A year later: Thinking of Dina DeAquino and hoping for one more trip to the Jade Fountain

Carl Corino had said numerous times that the greatest overall era of Belleville High sports (to date) began in the early 1980’s.

And Corino, who coached the softball program to unparalleled success from 1980-2005, would know. He coached some marvelous athletes while leading the Bucs to multiple Essex County Tournament championships, conference titles and a pair of state sectional crowns.

The 1982 Belleville High softball team won the Essex County Tournament championship, defeating Livingston, 8-0.

Corino’s time at BHS was so good that the softball complex at Clearman Field was named for him, in 2016.

The beginning of that great era coincided with the arrival of Dina DeAquino to Belleville High, in the fall of 1980. ‘Dina De’, as I often called her, would go on to lead the Bucs to its first two county championships, as well as four incredible seasons.

With that said, it’s hard to believe that a year has gone by since Dina passed away, on June 17, 2018. She was 52 years old and had battled, ferociously, against an illness for many years.

The daughter of the late Marie DeAquino and ‘The Duke’, Tony DeAquino, Dina was a 1984 graduate of Belleville High, where she played and excelled on the varsity tennis, basketball and softball teams. 

While I first met Dina in late 1980, I had known about her long before that, since her dad, Tony, was my gym teacher ‘back in the day’ at the Belleville Junior High.

“Dina was the cornerstone of our program,” said Corino, after hearing of Dina’s passing last June. “I had taken over the head coaching job in (the spring of) 1980, and we had a good team that year. But I knew we needed a really good pitcher to make us a legitimate program. Dina came to us as a freshman in the spring of 1981. She had never pitched before, but she had shown potential as a freshman, and I remember her dad getting her pitching lessons. By the spring of 1982, she had become a pretty good pitcher and I knew, then, with such a talented team, that we’d be really good that season.”

Dina (seated, right), with good friends Donna Campana and Jackie Vitiello.

Belleville would finish 24-2-2 in 1982 and won the Essex County Tournament championship. If not for a bad call in the state sectional semifinals, the Bucs probably would have won a Group 4 championship that spring.


Dina led Belleville softball to a 23-4 record a year later, along with a second straight ECT crown. She would finish her athletic career in 1984 with another tremendous softball season. The Bucs won close to 90 games during that tenure.

And don’t forget, Dina was a member of four BHS basketball teams that put together a 74-27 record. Those basketball teams were also led by Jennifer Apicella, Loreli Wells and Tracy Buono

Dina had a legendary career at Montclair State.

Dina would go on to have a phenomenal career as a pitcher at Montclair State College, and, after graduation, would become an educator, as well as a pitching coach at Princeton University and later, William Paterson University. Dina would also earn a Masters Degree in Administration from Montclair, and rose to the rank of principal in the Belleville school system.

One of Dina’s best friends was Donna Campana, a BHS teammate. Donna was an incredible centerfielder. I’ll never forget the catch she made in the 1982 ECT semifinals, an over-the-head, Willie Mays-type catch, of a long drive against Verona, at Pulaski Park. And there was Dina, who was pitching that night, jumping up and down in the circle with joy, and pointing out to centerfield. 

Dina and Donna had always remained close. 

“Dina, Jackie Vitiello and I were the three musketeers,” said Campana last year. “We had a friendship that very few people get to experience in life. My son and Dina’s son (Jake) are six months apart. They call each other brothers, as I considered Dina my sister. This is life changing, for Jackie and I. We were both by Dina’s side, 100 percent.”

Kim Valenti, the former Kim Piscatowski, was a standout pitcher for Belleville’s softball team about a decade after Dina played at BHS.

“Dina was an awesome pitcher,” said Valenti. “She was my inspiration.”

Many others registered their love and respect for Dina, and her family, with most calling Dina one of the nicest people they had ever met.

It was a special day, in April, 2019, when Dina DeAquino’s legacy was honored at the Corino Softball Complex at Clearman Field.

“It’s hard to find words,’ said Mark Foley, a classmate of Dina’s and the softball team’s statistician. “Dina De was one of the sweetest human beings and toughest competitors I have ever known.”

While the softball program went on to a quarter century’s success, including over 500 wins by Corino, the now-retired coach said it all began with Dina.

“There’s no question,” said Corino. “Dina was the key. We had really good players, great kids, for sure. But without that pitcher, we’re not the team we ended up being, and Dina started that. She made this program legitimate.”

My friendship with Dina included many a trip to a local Chinese restaurant, the Jade Fountain, for chicken chow mein, before going to high school basketball games in the early evening. We had such a good time. Dina loved watching sports and that’s why she became such an excellent coach herself, later on.

After graduation, Dina and I remained good friends, and often reminisced about those days at the Jade Foundation, and talked of getting together again, for another round of Chinese food. I last spoke to her in the spring of 2017, when she was coaching softball at William Paterson. 

In April, 2019, the Belleville High softball team hosted ‘A Day for Dina’, honoring DeAquino’s legacy, during a tournament at the Corino Softball Complex. It was great seeing Tony DeAquino and his family, there.

Read more on that day here. https://mikelamberti.wordpress.com/2019/03/29/a-day-for-dina-will-honor-a-legendary-belleville-high-athlete-on-april-13-at-the-corino-softball-complex/

And here. https://mikelamberti.wordpress.com/2019/04/14/essex-softball-belleville-7-0-off-to-its-best-start-in-a-generation-as-marin-nicosia-colon-and-medina-excel-kudos-to-coach-cantarella-and-his-staff-for-hosting-a-day-for-dina/

It is understood that life goes on, and that we all see each other again, in the better place that Dina now enjoys. But in the meantime, we miss you Dina De.

A lot.

Pass the chicken chow mein, one more time.

Advertisements
By mike051893

SEC AMERICAN SOFTBALL: Faieta-led Cedar Grove reached the pinnacle, as Panthers are the top public school in the state; A second straight sectional title and 8th overall ECT crown for Mount St. Dominic while Verona wins first state championship in 14 years; Dabroski is Conference’s Player of the Year while Rookie of the Year honors go to Kiseloski and Stoeckel; West Essex’s Vardiman had a tremendous career; Nutley’s Zullo is Conference Coach of the Year while seniors Conca and Wilde turned in tremendous careers; Luzzi and Cetrulo paced Caldwell; Abigail and Karoline Policarpio of Millburn earn SEC, HM accolades; All-Conference selections, by coaches

One of the top high school softball conferences in the state turned in a pheneomenal all-around year.

The Super Essex Conference’s (SEC) American Division crowned a Group 1 champion, which eventually made it to the Tournament of Champions final, as well as three state sectional champions after sending five (6, if you include Columbia from the SEC Liberty) to their respective title games, and also an Essex County Tournament champion.

In 2019, Cedar Grove won the program’s third Group 1 championship in the last five seasons.

Two teams, Mount St. Dominic and Cedar Grove, were ranked among the top four teams in the final state rankings, with Cedar Grove slated as the top public school in the state.

Yes, it was a good year.

Cedar Grove coach Nicole Velardi, here with freshman Paige Scheid.

Mount St. Dominc had a marvelous season, winning an SEC American Division title and later adding the Essex County Tournament championship for the eighth time since 1996. The Lions then captured a second straight North Non-Public A championship before its season ended with a loss to the eventual top-ranked team in the state, Donovan Catholic, in the Non-Public A final.

MSDA was paced by first-team All-SEC players Dani Dabroski, Alexa Raphael, Allison Winters, Kasey Sekula and Sophia Kiseloski.

Cedar Grove also won the SEC American Division championship, then went on an incredible run in the NJSIAA Tournament. The Panthers captured a third straight state sectional crown and a second Group 1 title, to qualify for the Tournament of Champions (TOC) for the second time in three years. Cedar Grove is the only team, from Essex County, to qualify for the TOC since its inception in 2017.

In the TOC, the Panthers won its semifinal contest before losing to Donovan Catholic in the title game.

Post-season All-SEC accolades included first team honors to Mia Faieta, Jules Cicala, Gianna Kubu and Gianna Bocchino of Cedar Grove.

Read more on Cedar Grove’s tremendous run here.

https://mikelamberti.wordpress.com/2019/06/07/champions-in-so-many-ways-cedar-grove-defeated-in-toc-final-by-a-tremendous-donovan-catholic-squad-but-what-a-year-for-the-essex-county-based-school-as-it-is-the-top-ranked-public-school-in-sof/

And here.

https://mikelamberti.wordpress.com/2019/06/04/cedar-grove-high-softball-parents-look-back-and-ahead-as-a-tremendous-run-by-the-panthers-hits-the-home-stretch-with-a-scrapbook-of-memories/

Faieta, Cedar Grove’s senior pitcher, who will attend St. John’s University this fall, was marvelous all season long, recording over 400 strikeouts this season alone and well over 1,000 K’s for her career. Faieta was the American Division’s, and most assuredly, the overall SEC and North Jersey’s Pitcher of the Year, based on her outstanding performance in the state tournament.

She was, literally, unhittable, in most of her league games, with countless no-hitters, as well as pitching against one of the toughest schedules in the state.

Of all her great work for the Cedar Grove softball team, Mia Faieta’s lasting legacy could be her contributions, off it, for the community.

Looking back on a great career by Mia.

https://mikelamberti.wordpress.com/2019/06/07/what-a-ride-mia-thanks-for-4-great-years-faieta-helped-guide-cedar-grove-to-3-state-sectional-titles-2-group-1-crowns-2-toc-appearances-an-essex-county-crown-21-straight-strikeouts-in-a-state/

Mount St. Dominic’s Sophia Kiseloski and Fallyn Stoeckel of Nutley were outstanding freshman pitchers, and the Rookies of the Year. Kiseloski pitched a gem in the county championship game, when MSDA dethroned Cedar Grove.

Stoeckel guided Nutley to 18 wins and an appearance in the North 2, Group 3 championship game. She was also a force at the plate.

Fallyn Stoeckel, a freshman, had an immediate impact in the circle for Nutley this spring. She earned first-team, All-SEC honors.

Dani Dabroski of MSDA had a tremendous season and is the SEC’s Player of the Year. Dabroski will be attending Villanova University this fall. She helped the Lions win a pair of Essex County Tournament championships, as well as back-to-back state sectional titles, and multiple SEC crowns. MSDA was 105-23 in Dani’s 4-year career.

Verona’s tough regular season schedule prepared it for a great run in the NJSIAA Tournament. The Hillbillies won the program’s first state sectional championship since 2005, when that team advanced to the Group 1 final, in Toms River.

This time, Verona, led by senior pitcher Christina Colon, won the North 2, Group 2 championship, dethroning defending champion Hanover Park in the title game. Colon was a force in the sectional tournament, pitching three shutouts and striking out 51 in 26 innings.

Verona played well in the Group 2 semifinal, before losing a close game to Ramsey, which won the Group 2 championship and advanced to the TOC.

Verona celebrated its first state title since 2005.

Melanie Naeris of Verona was named to the All-SEC first team while second team accolades went to Colon and Kate Ryan.

Naeris (left) and Ryan were a major part of Verona’s state sectional championship team this spring.

There are some long-time coaches in the division. Mike Teshkoyan and his brother Mark celebrated their 33rd season at Caldwell, Lorenzo Sozio just completed his 24th season at Mount St. Dominic, Andrea Mondadori-Llauget wrapped up her 15th season at West Essex and Luann Zullo finished her 21st year at Nutley, after four years previously at West Essex.

Point is, there are some really good coaches, not to mention some veteran coaches in the SEC Liberty, including Bob Mayer (over 30 years at Bloomfield) and Jason Daily (19 seasons at Livingston).

Nutley coach Luann Zullo (back row, second from left) after her 400th career victory on May 20, 2016.

This year’s choice for SEC American Coach of the Year is Zullo. She had a very young team that ended up with 18 victories and an appearance in the sectional final against the eventual Group 3 finalist, Chatham.

Courtney Wilde (left) and Melanie Conca.
This was Courtney, rounding second in a game against Columbia. Unfortunaely, seconds later, she slid into third base and hurt her leg, which cost the Rutgers-bound Wilde the rest of her high school season.

Read more about Nutley’s big win over Belleville here.

https://mikelamberti.wordpress.com/2019/05/18/conca-and-stoeckel-pace-nutley-past-walsh-smith-led-belleville-3-0-could-these-2-meet-again-in-about-10-days/

Zullo’s senior class also included shortstop Melanie Conca, who had an excellent season, and Courtney Wilde, a 4-year starter whose season came to an early end when she broke her leg in an April home game against Columbia.

Conca will play ice hockey at Connecticut College, while Wilde will attend Rutgers and play softball there.

Nutley’s Jamell Quiles, a junior, was a first-team All-SEC player in 2019.

Julia Vardiman of West Essex concluded a 4-year career by leading West Essex to the sectional final. Vardiman, who will play shortstop at The College of New Jersey this fall, was a standout pitcher for the Knights, as well as one of the team’s best hitters.

Julia’s 100th career hit, in early April, 2019.

Vardiman also collected her 100th career hit early in the season, when the Knights defeated Nutley.

Read more about Julia here.

https://mikelamberti.wordpress.com/2019/05/20/vardiman-will-definitely-have-another-as-west-essex-advances-in-njsiaa-tourney-waack-coia-play-key-role-in-tough-5-4-win-over-a-good-passaic-valley-team-hornets-freshman-savannah-vanwinkle-s/

Julia Vardiman (left) and Gianna Waack of West Essex were a big part of the team’s success this year.

Caldwell received some tremendous performances, beginning with junior shortstop Nicolette Luzzi and freshman first baseman Caitlin Cetrulo.

Read more about that duo, here.

https://mikelamberti.wordpress.com/2019/04/12/caldwell-defeats-west-essex-as-luzzi-cetrulo-and-nichols-star-ihas-white-hurls-second-straight-no-hitter-cedar-grove-msda-and-verona-among-essex-winners/

Cetrulo (left) and Luzzi.
The legendary coaching staff of Mike Teshkoyan (left) and Mark Teshkoyan completed their 33rd season coaching softball at Caldwell this spring, with another winning season. The duo have combined for over 1,000 wins, in soccer and softball, at JCHS.

A dad’s influence: Caitlin Cetrulo with her father, Rob, after a game earlier this season.

Here is the All-SEC American softball team, for 2019as voted by the respective coaches.

FIRST TEAM: Alexa Raphael, Mount St. Dominic. Dani Dabroski, Mount St. Dominic. Allison Winters, Mount St. Dominic. Kasey Sekula, Mount St. Dominic. Sophia Kiseloski, Mount St. Dominic. Mia Faieta, Cedar Grove. Jules Cicala, Cedar Grove. Gianna Kubu, Cedar Grove. Gianna Bocchino, Cedar Grove. Fallyn Stoeckel, Nutley. Jamell Quiles, Nutley. Julia Vardiman, West Essex. Melanie Naeris, Verona 14. Nicolette Luzzi-Salerno, Caldwell.

SECOND TEAM: Katie Peterson, Cedar Grove. Alyssa Coletta, Cedar Grove. Chloe Weinstein, Cedar Grove. Krisyn Smith, Mount St. Dominic. Diana Ytrube, Mount St. Dominic. Johanna Rivera, Mount St. Dominic. Jess Coia, West Essex. Caitlin Cetrulo, Caldwell. Kate Ryan, Verona. Christina Colon, Verona. Lorianne O’Connor, Nutley. Melanie Conca, Nutley.

HONORABLE MENTION: Alex Cruz, Mount St. Dominic. Kaylee D’Argenio, Mount St. Dominic. Brittney Taylor, Cedar Grove. Ryan Cannataro, Cedar Grove. Gianna Waack, West Essex. Jenna Sperduto West Essex. Jessie Loudon, Verona. Allison Naeris, Verona 9. Jaci Murphy, Caldwell. Bridget Nichols, Caldwell. Abigail Policarpio, Millburn. Karoline Policarpio, Millburn. Brianna Cruz, Nutley 14. Courtney Wilde, Nutley.

Here is the final FMTC Top 10 for 2019.

1-Mount St. Dominic (28-5)

2-Cedar Grove (27-5)

3-Verona (13-14)

4-West Essex (14-11)

5-Nutley (18-11)

6-Livingston (19-9)

7-Columbia (16-12)

8-Caldwell (15-10)

9-Bloomfield (11-10)

10-Belleville (21-3) and Montclair (14-12)

By mike051893

On Father’s Day, nearly 40 years later, another Nicosia is Belleville High’s top athlete, in a ‘pretty cool’ moment

It was around this time, in 1980. And keep in mind, things were way different back then.

Jimmy Carter was president, Belleville High School football was just beginning to be a powerhouse in North Jersey, the Pittsburgh Pirates were World Series champions, the New York Islanders were beginning a dynasty and the Miracle on Ice, at the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, NY, had riveted the nation just three months earlier. In the NBA, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird were rookies and would turn the once downtrodden league into a cash cow.

It was a special day on June 15, when Cherylann Nicosia, here with her mom, Doreen and dad, Mike, was named Belleville High’s Athlete of the Year for 2018-2019.

Speaking of Belleville High, that success on the gridiron carried over into baseball, where the new-look Bucs were also an outstanding team. The same could be said of the wrestling, crew, girls basketball and softball teams, too.

It was the beginning of one of the greatest eras of Belleville High sports and Mike Nicosia, a 1980 Belleville High grad, would be a huge part of that success.

Mike (No. 20) leads the Belleville football team onto the field in a 1978 game.

Mike was an outstanding football player, from 1977-1979 and excelled on the baseball diamond from 1978-1980. In the spring of ’80, Mike was named the Belleville High Athlete of the Year.

“When I think back on that time, that was quite an honor,” said Nicosia recently. “There were some great athletes at the school back then. There really were. To be named the best that year was something I always took pride in.”

In 1980, Mike and Joyce Iacullo were named Most Athletic, by their classmates.

Fast forward some 39 years and, at the Varsity Club breakfast at Belleville High, on Father’s Day weekend, 2019, another Nicosia garnered the Athlete of the Year award.

This time, it was Michael’s daughter, Cherylann, a senior, who starred on the volleyball and softball teams for the Blue and Gold, for four years.

In addition to being an excellent softball player, Cherylann Nicosia (second from right) was also a star on the volleyball court at BHS. She was named a team captain for the 2018 season.

“I think I cried most of the day,” said Michael, after learning of his daugther’s lastest athletic success. “And to think we were both Bellevilel High athletes of the year, is pretty cool.

“Most importantly, it speaks of Cherylann’s hard work to get to where she is. She put a lot of time into being a tremendous athlete.”

Cherylann and Mike, during the summer of 2016.

Mike would say, at least three more times during a brief conversation how ‘cool’ this moment was, for he and his family, including his wife. the former Doreen Aballo, herself a BHS grad, and elder son, Michael.

Cherylann Nicosia was a marvelous volleyball player and tremendous catcher for the softball team. The legacy of outstanding catchers who have played softball at Belleville High over the last 40 years is impressive. Denise Zarra, Tracy Buono, Laura Caruso, Jackie Velardi, Anavil Siroy and Tiffany Muschio are just a few examples of those who dominated behind the plate for the Bucs.

Mike Nicosia (second row, third from right) was an excellent baseball player at Belleville High. Seated to Nicosia’s left is Frank Fazzini, who was a sophomore in 1980 and would later help coach Cherylann.

Cherylann would start for four seasons at BHS. She’ll be graduating soon and will attend Springfield College, beginning this fall. Ironcially, she learned a lot about hitting a softball from one of her father’s closest friends, Frank Fazzini.

A reflective Mike Nicosia, here in a 1980 photo in the Belleville High yearbook.

“I got to a point where I felt I couldn’t teach Cherylann as much as I could about playing softball,” said Michael. “So, I picked up the phone and called Frankie, who everyone knows was an incredible baseball player at Belleville, and later Florida State. Frank is a great teacher, and worked well with Cherylann. It’s tougher when you’re a parent of a kid. She needed to work with someone else.”

Mike Nicosia played three years of varsity baseball and football, for the Bucs. On the gridiron, he was a stalwart tailback who helped the ’78 Bucs to a 6-3 record, which, at the time, was the best mark for a Belleville High football team in a decade.

Cherylann (second from left) helped the 2019 BHS softball team finish 21-3 and win a conference championship.

A year later, Nicosia was off to a tremendous start for a Buccaneers team that would make the state playoffs for the first time, before a knee injury kept him on the sideline for the last six games of that season. He underwent surgery on his knee late in the season, was at Giants Stadium for the playoff game against Union, on crutches, for the coin toss as a team captain, and then returned to actually play a few downs, in the season finale, against Kearny, on Thanksgiving, just five days later.

Mike takes a handoff from Ed Aulisi in a 1978 Belleville High football game.

On the baseball diamond, Nicosia had a marvelous high school career, then elevated that status to All-American, when he played at Montclair State.

“What it all comes down to is, if you want to be good at a sport, you have to love it,” said Mike. “There’s no other way to put it. That’s all I ever told my own kids, when it came to athletics.”

For Cherylann, attending Belleville High and playing multiple sports was something very special. 

Cherylann and her batterymate, junior pitcher Charlotte Colon.

“I feel like catching was meant to be for me,” she once said. “And I really enjoyed volleyball, too.” (Cherylann was a team captain in 2018).

And for her dad, he hoped that his daughter enjoyed the game, and the experience of being a Buccaneer, as much as he did a generation ago.

“There was nothing like it,” said Mike of growing up in Belleville. “I’m proud she wore the Blue and Gold, as did my son. There was always something very special about Belleville.”

Here’s Mike, hamming it up during his high school days. He always said growing up in Belleville was very special.

By mike051893

SEC COLONIAL SOFTBALL: Belleville’s Cherylann Nicosia is Player of the Year while her coach, Chris Cantarella, gains top honors; Belleville also wins league title, led by Colon, Smith, Garrido, Bratcher, McCann and Marin; Komorowski and Townson of Glen Ridge garner first-team accolades; Excellent season for first-year school, Payne Tech, as Rodas and Budhu lead way; All-Conference selections, by coaches

Belleville dominated the Super Essex Conference’s (SEC) Colonial Division in 2019, as the Bucs finshed undefeated in league play and were 21-3, overall.

Read more about Belleville’s season here. https://mikelamberti.wordpress.com/2019/06/12/sec-champions-belleville-high-softball-teams-21-3-record-this-spring-was-the-programs-best-in-16-years-cherylann-nicosia-a-talented-senior-catcher-led-the-bucs-and-will-play-at-springfield-co/

The Bucs were also well-represented in the SEC’s post-season accolades as eight players earned honors, including four on the first team, in Charlotte Colon, Cherylann Nicosia, Annemarie Smith and Jaylyanna Bratcher.

Belleville coach Chris Cantarella talks to his team after a game against Nutley, on May 18,

Earning second team were Nathalie Marin, Jennifer Garrido and Janelle McCann while Krystal Medina was named Honorable Mention.

Nicosia, who will play at Springfield College this fall, was a marvelous catcher for the Bucs. She was also a big part of the team’s offense, as Belleville went on to its best season, record-wise, in 16 years. She’s the choice here for the Colonial Division’s Player of the Year.

Belleville’s strong season earned it a promotion for 2020, as the Bucs will play in the SEC’s Liberty Division.

(Left to right) Belleville’s Charlotte Colon, Cherylann Nicosia and Janelle McCann were all named to the All-SEC post-season team.

Belleville head coach Chris Cantarella was named the conference’s Coach of the Year. In his 14th season at the helm, after a good run as the team’s assistant coach, Cantarella, himself a Belleville High grad, has led the Bucs to three 18 win seasons, as well as this year’s 21-3 record.

Glen Ridge also had a number of players earn post-season honors. Lizzy Komorowski and Taylor Townson were named first team, Elettra Giantomenico, Ava Rollo and Ella Strong earned second team and Hannah O’Connor garnered Honorable Mention.

Glen Ridge opened its season by traveling to Florida this past March.

Payne Tech, a new school which combined the former Bloomfield Tech and North 13th Street Tech High Schools, finished 14-11. Tatyanna Rodas and Krystyna Budhu were named first team, All-SEC players in 2019.

Here is the All-SEC Colonial softball team, for 2019as voted by the respective coaches.

FIRST TEAM: Charlotte Colon, Belleville. Cherylann Nicosia, Belleville. Khadijah Jones, East Orange. Annemarie Smith, Belleville. Sol Berrios, Irvington. Lizzy Komorowski, Glen Ridge. Tatyanna Rodas, Payne Tech. Taylor Townson, Glen Ridge. Destiny Thomas, Barringer. Stephany Leyba, Newark East Side. Krystyna Budhu, Payne Tech. Jaylyanna Bratcher, Belleville.

SECOND TEAM: Rosalia Rivera, Barringer. Elettra Giantomenico, Glen Ridge. Ava Rollo, Glen Ridge. Aurie Mercado, Payne Tech. Nathalie Marin, Belleville. Janelle McCann, Belleville. Ty Rodas, Payne Tech. Jennifer Garrido, Belleville. Amirah Abdul- Mageed, East Orange. Ella Strong, Glen Ridge. Carly Albano, Newark East Side. Zanayah Glimore, Barringer.

HONORABLE MENTION: Alonie Dowden, East Orange Campus. Jada Martinez, Payne Tech. Krystal Medina, Belleville. Anaira Vega, Barringer. Zekiah Enos, Irvington. Barbara Roman, Newark East Side. Hannah O’Connor, Glen Ridge.

Here is the final FMTC Top 10 for 2019.

1-Mount St. Dominic (28-5)

2-Cedar Grove (27-5)

3-Verona (13-14)

4-West Essex (14-11)

5-Nutley (18-11)

6-Livingston (19-9)

7-Columbia (16-12)

8-Caldwell (15-10)

9-Bloomfield (11-10)

10-Belleville (21-3) and Montclair (14-12)

By mike051893

SEC LIBERTY SOFTBALL: Columbia’s Hassler is Player of the Year, as Cougars advanced to sectional final; Montclair’s Goldstein tabbed Coach of the Year; Livingston wins league title, led by Bullion, Saperstein, Robinson and Reutter; Bloomfield’s Corio and Lopez and MKA’s Talkow named to first team; Newark Academy’s Burggraf and Montclair’s Testa will play in college this fall; All-Conference selections, by coaches

It was quite a year for the teams in the Super Essex Conference’s (SEC) Liberty Division.

Livingston won the league championship, winning 11 of its 12 conference games. Columbia handed Livingston its only league loss, but finished a game behind the Lancers for Liberty honors. The Cougars then went on a tremendous post-season run and advanced to the North 2, Group 4 championship game.

Bloomfield’s Lexi Corio was voted her team’s MVP and earned first team, All-SEC honors, along with Destiny Lopez. Montclair Kimberley’s Emily Talkow was also named to the first team.

Sam Burggraf (left) and Lexi Corio were both named first team, All-SEC players in 2019.

Sam Burggraf of Newark Academy turned in another stellar season at third base for the Minutemen and will continue playing on the collegiate level, at Babson College. She, too was a first team, All-SEC player.

Read more about Burggraf’s career here. https://mikelamberti.wordpress.com/2019/04/17/essex-softball-newark-academys-sam-burggraf-collects-her-100th-career-hit-senior-will-attend-babson-college-and-play-softball-starting-this-fall/

Livingston’s championship team was led by first-team All-SEC players in Chloe Saperstein, Jess Bullion, Deja Robinson and Hailey Reuter. Coached by Jason Daily, the Lancers are very young and will be a force next season, and beyond.

Hudson Hassler (left) and Chloe Saperstein were named first team All-SEC players this spring.

Columbia’s Hudson Hassler, a junior, is the choice for SEC Player of the Year, in the Liberty Division. Hassler hit .467, with 17 RBI, 42 hits and 40 runs scored.

Hudson Hassler collected her 100th career hit, as a junior, during the 2019 season. She’s here, with head coach Cliff Smith.

Read more about Columbia’s season here. https://mikelamberti.wordpress.com/2019/05/26/essex-softball-columbias-hudson-hassler-embracing-captains-role-as-cougars-prepare-for-state-sectional-championship-game-coach-cliff-smith-credits-rugged-sec-schedule-for-teams-success/

Montclair’s best season in eight years was led by head coach Mike Goldstein. The Mounties finished 14-12 this season. Goldstein is the choice for the conference’s Coach of the Year.

Meanwhile, Montclair shorstop Frankie Testa, who collected her 100th career hit this season, was a first-team, All-SEC player.

Read about Testa’s final game, with a video of her emotional departure, and college plans here. https://mikelamberti.wordpress.com/2019/05/23/essex-softball-montclair-sends-testa-off-with-a-nice-finale-thanks-to-coaches-teammates-and-the-umpire-mounties-have-best-season-since-2011/

Montclair coach Mike Goldstein (back row, far left) guided the Mounties to a 14-12 record in 2019. The team had big victories, as well, against Nutley and Columbia.
Frankie Testa celebrated her 100th career hit earlier this season.
Bloomfield got its share of good defense this year, including this catch by Christa Wolf, as the Bengals finished 11-10.

Here is the All-SEC Liberty softball team, for 2019, as voted by the respective coaches.

FIRST TEAM: Jess Bullion, Livingston. Chloe Saperstein, Livingston. Hudson Hassler, Columbia. Francesca Testa, Montclair. Samantha Burggraf, Newark Academy. Emily Talkow, MKA. Deja Robinson, Livingston. Destiny Lopez, Bloomfield. Samantha Keller, Newark Academy. Lexi Corio, Bloomfield. Sydney Waldon, Columbia. Hailey Reuter, Livingston.

SECOND TEAM: Aliyah Andrews, Montclair. Amanda Mack, MKA. Katie Bretz, Bloomfield. Olivia Mudrick, Newark Academy. Brianna Leech, Montclair. Erin Vermeal, West Orange. Giulia Wilson, Livingston. Nathalia DiIanni, Livingston. Olivia Miller, Columbia. Claire Salindaro, Columbia. Geena Pacifico, MKA. Remi Antinoro, Montclair.

HONORABLE MENTION: Charlotte Carr, Montclair. Carlie Miller, Montclair. Caitlin Clancy, Newark Academy. Lilly Rosenberg, Newark Academy. Julie Moresco, Livingston. Emily Hunter, Livingston. Cara Harrington, Columbia. Sydney Rednik, Columbia. Brianna Murray, Bloomfield. Mia Lopez, Bloomfield. Jena DeSalvo, MKA. Annie Turvey, MKA. Andreyah Ageday, West Orange. Nyah Harper, West Orange.

Here is the final FMTC Top 10 for 2019.

1-Mount St. Dominic (28-5)

2-Cedar Grove (27-5)

3-Verona (13-14)

4-West Essex (14-11)

5-Nutley (18-11)

6-Livingston (19-9)

7-Columbia (16-12)

8-Caldwell (15-10)

9-Bloomfield (11-10)

10-Belleville (21-3) and Montclair (14-12)

By mike051893

Passaic Valley High student-athletes Adili, Cole, Nitch, Bennett, Dinh-Do, Hyde, Iacovo, Jaeger, Papasavas, Pezo, Rogers and Toerock announce their college decisions

For the past few years, Passaic Valley High School has held an event where its student-athletes would make official their college choices for the upcoming fall campaign.

Such was the case this spring as athletics director Joe Benvenuti gathered this year’s seniors who plan to compete in college athletics, this fall, as parents and friends joined in for the event, on June 7, at PVHS.

Twelve students were on hand, covering six different sports.

Representing baseball are Arben Adili, who will play at Fairleigh Dickinson University, in Madison, Chad Cole, who is planning to attend Susquehana University, in Selinsgrove, Pa., and Steve Nitch, who is bound for State College of Florida, in Bradenton.

It was an exciting day as 12 PV student-athletes announced their college choices.

The Hornets had a very good season this spring, led by coach John Mazzo, which included a second straight appearance in the Passaic County Tournament championship game.

Catherine Bennett and Trinity Toerock, who enjoyed tremendous seasons for the PV lacrosse team, will attend Wesley College, in Dover Del. and The College of St. Rose, in Albany, NY., respectively. The Hornets were once again coached by Lori Demsey.

Catherine Bennett (holding sign) scored her 200th career goal this season for the Hornets this season.

The boys lacrosse team also has an athlete who will play in college as Thien Dinh-Do is off to Georgia Tech, in Atlanta. The Hornets were coached by Joshua Danziger.

The PV football team had a playoff caliber season in 2018, under head coach Chet Parlavecchio. Matt Jaeger will play at Lycoming College, in Williamsport, Pa., and Antwan Rogers plans to play at Albright College, in Reading, Pa.

Chet Parlavecchio congratulates Antwan Rogers after a big win against West Milford, in the driving rain, last October.
Coach Parlavecchio and Matt Jaeger.
Antwan Rogers was selected to play in the 26th Robeson Classic, on June 13, in East Orange.

Alex Papasavas, a talented fencer, will compete at Vassar College, in Poughkeepsie, NY.

Emily Hyde, an excellent field hockey player for coach Demsey, will play at Stevens Institute of Technology this fall and the PV track team, coached by Joel Thornton, will see two of its athletes competing at the next level. Franco Iacovo will compete at Caldwell University and Derek Pezo is off to Montclair State.

Passaic Valley’s track team had a tremendous season this spring

By mike051893

SEC CHAMPIONS: Belleville High softball team’s 21-3 record this spring was the program’s best in 16 years; Cherylann Nicosia, a talented senior catcher, led the Bucs, and will play at Springfield College starting this fall

Enjoying its best season, record wise, since 2003, the Belleville High varsity softball team put together a 21-3 record this spring.

In his 14th season as head coach, Chris Cantarella guided the Bucs to a Super Essex Conference (SEC) Colonial Division title, as Belleville finished unbeaten in conference play. The team’s only setbacks were to Caldwell, in the Essex County Tournament, Nutley, in an exciting SEC cross-over game late in the season and Cranford, in the NJSIAA Tournament.

The 2019 BHS softball team had a tremendous season.

While the team will lose some valuable seniors, there is a strong nucleus set to return in 2020, when the Bucs move up a division to the SEC’s Liberty.

Belleville’s pitching staff was led by juniors Charlotte Colon and Shannon Walsh.

“Both have developed into solid pitchers,” said Cantarella of Colon, a left hander and Walsh, a righty. “The key to their success was they threw strikes and let the defense behind and in front of them make plays.”

Colon finished the season with a 13 -2 record. She struck out 96 while allowing just 61 hits.

Walsh was 8-1, with one save. She struck out 55 hitters and finished with a 1.71 ERA.

Cherylann Nicosia, a senior, was the team’s starting catcher. She hit .605 in league play and .587 overall, with 44 hits, 35 RBI and 40 runs scored.

Belleville High softball coach Chris Cantarella, here with (left to right) Charlotte Colon, Cherylann Nicosia and Janelle McCann, after a big win over Montclair.

“Cherylann was heavily relied on, both on the field and off it, as a leader, and as someone who had to be at her best every day,” said Cantarella. “She hit in 21 out of 24 games and opened and closed her senior campaign with 4 RBI days. She will be difficult to replace next year after being a four-year starter. She will be attending Springfield College (this fall) to continue her softball career.”

In addition to being a tremendous hitter, Nicosia was clearly one of the best catchers in the SEC.

Annemarie Smith, a junior, and senior Janelle Ramirez were the team’s first basemen.

In April, Belleville honored the late Dina DeAquino, a marvelous softball player for BHS in the early 1980’s.

“Annemarie had a great season, hitting over .450 and provided some protection (in the lineup) to Cherylann,” said Nicosia. “She scored 32 runs and had 18 RBI. She went 4-for-4 in an extra-inning game against Millburn and was solid defensively.

“Janelle was a great team leader. She batted .290 with 5 RBI and went 2-for-3 in a victory over Orange.”

Battling back from an early-season injury, Krystal Medina, a senior, had an outstanding year.

Chris Cantarella addresses his team after a game with Nutley, on May 18.

“Krystal hit just under .400 and was third on the team in RBI with 28,” said Cantarella. “She really excelled in conference play, hitting at a .600 clip and driving in 20 runs.”

Ariana Ruiz, a senior, played a strong second base.

“Her glove saved runs and she made every play defensively,” said Cantarella of Ruiz. “Ariana showed great senior leadership and the younger players looked up to her as a role model.”

Janelle McCann, a junior shortstop, was spectacular in her first full year of playing varsity softball.

“Janelle moved into the leadoff spot in the line-up after an early season injury to Jehann Dabon,” said Cantarella. “She batted .371 and had an on-base percentage of .495. Getting on base was key for her, as she was second on the team in runs scored, with 32.”

McCann’s glove was also a huge asset, as she made difficult plays look routine

Junior Nathalie Marin had another strong campaign at third base. Marin hit .438 and was in the top three, in three other offensive categories.

Junior Ruqaya Embaby and senior Angie Rivera, added depth to third base and to the line-up as the first hitters off the bench. Embaby batted .476 with 14 RBI, and Rivera hit .355 and drove in 13 runs.

Junior Fiorella Samaniego played a solid left field this year.

“Fiorella is quick and has a strong arm,” said Cantarella. “She was a big part of our lineup, and had three multi-hit games this season.”

Dabon, unfortunately, saw limited time due to a high ankle sprain, but when in the lineup was a strong defensive center fielder and an outstanding leader, according to Cantarella.

Cherylann Nicosia, here with her dad, Mike (right) and coach Chris Cantarella, in 2016.

Asmaa Embaby, a junior, improved as the season went on and will be looked on to be a key contributor next season.

Right field duties were handled by Jennifer Garrido, who led the team in outfield assists with six. Offensively, she finished the  22 RBI.

Junior Jaylyanna Bratcher had a breakout season as a part-time outfielder and full-time Designated Player. She batted .429 and was tied with Nicosia for the team lead in RBI’s, with 35.

Senior Myranda Laabes was injured during the team’s pre-season Florida trip and missed most of the season.

“Despite the injury, she was at every game and very supportive and got cleared to participate in some games toward the end of the season,” said Cantarella of Laabes.

Elly Barbosa was a valuable leader and pinch hitter who had big hits in the Leonia and Harrison games.

“We had some great early-season scrimmages against some really good teams, like West Milford, Paramus and Columbia, which helped prepare us and were extremely valuable,” said Cantarella. “I believe the high expectations we had for this season were met, including winning the league, 20+wins and a home state game.

“As the season progressed, expectations increased and we fell a bit short in that regard, mainly the county and state tournament. We return starters from almost every position next year, and our junior varsity and freshman teams had great years, so the expectations will be high again.”

Read more on the JV and freshman teams here.

https://mikelamberti.wordpress.com/2019/06/11/belleville-high-junior-varsity-and-freshman-softball-teams-had-excellent-seasons/

“The season that we had wouldn’t have been possible without the excellent coaches and team managers that we had. Our varsity assistants, Alexa Veniero, Danielle Santosusso, and Amanda Velotti, and our managers, Christina Gibson, Jaylynn Pinto and Jessica Osorio.”

By mike051893

Belleville High junior varsity and freshman softball teams had excellent seasons

The Belleville High School freshman softball team finished its 2019 season with an 8-0 record.

Coached by former BHS star Amanda Veniero-Velotti, the Bucs were a hard-working group.

“The team worked hard and pushed each other which showed on the field,” said Veniero-Velotti. “Every player had an impact on the team, both offensively and defensively. I was confident that whoever I put out there would do a great job.”

The team’s starting pitcher was Emily Struffolino.

“She was a key part of our team, she threw strikes and had confidence in her team to make the defensive plays behind her,” said Veniero-Velotti. “The team had Ashley Herman behind the plate and Taina Carrasquillo at shortstop, who earned their starting positions. Ashley and Taina were strong players both defensively and up at the plate.”

Other power hitters for the team included third baseman Emily Lewczak and utility player Diana Baez, who played catcher, left field, third base and designated hitter this spring.

Annette Checa played second base and, according to her coach, performed effortlessly, and with confidence.

“Annette led the team with sportsmanship and really brought the team together,” said Veniero-Velotti. “Lilyanne Weinberger, Madison Perez, and Anna Larrea split time between first base and the outfield, and were all solid defensively.”

Kristine Ragas was outstanding in centerfield.

“Kristine was quick in the field and has a very strong arm,” said Veniero-Velotti. “Adriana Torres stepped up and played right field for us. Originally a second basemen, Adriana made a quick transition to the outfield and was an asset to the team. Madison Capasso, Sarai Rodriguez, and Soraya Safforld stepped up and were also used as utility players.”

Capasso and Rodriguez played second base but were also used as courtesy runners, outfielders, and pinch hitters. Safforld split time with Lewczak at third base.

“Sorraya’s quickness was a key factor for stealing bases scoring runs when she was on the bases,” said Veniero-Velotti. “I am proud at how hard the team worked, and their dedication. Their commitment and efforts are the reasons they were able to improve so much from the beginning of the season and end the year with an undefeated record.”

The junior varsity team, led by head coach Danielle Santosusso, put together a 19-2 record.

Sophomores Joanne Calvacca and Alyssa Rivera and junior pitcher Sam Lopez paced the pitching staff. Juniors Anaya Diaz, Ayana Maldonado and Krystal Rodriguez, along with sophomore and Melissa Palacios made up the infield while the outfield was patroled by junior Alisandra Aleman and sophomores Lauryn Cook-Maisonet, Rianna Ramirez and Jasmine Wilson.

Sophomores Mia Askew, April Lopez, Sofia Martins, Gabby Molina, and Arianna Cook all contributed to the lineup and played the infield as well. Sophomore catchers Melissa Lozada and Malenya Cruz helped the team behind the plate. 

The varsity softball team put together its best record in 16 years, as the Bucs finished 21-3. With the success of the junior varsity and freshman teams, the program’s future looks bright.

By mike051893

An American Hero: West Orange High coaching staff ‘grappling’ with the loss of a great young man in Chris Morgan, as his legacy already takes shape, with commitment to Duty, Honor and Country; Coaches Zichella, D’Elia, Mazurek and Spina recall Morgan’s incredible work-ethic; 4 from WOHS will attend West Point this summer, including Colin Morgan

The news had hit with the subtlety of a sledgehammer.

And as the West Orange community grapples (literally) with the sudden loss of Christopher Morgan, the general consensus is you couldn’t meet a better person, a future Military leader, with a brilliant mind and a heart of gold.

Christopher died on June 6, 2019, after a training accident at the United States Military Academy, at West Point, where he would soon begin his senior year at the prestigious school. Morgan was 22.

Morgan attended West Orange High School, where he was a standout athlete, in football and wrestling. At West Point, Morgan was also a member of the wresting team.

Morgan’s wrestling prowess was well known at West Orange High, where he was graduated in 2015. He was a 2-time Region 4 champion at 182 pounds in 2014 and 2015. Morgan went on to win an NJSIAA medal in his senior year, at Boardwalk Hall, in Atlantic City, when he finished fifth in the state. In addition, Morgan won three district crowns and a pair of Essex County Tournament championships. He finished with over 100 wins on the varsity level.

Colin Morgan (third from left) here with (left to right) Bryant Wanamaker, Mark D’Elia, Jeff Mazurek, Victor Lopez, Stephan Zichella, Joe Spina, and Ronald Bligh.

West Orange wrestling coach Stephan Zichella was devastated by the news.

“You cannot ask for a better young man to coach, teach or just know, in general,” said Zichella. “Everyone at West Orange High, and in the community, are saddened. We feel especially for Chris’ family. They raised a wonderful young man, who was destined for greatness.”

Zichella noted that Morgan worked hard with his three assistant coaches, Mark D’Elia, Joe Spina and Jeff Mazurek.

“Those three guys spent a lot of time working with Chris when he was on the team,” said Zichella. “There was a special bond there. I know they’re really upset about this.”

D’Elia, who now coaches at his alma mater, Belleville High, was himself a standout grappler.

“It’s not often you idolize someone younger than you,” said D’Elia, 32. “But when Chris Morgan comes to mind, he’s an exception to that statement.  Upon hearing news of his passing, I immediately thought back of our memories and his beautiful personality, that was contagious both on and off the mat.  Hard work… it’s something that the average person needs to convince themselves to do.  For Chris, hard work was just his approach in life. His parents are tremendous people, and I’ve had the honor and privilege to get to know them personally over the years, especially his father and younger sibling Colin.”

Mazurek echoed D’Elia’s sentiments.

“Chris Morgan was the most outstanding individual I have ever had the privilege to coach,” said Mazurek. “He was an absolute gentleman and worked harder than anyone I have ever met. His energy and work ethic was contagious, and he was an inspiration to all those who have come in contact with him. I will greatly miss all of the time I spent training with him.

“I’ve never been more proud as a coach than to sit in his corner and be able to tell others I played a part in his development as an athlete and a young man. I will miss him more than words can express.”

Spina, like D’Elia, a Belleville High product, is now a husband and father. He noted that working with Morgan required a multiple effort.

“Chris loved practice,” said Spina. “He was always the first one in the room and the last one to leave.  Chris was the hardest worker that I have ever coached.  He was also very coachable, a fierce competitor, and more importantly, respectful to his teammates and coaches.  He was always very grateful. 

“At the end of every practice, Chris would thank every coach and shake their hands.  He appreciated what his coaches did for him.  Every practice was like a tag-team wrestling match, only Chris never tagged a new partner in.  He worked so hard that no one could keep up with him for an entire practice.  After he went through three or four wrestlers, the coaches would step in and work with him.  The problem is that the coaches could not keep up with him, either, so we would constantly tag each other in after Chris had his way with us.

“I am still dealing with injuries that I sustained while wrestling with Chris.  In a way I am grateful that I have them because it gives me an opportunity to think about him when they flare up.”

Zichella noted that Chris’ younger brother, Colin, himself a wrestler at West Orange, will enter West Point this summer. In addition, three former WOHS wrestlers would go on to attend the United States Naval Academy, in Annapolis, Md.

Eric Washkewicz (WOHS Class of 2009), graduated the Naval Academy, in 2013. Matthew Dunovant, a 2011 high school graduate, attended the Naval Academy and earned his degree in 2015. Dylan Pennell (class of 2014) was a 2018 graduate of the Naval Academy.

Christopher Morgan would have been the first graduate of the Military Academy and Andrei Rosu, a 2017 WOHS graduate, is a part of the Class of 2021 at West Point.

Amazingly, four West Orange grads from this year’s class will begin at West Point as plebes this summer. Colin Morgan and Andrew Amoyaw were 4-year wrestlers and will join Vanessa Lettman and Wes Rideau-Winds at the Academy in early July. Lettman was a team manager for the wrestling team and Rideau-Winds was a standout soccer player.

“I would say that Chris had an influence on some of the younger kids to attend West Point,” said Zichella. “He was so well respected by his classmates.”

Morgan’s work ethic obviously carried into the classroom. Acceptance to any of the military academies is arduous, to say the least. Chris began his career at West Point by attending the prep school for a year, before transitioning into the Academy.

D’Elia reflected on Morgan’s short, but lasting legacy.

“The world is at a loss,” said D’Elia. “The only silver lining I see is that the world and country will now know a little bit about how amazing of a person Chris was, and he will be recognized not only in the wrestling, football, and the military community, but worldwide.

“And he will be recognized and remembered as a hero which, in my eyes, he always was in many ways.  If I ever have a child or children, I hope they could be half the person Chris was. He accomplished so many things in such a short run in life, but his family has so much to be proud of.”

Morgan’s family life was a huge plus.

“Chris came from a great family,” said Spina, who was named the District 12 Assistant Coach of the Year this past season. “His dad never missed a match and was a big WOHS supporter.  He was there for his son, but he also was there for the coaches and the rest of the wrestling team. After high school graduation, Chris would come back to the wrestling room when he was on leave from West Point.  It was so great when he came back, because he would work with the wrestlers and teach his explosive double leg to them.  The kids looked at him like he was a god, and rightfully so. 

“The best part of his visits were when Coach Zichella would make Chris wrestle with other visiting alumni.  No one wanted to do it but they really didn’t have a choice.  I am going to miss not having him come back in that wrestling room.”

The bond with the West Orange coaches will endure.

“Chris was always looking to improve, which is why he wanted to work with his coaches,” said Spina. “Coaches Mazurek and D’Elia are such great wrestling technicians and Chris wanted to work with them to improve.  I personally worked with him to improve his top wrestling while Maz and D’Elia worked on his overall offense and defense.  All of the extra work he did with the coaches paid off.  No one could stop his shot, stop his cradle, or hold him down.

“I remember Chris and coach Maz working everyday after practice before the post season started on very high level shots and defense.  All of that extra work is what made him successful during his run for a state championship.

“Chris always did everything right, whether it was in the classroom or on the mat. My heart aches for his family, and I hope that their strong faith can help them get through this.  I will never forget the times I spent with Chris Morgan and I will cherish those memories forever.”

D’Elia gets the final word here.

“This is a huge loss for the community of West Orange.  I’m beyond honored to say that I had a close relationship and special bond, and I was blessed to have the opportunity to be a part of a chapter in Chris Morgan’s legacy.  He represented his community perfectly. In my eyes and in the eyes of many, was a model American. 

“He was a hero.”

By mike051893

What a ride, Mia ! Thanks for 4 great years; The daughter of Fran and Paul Faieta helped guide Cedar Grove to 3 state sectional titles, 2 Group 1 crowns, 2 TOC appearances, an Essex County crown, 21 straight strikeouts in a state game, throwing out the first pitch at Yankee Stadium, and over 1,000 K’s for her career

She came on the scene as a freshman in 2016, with a blistering fastball, and occasionally some wildness.

Mia, with her parents Fran and Paul, after announcing she had made a verbal commitment to attend St. John’s University, in 2017.

But hard work helped Mia Faieta tame the control, while increasing the velocity on that wicked riser.

On the day Mia struck out all 21 batters she faced in a state sectional semifinal, there was Fran offering her congratulations.

She would guide the Cedar Grove High softball team to the first of three straight state sectional championships in 2017, as well as a second Group 1 title in three years and an appearance in the first NJSIAA Tournament of Champions.

At Yankee Stadium, Mia was the center of attention, as Yankee pitcher Chad Green found out quickly.
Throwing out that first pitch at Yankee Stadium.

En route to the sectional title that year, Mia, the eldest of Fran and Paul Faieta’s two children, would pitch the gem of gems, striking out all 21 batters she faced. The performance gave her instant acclaim and she ended up throwing out the first pitch at Yankee Stadium in early June, as her teammates joined her.

Fran was always there for every one of Mia’s games.

Faieta would lead the Panthers to its first Essex County Tournament crown in eight years in 2018, as well as a second straight sectional championship. But the ’18 season ended in the Group 1 semifinal, and the team refocused its energies on winning back the Group 1 title in 2019.

In 2018, Mia was honored at the prestigious Men of Essex dinner.

Mission accomplished, as Faieta was nearly unhittable for most of the ’19 campaign. She would strike out over 400 batters this season alone and finished her career with well over 1,000 strikeouts, as Cedar Grove finished 27-5.

There were plenty of state championship memories.

Cedar Grove did indeed win back the Group 1 championship, its third state title in five seasons. And this time, it advanced all the way to the Tournament of Champions final.

This was a nice moment, exchanging a baseball and softball at the Faieta residence.
Quite the backdrop.

It was indeed a monumental career for Mia Faieta. But as good as she was on the field, she was a better person off it.

Mia and Jules Cicala shared a big moment at Yankee Stadium in June, 2017, when Mia threw out the first pitch.

I will consider myself fortunate to have known her, and know that the future will be incredibly bright, as she will start a new chapter in her life as a student and softball player at St. John’s University, this fall.

Giving back to the next generation says it all about Mia Faieta.

Thanks, Mia. It was quite a ride.

By mike051893