated a good Lodi Immaculate squad a day later in Saddle Brook.

2-West Essex (10-6)

Three of its losses have been by 1-0 counts. The other three losses were by one run each to Morristown and Cedar Grove, with its ‘worst’ loss by two runs to Morris Knolls. Sami Huetter (Canonero II) continues to do a good job in the circle.

3-Nutley (14-3)

As long as Spectacular Bid (Carly Anderson) is pitching, Nutley will be dangerous. And as long as Anderson is batting at the top of the lineup, a potent offense will be tough to contain.

4-Cedar Grove (12-4)

Another team which is tough to beat. The Panthers continue to improve and were impressive in a 2-0 loss to Mount St. Dominic last Monday. Erin Stacevicz (California Chrome) dazzles at shortstop and is good as they get in the leadoff role.

5-Livingston (9-5)

Lancers are very young, and while they might not be among the favorites to win the county title this year, they’re still talented enough to be serious contenders.

6-Caldwell (13-3)

Chiefs were riding a three-game winning streak entering a game with West Orange on April 29. The team had a huge win over Paramus Catholic at the MSDA Lions Softball Invitational last weekend.

7-Verona (8-2)

Hillbillies having one of its best seasons in years and will be a tough test in the ECT.

8-Millburn (14-1)

Millers will hear about its schedule, but it did gain a respectable 10th seed in the ECT and will face Columbia in the first round on Saturday night, in South Orange. A win there moves it into the quarters against West Essex.

9-Columbia (9-3)

Will host Millburn on Saturday in first round, ECT game.

10-Newark Academy (4-8)

Head coach Sergio Rodriguez feels this team is very close to breaking through. He may be right. Watch for Arts and Letters, Sophie Rosenberg, who has a good glove and potent bat.

The Essex softball studs, so far, in 2015

Sami Huetter, Canonero II

Gianna Genello, Smarty Jones

Carly Anderson, Spectacular Bid

Sydney McCormack, Syd The Kid

Marina Lombardi, Silver Charm

Erin Stacevicz, California Chrome

Sophie Rosenberg, Arts and Letters


Southpaw Secretariat, IHA.


By mike051893

Essex teams fare well at MSDA Invitational; Lombardi, Mattheiss, Genello pace Chiefs; Youth serves Lancers; Lions battle back like champions; Ed Bates on the Bandwagon

The annual Mount St. Dominic Invitational was held on April 25, with near perfect weather and plenty of good softball at the Mount’s home complex in Caldwell.

First and foremost, the tournament was well run, as usual. MSD head coach Lorenzo Sozio puts a lot of time and effort into the event, which attracts some solid teams throughout New Jersey, as well as Delaware and Pennsylvania.

Four Essex County schools participated, including, of course, the host team, which was 2-0, with two exciting games, including a scintillating come-from-behind victory in the second game against a very good Notre Dame team.

Livingston, which has been playing in the tourney since 2012, was 1-1, losing to Arthur L. Johnson, but then rebounding with an 11-6 victory over Red Lion Christian Academy, of Delaware.

The Lancers had actually fallen behind by a 5-1 count early in the second game before head coach Jason Daily made an unusual move, basically changing his entire lineup, midstream, in favor of younger, less experienced players who clearly wanted to make an impression with valuable playing time.

Livingston (8-4) took control behind the pitching of Sydney ‘Syd The Kid’ McCormack and some aggressive bats. While this was a young Lancers team, a lot of coaches who were watching the game, were really impressed by the young talent in green and white.

Caldwell’s 5-4 victory over Paramus Catholic was a big confidence builder for the Chiefs, who had lost a 16-2 contest to West Essex a day earlier.

Senior pitcher Cayla Lombardi pitched a complete game for the win. Lombardi bore down in the final three innings to keep the Paladins off the scoreboard. She also made a key tag at home plate, after a runner from third attempted to score the tying run, on a wild pitch. Caldwell catcher Christina Guarino chased after the errant toss and threw to Lombardi, who made the tag on a close play at the plate. (You’ll be hearing more about Guarino, a sophomore, who is a really good catcher).

And what can you say about the defense of senior shortstop Gianna Genello (AKA Smarty Jones)? The Rowan-bound spark plug is the catalyst at the top of the lineup, and also made two sparkling defensive plays, including one which stopped a PC rally in the third inning and kept Caldwell in the lead.

Jessica Mattheiss drove in three runs for the Chiefs, including a big triple in the first when Caldwell (11-3) opened a 4-0 lead.

“This was a good win for us,” said Caldwell coach Mike Teshkoyan. “It can go a long way in what is a good season for our kids.”

Newark Academy dropped a 10-7 contest to Raritan in the final game of the tourney, but N.A. coach Sergio Rodriguez likes what he’s seeing from a young Minuteman team.

“They’re great kids to coach,” said Rodriguez of his team. “We’re looking to make a mark this year, and I like what the future holds for us, too. We’re still pretty young.”

As for Mount St. Dominic, the Lions improved to 16-1 by defeating Pequannock, 6-4, and Notre Dame, 7-3. MSD actually trailed, 3-0, to Notre Dame, but came back quickly, with five runs, then put it away with a pair of runs in the seventh.

When adversity was a possibility, the Lions rebounded like champions. The team won a state title last year, but did lose six key players to graduation. Despite that, they’re on quite a run so far this season, and have to be favorites to repeat, even if the coaching staff sticks to the ‘we’re just trying to get better’ line.

Kelsey Oh was the winning pitcher in both games, as the sophomore righty continues to dominate with an overpowering fast ball. For three straight weekends, the Lions have impressed, winning at Rancocas Valley, the Wendy’s Classic in Ohio and now at their own tourney.

It was great seeing Montclair coach Phil Delgado at the tourney. While Delgado’s team wasn’t playing at MSD on Saturday, it’s rare when you won’t see him near a softball game. The guy loves the sport and has quickly established himself as an up-and-coming coach in Essex County. Really nice man, too.

Sozio’s one-time high school football coach, Chet Parlavecchio, was on hand, too, and quite proud to see Lorenzo’s Lions playing very well.

Sozio played football for Parlavecchio at Bloomfield High in 1987 and 1988. In 1988, Sozio quarterbacked the Bengals to a 7-0 win over Paramus Catholic, which broke a long Bloomfield losing skid.

After three years of coaching in the NFL with the Tennessee Titans, Parlavecchio was recently named head football coach at Passaic Valley High and his daughter, Nicole, is doing some softball coaching at Johnson Regional, which was playing in the MSD tourney.

“It’s important for me to support my kids in their coaching endeavors,” Parlavecchio told me. “I’m always proud of my daughter and couldn’t wait to see her work today.”

As Chet was watching the Notre Dame-MSD game, he turned to me and said, “Mike, these teams are really good. This is great stuff!”

Chet Parlavecchio, Jr., is currently an assistant football coach at Delbarton. And speaking of Delbarton, that school’s highly successful wrestling coach, Bryan Stoll, was on hand to watch some of the tourney on Saturday.

One of the real nice men in Essex County made an appearance. John McCarthy recently wrote a book entitled ‘What Would Yogi Do‘, and I can’t wait to read it. (Much more on that coming soon).


Anyone who follows high school softball knows well, Mr. Ed Bates. Well, Eddie, who was railing about Mount St. Dominic during a recent game between Livingston and Montclair, was at the MSD Tourney, wearing Lions gear !!! (What’s up with that ??)

Later, when Ed thought about wearing some Notre Dame regalia, he was worried Sozio might have him thrown out of the ball park.

“It’s Lorenzo’s turf,” Bates was heard saying, after others assured him Sozio wouldn’t have him removed. “Can’t mess with the Mount on their home field.”

When Ed was last seen, he was wondering who would drive him back to his Montclair home following the tourney. I’m sure he got back safe and sound.

During the Caldwell game, Cayla Lombardi’s dad, Carl, was telling me some great stories of his childhood. Carl Lombardi’s dad was once a minor league teammate of Mickey Mantle.

That probably explains while Cayla wears No. 7 on her Caldwell jersey.

get-attachment.aspxNo. 7, Cayla Lombardi.

All in all, it was a fun day of softball at the Mount. Even Caldwell University softball coach Dean Johnson was there to keep us all entertained.





By mike051893