As Derby Day nears, Oh fans 16 and No. 1 Mount St. Dominic dominates, with 2 shutout wins; Faieta continues her run; IHA’s Dudek excels in the clutch, again; Masur comes up big; Teshkoyans in rarefied air, reach 1,000 wins

With the Kentucky Derby set for May 6, the studs are taking center stage. In Essex County softball, that’s always the case, but last week, it was very apparent.

Mount St. Dominic won both its games at its tournament on April 29, blanking Red Bank Catholic, 9-0, and St. Anthony (NY), 4-0.

Kelsey Oh (American Pharoah) was brilliant, pitching a no-hitter with 16 strikeouts in the win over St. Anthony after Julianna Kocenski spun a shutout in the opening game.

Mount St. Dominic’s pitching is tremendous. Oh is Oh, and she’s incredible, but Kocenski and freshman Ali Winters will continue the winning tradition next year for the Lions. Winters, just a freshman, pitched an excellent game on May 1 against West Essex.

Head coach Lorenzo Sozio’s Lions have a big game scheduled on May 4, at Ivy Hill Park, opposite a strong Notre Dame team, starting at 7 p.m. Could be a preview of the Non-Public A championship, in what is a very talented state bracket.

Mia Faieta (California Chrome) had another big week in the circle, as the Cedar Grove sophomore struck out 15 and threw a 1-hitter in a win over Columbia. Faieta is averaging nearly 15 strikeouts a game.

Mia Faieta (right) is pitching lights out for Cedar Grove. (Click on photos for larger images)

Immaculate Heart Academy’s Ally Dudek made a Sam Corio-type catch in her teams win over Newark Academy on April 29, at the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic, in Park Ridge. Dudek reached over the left field fence to deny a homer by Sam Burggraf. Ironically, in May, 2016, Corio leaped at the fence, in Bloomfield, to rob the talented Burggraf of a homer. (And if you’ve seen Burggraf play, you know there will be a lot more balls hit way over the fence, as there already have been, that won’t be caught. That kid can flat out hit).

The unassuming Dudek is the new ‘Alysheba‘. She just makes plays, both in left field, and at the plate. It was Dudek’s single that scored Reagan Jones with the winning run two weeks ago in a marvelous game against West Essex, as the Eagles won, 2-1, at the Black and Gold Tournament. And don’t forget, on June 6, 2015, as a sophomore, Dudek also singled home Jones with the game-winning run, and this time, it was for a state championship, as IHA defeated Notre Dame, 1-0, at Kean University.

The new ‘Alysheba’, Ally Dudek, of IHA, here with Coach Fasano. (Click on photos for larger images)

“She’s so underrated,” said IHA coach Diana Fasano of Dudek. “Ally always seems to make a big play and is in the right place, at the right time.”

Dudek plans to attend the University of Dayton this fall.

Another stud is back in form at Montclair, as Jess Masur (Nyquist) spun a shutout against Cedar Grove on May 1, 2-0. Masur led Montclair to the Essex County Tournament championship game in 2016 and now appears to be hitting her dominant form, as the Mounties look to repeat last year’s heroics, as well as earning a berth in the NJSIAA Tournament, which eluded the team a year ago.

What more can you say about Caldwell coaches Mike Teshkoyan and his brother, Mark Teshkoyan? The all time winningest coach in Essex County softball (644 wins, and counting) garnered his 1,000th career win as a varsity head coach, all at Caldwell, last week as the Chiefs downed Montclair Kimberley, on April 28.

The Teshkoyans also coach the girls soccer team at Caldwell, where the duo has accounted for 356 victories.

The Teshkoyans, Mike (left) and Mark.

Photo taken by Steve Tober of

“Sharing this milestone with Mark is at the top of the list for me, we’ve been together for 63 seasons, and I couldn’t run our two programs without his loyalty, dedication and passion for trying to make our teams the best they can be,” said Mike Teshkoyan of his brother.
Will have much more on the milestone in an upcoming blog.
Here is the updated FMTC, Top 10. Montclair moves up and Millburn jumps in.


1-Mount St. Dominic (13-4)

2-West Essex (13-3)

3-Cedar Grove (11-5)

4-Verona (13-2)

5-Montclair (6-7)

6-Nutley (7-7)

7-Livingston (7-8)

8-Bloomfield (10-7)

9-Caldwell (8-5)

10-Milburn (8-7)



Olivia Sprofera, Citation

Sami Huetter, Canonero II

Alexa Vardiman, Funny Cide

Jessie Masur, Nyquist

Reese Guevarra, Sunday Silence

Kelsey Oh, American Pharoah

Mia Faieta, California Chrome

Ally Dudek, Alysheba

By mike051893

The Big Guy is smiling, as Reese Guevarra sets a new IHA record; Recenello swinging the bat well for Eagles, who appear to be finding its stride; Sprofera, White both dominant in circle

Anything associated with the Immaculate Heart Academy softball program was second nature to its legendary coach, Anthony LaRezza. When records were set, LaRezza was the first to acknowledge it.

So, when Reese Guevarra (Sunday Silence) became IHA’s all-time leader for career hits on May 2, in a game at Paramus Catholic, there was the thought that Anthony was indeed smiling.

Reese Guevarra (partially obstructed) and Taylor Kenerson (16) helped douse LaRezza after a state championship in 2015. (Click on photos for larger images)

Guevarra, a senior who will play at the University of Connecticut this fall, surpassed the great Carly Piccinich as her school’s hit leader, with two singles, as IHA won, 5-1. She now has 187 hits and her hot bat of late has helped IHA (15-2) win 13 straight games, after a pair of 2-1 setbacks in early April.

Guevarra and head coach Diana Fasano are joined by other IHA players to celebrate Reese’s new record.

“This is all about my teammates,” said Guevarra, who was joined by head coach Diana Fasano and a bunch of Eagles for a post-game photo. “It means so much to get this record, but it’s only because of these great players around me.”

Only thing missing in the post-game celebration was a recording of Neil Diamond’sSweet Caroline’. So, here it is, if you want to listen while reading.

IHA catcher Mia Recenello had another two hits in the Paramus Catholic game, after a big game against Pequannock, which included a ‘Natural’ like homer which hit the scoreboard and wrapped up a victory, on April 30, in Rutherford.

Recenello’s homer hitting the scoreboard reminded IHA fans of a moment from ‘The Natural.’

Recenello also had the chance to celebrate a nice win with her grandmother, Joan, and Joan’s close friend, George, as well as Mia’s parents, Kristen and Sam, younger sister, Talia, and family pet.

Mia and her family celebrate a nice win on April 30. (Click on photos for large images)

The IHA pitching has been tremendous all season, as senior lefty Olivia Sprofera continues to be the ‘Citation-esque‘ pitcher which makes her perhaps the best in the state. And the play of freshman Ryleigh White has really stepped up.

White is beginning to dominate in the circle and the righthander also leads IHA in homers, with five, including one against Paramus Catholic.

The Bergen County Tournament will begin play this weekend, and IHA will be hosting games on May 6 and 7. The defending champion Eagles could be either the first or second seed.




By mike051893

5 years later and ‘The Game That Never Was’: Who would have won between IHA and Livingston, ‘Secretariat’ and ‘Affirmed’? Here’s one guess

It was May 8, 2012, and two undefeated New Jersey high school softball teams were scheduled to play a 7 p.m. game at Ivy Hill Park.

Immaculate Heart Academy was ranked first in the state while Livingston was second. Both teams had standout pitchers and a marvelous lineup.

Unfortunately, the game never happened. Light rain at 4 p.m., which didn’t affect a nearby game as Columbia played Caldwell that afternoon, somehow forced a cancellation of a 7 p.m. game, when there was no rain and, in fact, the sun was out.

Since it was not a conference game, the contest could not be made up. But, five years later, it’s an interesting time to look back at what may have been, in The Game That Never Was.

Kylie McLaughlin (left) and Alexa Altchek were key players for the 2012 Lancers. (Click on photos for larger images)

Anthony LaRezza was IHA’s coach while Jason Daily led Livingston. LaRezza and Daily were friends and had high respect for each other’s program.

LaRezza would always have kind words for the opposition, but he particularly liked Livingston. Quite often, he’d be seen in the stands, watching Livingston play, on days when IHA was off.

“They were really good,” LaRezza would say of Livingston, in 2014, in looking back at that game. “We didn’t play Livingston, a lot, but it was fun when we did. And it was always a tough game. Jason is a great guy, and his teams are always prepared.

“I’m not sure who would have won that (2012) game. (Junior pitcher) Jess (Peslak) was incredible that season. She was unhittable.”

Jess Peslak was 26-1 in 2012.

Peslak, dubbed Secretariat, would finish the 2012 season with some incredible numbers, including a 26-1 record, with a 0.32 ERA while leading Livingston to arguably its best season in the program’s history. Peslak fanned 307 in 175 2/3 innings of work while walking 37. She also had  19 shutouts, including five-no hitters and nine one-hitters. She fanned a season high 17 in a win over West Essex in the Essex County Tournament semifinals and recorded double figures in strikeouts 20 times.

Livingston coach Jason Daily, with All-State players Kylie McLaughlin (left) and Jess Peslak in 2012. (Click on photos for larger images)

Peslak, now a senior at Hofstra University and still pitching, opened the 2012 season by not allowing an earned run in her first 73 innings. She wound down the year by not yielding a run, earned, or unearned, from April 27 to June 5, a span of 82 1/3 innings during which she threw 11 straight shutouts while also making a few relief appearances. Ultimately, Peslak gave up one earned run in her final 88 2/3 innings.

I often said that LaRezza’s famous 2010 ‘Memorial Day speech’ was a classic, and it came on the heals a 1-0 loss to Livingston, at the IHA Tournament. In that game, Peslak, then a freshman, didn’t pitch, but she drove in the winning run.

Daily had equal respect for LaRezza.

“A great guy,” Daily would often say. “Anthony’s teams are very talented. They play hard and play with class. They learned from the best.”

IHA had a marvelous pitcher, too, in Steph Thomas, who was a sophomore in 2012. Thomas, of course, would go on to win a state-record 113 career games and is now a standout pitcher at Lafayette College. The eventual Gatorade Player of the Year in 2014, Thomas (aka Affirmed) would not only lead the state in career wins, but her 68 shutouts was also a state record.

Steph Thomas (center) with then assistant coach Diana Fasano and head coach Anthony LaRezza, in 2014.

In 2014, alone, Thomas was 31-2 with 285 strikeouts and just 17 walks in 193 innings, while pitching to an earned run average of 0.47. She also hit .532 with 11 doubles and 23 RBI. For her career, Thomas had 951 strikeouts and an ERA of 0.54. And she could flat-out hit, too.

LaRezza, a tough grader for his own players, said this to in 2014 about Thomas.

Steph Thomas celebrated win number 113 with her grandparents three years ago.

“I have said this before, but she might be the best player to come out of New Jersey in the history of New Jersey. There might have been better pitchers and there might have been better hitters, but there has never been a player that I know of that does that combination better and she does even more than that,” said LaRezza. “She hits, she runs, you see the way she fields her position. She takes hits away from leadoff batters that hit the ball hard up the middle. She just grabs it and throws them out. As far a pitcher that can do it all, I don’t know if there has ever been anybody better.’

So, who would have won that game in 2012? We’ll obviously never know. But here’s a look at the lineups from that season, as both teams had tremendous hitters, but it’s hard to tell how much offense would have been generated that night, with the quality of the pitching.

LIVINGSTON                                                                                                        IHA        

Kylie McLaughlin, CF                                                                                      Angelina McGuire, CF

Sammi Rothenberger, SS                                                                               Danielle Ibarra, SS

Alexa Altchek, RF                                                                                              Rachel Pollard, RF

Jazzy Pignatello, 1B                                                                                          Abby Holmes, 1B

Jess Peslak, P                                                                                                      Steph Thomas, P

Marina Lombardi, C                                                                                         Ally Vergona, C

Rachel Wasilak, 2B                                                                                           Carly Piccinich, 2B

Reid Singer, LF                                                                                                  Emily Walter, LF

Carly LaGrotta, 3B                                                                                                 Cassidy Trause, 3B

Kaitlyn Reilly, DH                                                                                                   Erica Correa, DH

Sammi Passeri, Runner                                                                                       Steph Schulz, Runner


It should be noted that IHA and Livingston did play in 2013, at an early season tournament at Mount St. Dominic, and IHA won, 5-2.

“Different teams in 2013,” LaRezza once said. “The core players were still there, but Jess was injured when we played them that year and she wasn’t her usual dominant self. I’m still not sure if we would have won in 2012, but I would have liked our chances. We had great kids that year, too.”

IHA would finish 32-0 in 2012 and be ranked the state’s best team. Livingston would win a conference, county and state sectional title, but were defeated in the Group 4 semifinal by Hunterdon Central. The Lancers finished 29-1 that year.

After meeting in 2013, Livingston and IHA would go on to excellent seasons. The Lancers would win the conference, county and state sectional titles again, before losing in the Group 4 semifinal to Watchung Hills.

Always influential coaches, Anthony LaRezza and Jason Daily helped younger coaches. Phil Delgado (standing next to Anthony) was very close to LaRezza and always respected Daily.

IHA would win another Bergen County and conference championship, before losing to St. John Vianney in the 2013 Non-Public A final.

Two years later, LaRezza would lead IHA to another state championship, with the famous Sean Reilly photo of LaRezza jumping for joy after the win. Two hundred forty three days after that title, LaRezza passed away, but his legacy remained strong, as IHA went on to another state championship in 2016.

Sean Reilly’s 2015 photo of Anthony LaRezza celebrating a state title says it all about Anthony’s love of the game. (And Diana Fasano was fired up, too)

Livingston would also win a third state sectional championship in five seasons in 2016, under Daily’s guidance. He remains one of the best coaches in North Jersey.

As for The Game That Never Was?

I’ll go with Livingston, 2-1, in 8 innings.


By mike051893

Moresco’s 2-out single drives in Kelly with winning run as Livingston rallies past determined Nutley, 7-6; Reuter, Cooney, Luzzi, Saperstein, Moresco and Williamson also star

Livingston won a big Super Essex Conference American Division game, rallying for two runs in the bottom of the seventh to edge a feisty Nutley team, 7-6, in Livingston.

The Lancers (7-8) appeared to have the game under control, holding a 5-0 lead in the top of the sixth, before Nutley (7-7) answered with four  runs, then took the lead in the seventh with two more. Livingston responded, scoring two in the last of the seventh, capped off by an RBI single from Alex Moresco.

Livingston snapped a four game losing streak to Nutley and defeated the Raiders, at the Shangri La home field, for the first time since Jess Peslak was pitching for the team, in 2013.

“We found a way, against a good team,” said Livingston coach Jason Daily. “We’re getting there, but we’re not playing at the level we’re capable of, yet.”

Livingston hopes to make another run in the state sectional in 2017. (Click on photos for larger image)

Livingston and Nutley are almost mirror images of each other. They’re both young teams, learning the game, while playing a rugged schedule, with strong veteran head coaches. Luann Zullo has been at the helm in Nutley for 19 seasons now while Daily is in his 17th season.

“It’s always a good game with Livingston,” said Zullo. “I’ve always had the highest respect for the way Jason coaches that team. It’s a battle, every time.”

Both teams have talented youngsters in the lineup. Nutley pitcher Courtney Wilde, a sophomore, gets better with each game, and she’s also a force at the plate, batting third in the lineup.Wilde was 2-for-4 against Livingston.

Junior shortstop Melanie Conca is a force at the plate and senior Sam Echevarria is a tremendous second baseman who started Nutley’s sixth inning rally with a lead off single. Another senior, Lauren Hogan, plays a solid first base and has an effective bat.

Nutley coach Luann Zullo, here with Lauren Hogan (left) and Sam Echevarria.

Livingston shortstop Ashley Reuter, a junior, and freshman second baseman Nicolette Luzzi give the Lancers a tremendous middle infield defense, and both are excellent hitters.

“Ashley is a tremendous athlete,” said Daily. “And Nicolette is quickly learning the varsity game.”

Jaclyn Williamson had three hits in the win over Nutley and started the winning rally in the seventh with a single. Kaitlyn Kelly, who drove in two runs, followed with a single, and a throwing error allowed Wiliamson to score the tying run. After a ground out, a key two-out walk by Chloe Saperstein set the stage for Moresco, the number nine hitter in the lineup, and she came through, with an opposite-field single which plated Kelly with the winning run.

“Kaitlyn’s hit was big for us,” said Daily of Kelly. “And give Chloe a lot of credit. That walk was huge. She’s a freshman and learning the game. Chloe had a tough first three at bats in the game, but she didn’t get down, she worked hard and got a walk which extended the inning and set up Alex’s hit.”

Livingston’s Emma Cooney, one of the best defensive catchers in the county, scored two runs and Lancers pitcher Jess Gorman pitched well. She didn’t allow a baserunner through 3 2/3 innings and had a shutout into the sixth.

“Jess pitched well,” said Daily. “She gave us a quality start.”




By mike051893

It’s a special day for Rianna Marinelli, as Stockton-bound Cedar Grove Panther collects 3 hits, including a homer, and surpasses 100 hits for her career, as Cedar Grove downs Columbia

Rianna Marinelli celebrated her 100th career hit on April 27 with a tremendous day at the plate. The senior was 3-for-4, with a homer and two RBI, as Cedar Grove pulled away from Columbia to win a 10-0 decision, at Panther Park.

Marinelli, who will play at Stockton University this fall, collected her 100th hit in her first plate appearance and drove in a run, as Cedar Grove (11-4) opened a 2-0 lead after one inning. Jules Cicala also had an RBI single in the first.

Left to right, Cedar Grove assistant coach Pete Velardi, head coach Nicole Velardi, Rianna Marinelli and assistant coach Sara Lipman following a big day for Marinelli, at Panther Park. 

A two run lead with Mia Faieta pitching is usually more than enough, and that was the case, as Faieta, who left her last start early with stiffness in her shoulder, was back in her usual form. The sophomore righty (AKA California Chrome) fanned 15 in six innings while giving up one hit. Faieta did work out of a jam in the second inning, when Columbia loaded the bases with one out, but California Chrome fanned the next two hitters to get out of it unscathed.

Rianna recently made her college choice official. She’ll play at Stockton University in the fall.

But the story of the game was Marinelli, who continues to play well for the Panthers.

“Rianna does so much for our team,” said Cedar Grove coach Nicole Velardi. “This is a nice day for her.”

Marinelli’s homer came in the sixth, a solo blast well over the left centerfield fence. She will join former Cedar Grove teammate Daniela Marinaro at Stockton. One-time Cedar Grove stars Gianna Cuffari and Nicole Tomo also played softball at Stockton.

Marinelli will have an Essex County teammate at Stockton this fall, too, as West Essex’s Sami Huetter plans to play at the Atlantic County school, as well.

Columbia coach Cliff Smith kept his sense of humor following the game. When he caught a glance of the score book, he smiled and said, “that’s a lot of K’s.”

Smith is optimistic about his team’s future.

“We’re a young team,” said Smith. “Mia was really tough today, but we’ve been hitting the ball pretty well. We had a good win against Bloomfield the other day, gave Livingston a tough game and we’re getting better. I’m optimistic about the future.”






By mike051893

As ECT celebrates a ‘Ruby’, there’s plenty of good history heading into 2017

The 40th Essex County Softball Tournament will commence later this week, with play-in games. This years ‘Ruby’ tournament was a tough one to seed, as a number of teams have somewhat equal records, in the Super Essex Conference’s American and Liberty Divisions.

Mount St. Dominic, which has won six titles, including crowns in 2013 and 2014, defending champion West Essex and Cedar Grove, which last won the championship in 2010, should be among the top seeds in 2017.

The semifinals and finals will once again be played at Ivy Hill Park, on the campus of Seton Hall University. The semis and finals have been played there since 2005.

Upsets have been a part of this tournament over the years. Last season, 2-time defending champion Mount St. Dominic lost in the quarterfinals to Montclair, 2-1. The Mounties eventually made it to the championship game, before falling to West Essex.

Mount St. Dominic had won back-to-back titles in dominant fashion in 2014 and 2015, winning both championships in five innings, or less. Livingston had won the previous two crowns in 2012 and 2013, and the Lancers, at one point, had gone 48-1 against Essex County teams from 2012-2014.

Montclair’s run to the title game in 2016 caught a lot of fans by surprise, but then-head coach Phil Delgado believed in his team and the Mounties responded. In 2012, a similar run was made by Newark Academy, which came from a double-digit seed to stun defending champion Nutley in the first round. The Minutemen, coached then, and now by Sergio Rodriguez, made it to Ivy Hill that May, before losing to Mount St. Dominic in the semifinals.

West Orange had a nice run in 2010, upsetting then 2-time champion Mount St. Dominic and making it to the semis, before Cedar Grove, the eventual champion, ended the Mountaineers hopes.

And speaking of the semis, there have been some great games over the past six years. In the 2011 semifinal between Livingston and Nutley, Livingston sophomore righthander Jess Peslak struck out 14, but Kristen Mattia hit a 3-run homer in the fifth inning for Nutley after Livingston had gained a 4-0 lead. The Lancers appeared to have it under control in the bottom of the seventh, especially after Peslak fanned Mattia for the second out, but Lauren Iradi hit a seeing-eye, two-out, two-run single as Nutley won, 5-4. A day later, it captured the county final over MSD, 3-0. (Peslak has often said it was one of the best games she ever played in, and she lost).

The 2013 semifinal between Cedar Grove and Mount St. Dominic was also a classic, as MSD’s Olivia Gemma hit an epic homer over the centerfield fence, in the sixth inning, to lead the Lions past the Panthers after it appeared Cedar Grove had the game in hand.

Last year, Montclair and Livingston played a tremendous semifinal, before a large crowd, with the Mounties winning, 6-4, marking Montclair’s first win over Livingston in six years.

Ciarah Minning of Montclair made one of the greatest catches in the tournament’s history, hauling in a long drive, over her head, in deep centerfield, against Livingston.

ihp 5

Essex County’s Ivy Hill Park will host the ECT semifinals and finals for the 13th straight year.

And for pure recent drama, the 2012 and 2013 championship games between Mount St. Dominic and Livingston were as good as they got, with Livingston prevailing, 2-0, and 5-4. It’s not often that teams meet in back-to-back years in a final. Cedar Grove and the Mount played in the 2008 and 2009 finals and then, it was Livingston and MSDA. There were just three other rematches prior to 2009.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALivingston’s Jess Peslak had some tremendous encounters with coach Lorenzo Sozio’s Mount St. Dominic Lions, including the 2012 and 2013 county finals.

Here are some tid bits to get you ready for this year’s tournament.


This is the 40th ECT, so let’s look back at some facts and figures over the past 39 tourneys.

1-Caldwell won the first championship in 1978, defeating Bloomfield, 2-1. The Chiefs have the most championships with 10 and also boast the best record in championship games, 10-1.

2-Belleville appeared in nine county finals during the 1980s, winning three championships, including back-to-back titles in 1982 and ’83. Belleville made it to eight straight finals, a record which still holds, from 1982-89. The Buccaneers also won in 1989 and appeared in the 1998 and ’99 final. Belleville’s 12 appearances in the finals are second most, to Mount St. Dominic, which has been in 13 championship games.

3- Mount St. Dominic has won six titles, Livingston has five crowns and Cedar Grove and West Essex have four championships each.

4-Livingston pitcher Jess Peslak had three of the most dominant performances in the ECT semis in recent memory. In 2011, she struck out 14, but lost in the seventh inning to Nutley, 5-4. The following year, she fanned 17 in a 9-0 victory against West Essex and in 2013, she spun a five-inning, no-hitter, with 12 strikeouts, as the Lancers defeated Bloomfield, 12-0.

Peslak was 2-0 in county finals.

Mount St. Dominic senior pitcher Kelsey Oh has two titles to her record and will be trying for a rare third this year. Oh’s performances in the 2014 and 2015 finals were beyond dominant.

5-Mount St. Dominic’s second straight title in 2015 matched the 2008 and 2009 Lions for back-to-back crowns. Livingston won consecutive championships in 2012 and 2013.

6-Caldwell is the only team to three-peat as champions. (1986-88), with all three wins in the final against Belleville. No other team has won three straight.

7-Livingston’s Kylie McLaughlin, hit a rare inside-the-park homer at Ivy Hill Park in the 2013 semifinal against Bloomfield. She led off the bottom of the first with a shot that hit the center field fence and bounced past a Bloomfield outfielder, as the speedy lefty batter rounded the bases.

8-Cedar Grove was the first team to repeat as champion, doing so in 1980. At that time, the Panthers were led by pitcher Laurel VanDer May, while its head coach was her brother, Ray, who returned to the helm of Cedar Grove in 2013 and led the ’14 Panthers back to the finals.

9-Cedar Grove (1979-80), Belleville (1982-83), Caldwell (3-peat from 1986-1988, 1990-91 and again 2004-05), West Essex (1997-98),Bloomfield (1999-2000), Montclair Kimberley Academy (2001-2002), Mount St. Dominic (2008-09 and again in 2014-2015) and Livingston (2012-2013) are the schools which have won back-to-back titles.

10-Caldwell coach Mike Teshkoyan has the most championships with eight. Mount St. Dominic’s Lorenzo Sozio is second, with six titles. Sozio, who won his 500th career game in 2016, has guided the Lions to all six of its championships.

11-Belleville-Caldwell (1986-88), Caldwell-Livingston (1990-91), Mount St. Dominic-Bloomfield (1995-96), Mount St. Dominic-Cedar Grove (2008-09) and Mount St. Dominic-Livingston (2012-2013) are the championship game matchups which occurred in consecutive years.

12-Cedar Grove’s crowns in 1984 and 2010 represent the longest gap between titles for a school in the tourney’s history.

13-Nutley waited 18 years between championships. (1993-2011).

14-Belleville’s Carl Corino coached in 12 county finals and led his team to the Final Four 16 times.

15-The highest scoring final occurred in 2015, with 19 runs scored. The second highest scoring final was in 1992 and 2016, with 14 runs scored in both of those finals. Cedar Grove and Belleville collected 13 runs in the ’84 title game.

16-Only three of the first 39 championship games have gone into extra innings, with Belleville (1989), Mount St. Dominic (2003) and Caldwell (2005) all winning by 1-0 decisions. The 2003 game between Mount St. Dominic and Bloomfield went 11 innings, the longest final on record.

17-Caldwell had one of the most improbable wins, rallying from 2-0 down to stun Belleville, 3-2, in the 1987 final. Caldwell scored all three runs without a ball leaving the infield. The Chiefs had a similar rally in the 2004 county final opposite MKA, once again coming back from 2-0 down in the seventh. Both of those games were at Pulaski Park.

18-Luann Zullo is 3-0 as a head coach in the finals, and she’s the only coach to win crowns at two different schools. She won a pair of championships at West Essex (1997-98) before leading her alma mater, Nutley, to the 2011 championship. Ironically, her first championship in ’97 came against Nutley.


31658_393721811721_640661721_4603106_4600613_nWest Essex won the 1998 ECT final, beating Belleville, 1-0. Head coach Luann Zullo (second from far right) and assistant Sergio Rodriguez (second from far left) are shown here with the team. (Click on photo for larger image)

19-Livingston coach Jason Daily is 3-0 in county finals, winning in 2006, 2012 and 2013. Daily’s teams have also been consistently in the Final Four, with recent appearances in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015 and 2016. Daily has been head coach at Livingston since 2001.

20-MKA is the only team to beat Caldwell in a county final, doing so in 2002, 4-1, for its second straight title and last to date. Two years later, Caldwell turned the tables and beat MKA, 3-2.

21-Livingston and Belleville had quite a rivalry in the 1980s. The schools met three times in a county final (1982, ’85 and ’89), with Belleville winning twice. In 1982, Livingston rallied from 4-0 down to stun Belleville, 6-4, in a state sectional semifinal. Five days later, the two met again for the county championship and Belleville won, 8-0, for its first ECT crown. A generation later, the two met in the quarterfinals of the 2001 county tournament, with Belleville prevailing by the mercy rule. A few weeks later, the teams met in the state sectionals, with Belleville winning a close 3-1 contest, en route to a sectional championship. The following year, Livingston went to Belleville in a sectional semifinal, and won. Livingston’s current head coach, Jason Daily, was in his second year as head coach in 2002.

22-Newark Academy made it from the play-in round all the way to the ECT semis in 2012, the first school to accomplish that feat. It stunned second-seeded and defending champion Nutley in the first round, 6-4, then defeated Caldwell in the quarters before losing to Mount St. Dominic.

23-It’s not often that sisters play against each other in a county tournament, but it happened in the 2011 championship game when Nutley, led by Eileen Purcell, defeated Mount St. Dominic, 3-0. The Mount’s junior catcher that year was Jamie Purcell, Eileen’s twin sister. The Purcells played four years of collegiate softball and were graduated with undergraduate degrees in 2016.

24-From 1993-1997, the final score of the championship game was 2-1.

25-Mount St. Dominic’s four runs in the 2013 county final was the most by a team which didn’t win the title during this century.

26-Gina Capardi (Caldwell), Sammi Rothenberger (Livingston), Kristen Mattia (Nutley), Mount St. Dominic’s Olivia Gemma and Madison Gemma of West Essex, Olivia’s sister, hit five of the more memorable homers in Ivy Hill history, since the field became the venue for the semis and finals in 2005.

Capardi christened the move to Ivy Hill in ’05, when she homered in the eighth inning for a stirring 1-0 win over Montclair in the championship game. Madison Gemma’s homer came in the finals, as West Essex pulled away from Montclair. The other three were hit in the semifinals. Rothenberger’s shot is still raved about, as the ball went into the trees in the 2013 semifinal. Mattia’s homer was a long 3-run blast as Nutley cut into a 4-0 lead against Livingston in 2011. Olivia Gemma’s 2-run homer helped Mount St. Dominic rally past Cedar Grove in the bottom of the sixth inning.

27-Bloomfield coach Bob Mayer and Mount St. Dominic’s Lorenzo Sozio each won his 500th career game, all for one school, in 2016.  Caldwell’s Mike Teshkoyan is first, all time, in county history with well over 600 wins. Carl Corino of Belleville, who is retired, was the first to reach 500, back in 2005. Corino was honored in April, 2016, by having the ball park at Belleville named after him.

cc (2)The softball field in Belleville honors former coach Carl Corino. (Click on photos for larger image)

bm3Bob Mayer and his Bengals celebrated the legendary head coach’s 500th win in 2016. Mayer has had some great runs at the ECT, including back-to-back championships in 1999 and 2000. He was inducted into the Bloomfield High Hall of Fame in April, 2017.

28-West Essex won its fourth county title and first in nine years in 2016. It was the second crown under head coach Andrea Mondadori-Llauget.

West Essex won the 2016 championship. (Click on photos for larger image)

Madison Gemma (left) and Bridget Betley were keys to the Knights victory last year. The Gemma family has had its share of good memories in the county final, with six straight appearances. Olivia Gemma played in four straight ECT finals and led her team to a title in 2014. Madison played in the 2015 and 2016 finals and hopes to make a third straight appearance this season.

Andrea Mondadori Llauget led the Knights to the 2007 and 2016 championships. Her dad, Steve, is now an assistant coach with the Knights.


By mike051893

Sweet Caroline! IHA edges West Essex in an 8-inning classic, 2-1, as Guevarra and Betley provide stellar defensive plays and Dudek drives home Jones with the winning run; Corio pitches Bloomfield to a pair of victories; Amanda Ayala a ‘Whirlaway’ stud; Faieta pitches a gem against Pope John; Great job by Cedar Grove in running a nice tournament; Newark Academy battling tough schedule; MSDA remains atop rankings

A wonderful Black and Gold Tournament at Cedar Grove on April 23 was culminated by an incredible game, as Immaculate Heart Academy rallied from a 1-0 deficit in the bottom of the seventh to tie it, then won in the eighth inning on a triple by Reagan Jones and subsequent single by Ally Dudek, for a 2-1 win.

This game, which was scheduled just a day earlier, was as good as advertised, as two of the best teams in North Jersey played marvelous softball. The pitching was ridiculous (in a good way, of course), as Olivia Sprofera and Sami Huetter were stud-like, all evening long. #citation #canoneroII

The defense featured some tremendous plays, including a diving catch by Reese Guevarra in centerfield for IHA and a leaping grab at second base by West Essex’s Bridget Betley.

Bridget Betley is having another solid season for West Essex. (Click on photos for larger images)

Left to right, Sami Huetter, Alexa Vardiman and Bridget Betley, team captains for West Essex, have the Knights playing well once again.

In the end, a nice piece of opposite-field hitting by Jones found the gap in right center for a triple that led off the eighth.

Earlier in the game, Julia Vardiman drilled a homer over the left-centerfield fence to give the Knights a 1-0 lead, and that margin held until the bottom of the seventh, when IHA tied it, and forced extra innings.

With the advent of the new NJSIAA Tournament of Champions in high school softball this June, there’s always the possibility that IHA and West Essex could meet again, perhaps in an ultimate championship game.

But that’s still a good six weeks away, and there are plenty of tremendous teams out there, who will be battling for a Group championship.

IHA actually won two games at the Black and Gold, defeating Livingston earlier in the day.

And speaking of the Black and Gold, kudos to Cedar Grove athletic director Rob Gogerty, the Cedar Grove coaching staff, led by Nicole Velardi, as well as the Cedar Grove parents, for putting together an incredible day-long event. On a perfect weather day, there was a good crowd, plenty to eat and some great music during time outs and in between innings.

The IHA players were enjoying Neal Diamond’s ‘Sweet Caroline’ during a pitching change. They had it choreographed pretty well, led by Sunday Silence, Reese Guevarra, who was standing at second base and leading the charge when the song hit the airwaves.

Still a classic.

Lexi Corio, a freshman righty picked up two wins at the Black and Gold Tournament, as Bloomfield defeated Kittatinny and DePaul. The Bengals are 8-6 through games of April 24, and Corio has provided a boost to the pitching staff, which had lost two key hurlers from last year, to graduation.

Lexi Corio, here with her father, Joe, has pitched well for the Bengals. (Click on photo for larger image)

DePaul centerfielder Amanda Ayala (stud name, Whirlaway) appears to be 100 percent after a serious leg injury kept her out of the lineup for all of 2016. The senior centerfielder homered against Bloomfield and had a tremendous overall week for the Spartans, both at the plate, and in the field, including an incredible catch last Monday.

Cedar Grove sophomore pitcher Mia Faieta was outstanding at the Black and Gold, as well, pitching a one-hitter, with 15 strikeouts, as the Panthers defeated Pope John, 4-0, for its second win of the day. Faieta had to leave her previous start on Aprili 21 with an injury, but she was back in form last Sunday.

Mia Faieta (right), here with teammate Gianna Kubu, has been among the strikeout leaders in Essex County so far this season. (Click on photo for larger image)

Newark Academy’s record may be a bit deceiving. The Minutemen have played well against a Super Essex Conference American Division schedule, and have also played solid teams outside the conference. While coach Serg Rodriguez’s team probably won’t finish above .500, they could still be a factor in the Non-Public B Tournament, as third baseman Sam Berggraf is a solid defender and tremendous with the bat and pitcher Mallory Shaw continues to get better.

Mallory Shaw (Click on photos for larger images)

Sam Burggraf

Always the coach, Sergio Rodriguez giving pointers to a player during a recent game.

Mount St. Dominic continues to play well against a top schedule, including a successful trip to Ohio last weekend. The Lions remain the number one team in the most recent Top 10. They’ll also, most assuredly, be the top seed for the 40th Essex County Tournament, as MSDA seeks a seventh overall crown and third in the last four years.

Here’s the updated FMTC Top 10, through games of April 24.

1-Mount St. Dominic (10-3)

2-West Essex (12-3)

3-Cedar Grove (10-4)

4-Verona (10-2)

5-Nutley (4-5)

6-Livingston (6-6)

7-Caldwell (6-4)

8-Columbia (6-5)

9-Bloomfield (8-6)

10-Montclair (4-6)




By mike051893

With IHA on the horizon, Betley (“I played okay”) collects 4 hits, drives in 5 runs and James, Garofalo and Apito also pace West Essex past Montclair

West Essex’s potent lineup was somewhat stymied on April 19 by Mia Faieta and Cedar Grove, but a day later, the Knights were swinging the bats well, collecting 17 hits en route to a 14-1 victory over Montclair.

West Essex and Montclair had played in the 2016 Essex County Tournament championship game and also split two regular season games a year ago, but this game got away from the Mounties early, with a 3-run error, which gave West Essex (11-2) a quick 4-0 lead in the first inning.

The Knights swung the bats well, led by senior Bridget Betley, who was 4-for-5, including a 3-run double in a 6-run sixth inning.

“I played okay,” said Betley afterward, in her typical low-keyed assessment of a good performance. “I had struck out three times against Mia, and needed to get my bat going today.”

Bridget Betley had a big game against Montclair for the second straight time. She was also a standout in last year’s county championship game versus the Mounties.

Betley was actually on base in all five of her plate appearances, since she also reached on a fielder’s choice. The second baseman, who will play at Post University in Connecticut this fall, also pitched an inning in relief of starter Sami Huetter, who was excellent once again in the circle.

Canonero II struck out 11 in five innings while walking none, and giving up two hits and one unearned run.

Alexa Vardiman continued her hot hitting with three more singles, a run scored and RBI. Julia Vardiman hit the ball hard in all five plate appearances and had two hits, including  a double, a run scored and RBI. Madison Gemma had two its, a run scored and RBI, Alex Apito had two hits, scored twice and drove in a run, Amanda Garofalo singled and drove in a pair and the incomparable Lily James hit a pair of doubles and drove in a run.

Of course, afterward, Huetter was pleased with her team’s effort, especially James, the unassuming third baseman who is very popular among her teammates.

“She’s my Bestie,” said Huetter, of James, as the team prepared to board its bus.

Montclair, which had won three straight coming into the game, fell to 4-5 with the setback. The Mounties will play this weekend at the Black and Gold Touranment, in Cedar Grove.

The Knights will have quite the test on Saturday, when it ventures to Saddle Brook to play defending state champion, Immaculate Heart Academy, in a 2 p.m. start.

A veteran West Essex team will now prepare to face Citation and the IHA Eagles (below) on April 22, at Saddle Brook. (Click on photos for larger image)






By mike051893

Essex Softball: Oh and Nelson excel at Ivy Hill; MSDA’s Taffett a tremendous hitter; California Chrome enters the stable; Alexa Vardiman’s 2 RBI lead West Essex past Indian Hills; Bloomfield’s Mayer to enter the Hall of Fame, Bengals pitcher Lexi Corio off to a good start; Montclair starting to come around; Black and Gold Tournament set for April 23; Lions remain No. 1

There were some good games at Ivy Hill Park, on the campus of Seton Hall University on April 15, with the much-anticipated game between Donovan Catholic and Mount St. Dominic more than living up to the billing.

Donovan Catholic won, 1-0, with both pitchers, Lindsay Nelson of Donovan Catholic and Kelsey Oh (American Pharoah) each throwing the ball very well. Oh struck out 12, walked three and scattered three hits while Nelson spun a 2-hitter, fanned 13 and walked seven.

The game’s intensity was evident from the first pitch, as Oh’s fastball, already one of the best in the state, was popping at an even higher rate.

MSDA’s Sarah Taffett was outstanding at the plate. Her triple, after fouling off at least seven pitches, was a tremendous piece of hitting. Taffett also drew a pair of walks in the game.

The two teams could meet again, in early June, for the Non-Public A championship, and a berth in the inaugural Tournament of Champions. But that’s still seven weeks away and both head coaches know there’s plenty of talent in Non-Public A to navigate through.

Cedar Grove’s Mia Fiaeta has been tremendous in the circle for Panthers. The sophomore righty is averaging nearly 15 strikeouts, per start, with a blistering fastball and tricky change-up. She’s the new California Chrome.

Mia Faieta, above with coach Nicole Velardi and the ‘other’ California Chrome (below). (Click on photos for larger images)

Alexa Vardiman is such an underrated hitter. The senior (aka Funny Cide) drove in a pair of runs in a 3-1 West Essex win over Indian Hills earlier this week. Batting second in a potent Knights lineup, the catcher, who swings the bat well from both sides of the plate, is a tremendous contact hitter, as well as providing power to the alleys.

Alexa Vardiman (left) with (Pre-Colt) coach Andrea Mondadori-Llauget and Sami Huetter, is having another good season for West Essex in 2017.

Congratulations to one of the real good guys in Essex softball coaching, Bob Mayer. He’ll be inducted into the Bloomfield High Hall of Fame on April 22. You can read more about Mayer’s legacy, as his colleagues express their praise, in this article.

Speaking of Bloomfield, the Bengals lost two quality pitchers to graduation last spring, but freshman Lexi Corio has done a good job so far this season for the Bengals, who will take a 6-4 record into a big game against Caldwell on April 21.

One of the really nice softball events in North Jersey will be renewed on April 23, with the annual Black and Gold Tournament, which takes place at Panther Park and on the adjacent softball field, L.R. Schools Field.

There will be a tremendous lineup of teams, including Immaculate Heart Academy, DePaul, Livingston, Bloomfield, Lenape Valley, Kittatinny, Pope John, and, of course, the home team. Games start at 9 a.m. and will be ongoing throughout the day.

Here’s the latest FMTC, Top 10, in Essex County.

1-Mount St. Dominic (7-2)

2-West Essex (10-2)

3-Cedar Grove (7-3)

4-Verona (9-1)

5-Caldwell (5-3)

6-Nutley (4-5)

7-Livingston (4-5)

8-Bloomfield (6-4)

9-Montclair (4-4)

10-Columbia (4-4)



Olivia Sprofera, Citation

Sami Huetter, Canonero II

Alexa Vardiman, Funny Cide

Jessie Masur, Nyquist

Reese Guevarra, Sunday Silence

Kelsey Oh, American Pharoah

Mia Faieta, California Chrome








By mike051893

Huetter and Faieta put on a show, West Essex edges Cedar Grove, 1-0, in 9 innings, as Julia Vardiman scores game-winning run off Madison Gemma sac fly

West Essex and Cedar Grove had gone 8 1/2 scoreless innings on a windy and cold afternoon at West Essex, so when the Knights got a rally going in the bottom of the ninth, thanks to a leadoff walk by Julia Vardiman and an infield single from Alexa Vardiman, the anticipation level was amped up.

The Vardiman sisters proceeded to steal a base, putting runners on second and third, with no outs. And as Bridget Betley stepped into the box, Alexa could be seen at second, jumping up and down.

Alexa Vardiman (left) and Bridget Betley, of West Essex, were both outstanding in a huge win over Cedar Grove. (Click on photo for larger image)

“I was fired up and cold at the same time,” said the personable senior catcher. “I just wanted a chance to get a win. It was a tough game. Cedar Grove played hard and (Cedar Grove pitcher) Mia (Faieta) was so good out there. I was glad to get a few walks off her, and then a single in the ninth inning. It was that kind of game. I thought we could have won it a few times earlier, but that’s the way it goes.”

Betley was struck out, but the catcher couldn’t handle the ball and the senior second baseman alertly ran to first, and was safe, loading the bases. Madison Gemma followed with a sacrifice fly to center, scoring Julia Vardiman, and West Essex came away with a hard-fought, 1-0, win.

West Essex improved to 10-2 with the win while Cedar Grove fell to 7-3, including heartbreaking losses to Mount St. Dominic and now, West Essex.

West Essex pitcher Sami Huetter and Faieta were both studs in the circle, as Canonero II and California Chrome matched goose eggs for eight full innings, before Huetter retired the Panthers in the top of the ninth.

Huetter, a senior who will play at Stockton University this fall, struck out eight and walked just two while scattering four hits.

Faieta, a sophomore who has become a strikeout phenom in Essex County, fanned 16 while walking a surprising 12, but she gave up just two hits, both infield singles. And Faieta, despite the walks, worked out of some big time jams, including a bases-loaded, no out situation in the fifth inning and a first and second, no outs predicament in the seventh. Fiaeta also struck out the side in the second and sixth innings and had at least one strikeout in every frame.

Mia Faieta, here with head coach Nicole Velardi earlier this season, has averaged over 15 strikeouts a game. (Click on photo for larger image)

“Mia gives you everything you could ever ask for as a coach,” said Cedar Grove coach Nicole Velardi, whose team was missing five starters. “She works hard, and today, showed the ability to work through some adversity. I was proud of her. I saw a lot of young kids step up and play well against one of the best teams in the state. That was very encouraging.”

In addition to scoring the winning run, Julia Vardiman reached base four times, all by walk, while Alexa Vardiman also reached four times, three by walks and the single in the ninth. Huetter had the other hit, a bunt single in the fourth inning.

Alexa Vardiman, aka Funny Cide, also praised Velardi.

“She’s such a good coach,” said Alexa. “Coach Velardi’s teams are always prepared. But we also found a way to win, and our coaches are great, too. It was a tremendous game.”

The classy Vardiman summed up well a tremendous Super Essex Conference American Division battle, where, other than the score, there were no losers.



By mike051893