Essex Softball: Watch out for Verona, with a stud pitcher in Christina Colon, good defense and timely hitting has Salisbury’s Hillbillies on a roll

Verona had opened the season slowly, losing six of its first seven contests. But that was a bit deceiving, as the Hillbillies lost three games by one run each, including a pair of 2-1 setbacks to the best teams in Essex County, in Cedar Grove and Mount St. Dominic. Verona also lost two games by two runs each.

But after the 1-6 start, Verona has gotten back on the winning trail, with four straight victories, including a 5-1 win on April 24, at Bloomfield, in a Super Essex Conference American Division matchup.

“Bloomfield always has a good team,” said Verona coach Angela Salisbury. “You know how it is in this division, every game is a battle. I think we showed we’re capable of playing well in the division. We haven’t seen West Essex yet, because of rainouts, but we’ll play them soon, and I’m looking forward (to a crossover game) with Columbia. They’re playing really well, too.”

Verona will stay in games, first and foremost, behind the pitching of right hander, Christina Colon. The junior had another outstanding game against Bloomfield, with 14 strikeouts and 2 walks, while scattering just 3 hits.

“Christina has been doing a nice job,” said Salisbury. “She throws strikes and has good velocity.”

Colon opened the regular season with a no-hitter, striking out 17 in a 1-0 home victory, against Bloomfield, in mid 30 degree temperatures, on April 5. She has struck out 10, or more, in six of her last seven games, including back-to-back 14 strikeout efforts in less than 24 hours, against Nutley and Bloomfield. In a tournament on April 21, she fanned a combined 22 batters in two games.

Verona (5-6) put itself in position for a possible top four seed in the upcoming Essex County Tournament with its win against Bloomfield on April 24. The Hillbillies opened a 3-0 lead in the second inning when Katie Stanisci led off with a walk and stole second. After a strikeout, Colon laced a single to move Stanisci to third. A stolen base and walk to Kate Ryan loaded the bases and Julia Rigney hit a two-run single to give her team a 2-0 lead. With two outs, leadoff batter Carlie Goldstein drilled a single to plate a third run.

Verona’s Julia Rigney slides into home plate, in a game against Bloomfield, as teammate Kate Ryan (13) watches. (Photo by Jerry Simon. Click on photo for larger image)

Bloomfield (5-6), which had won four in a row, scored its only run off Colon in the third. Verona got that run back in the fifth when Caden Pelfree singled home Melanie Naeris, who had led off the frame with a single. Pelfree had another RBI in the seventh, when she hit a long ground rule double, which bounced over the centerfield fence, plating Annie Swanstrom, who had reached on an error to start the inning.

Colon struck out the side in the third and fifth innings and ended the game with a strikeout.

Verona has two big home games coming up. On April 26, Columbia visits, at 4 p.m. and two days later, there’s the first of two games against division rival West Essex, at 10 a.m., and on April 30, there’s a short drive for a big game with arch rival Cedar Grove.

Verona is also the sight of the Essex County Tournament quarterfinals. This will be the first time since 2009 that the county quarterfinals will be held at one location.



By mike051893

Essex Softball: Cedar Grove, Mount St. Dominic at the top of the rankings, as 41st ECT draws closer; Bloomfield, Millburn and Verona on winning streaks

The 41st Essex County Tournament is getting closer, and with it, some big games are approaching. Cedar Grove and Mount St. Dominic played an exciting game last week and will meet up again this coming Friday, at the Mount’s home field.

Most will agree that the Panthers and Lions are the top teams in the county and the favorites to meet in the ECT final in a few weeks.

Upsets have been a part of the tournament over the years, however, and this season has certainly been unpredictable.

After slow starts, Verona, Bloomfield and West Essex have played much better. Columbia and Millburn are off to fast starts, as well, at 7-2 and 9-2 respectively.

Here are the latest rankings.

FMTC Top 10

1-Cedar Grove (10-3): It edged Mount St. Dominic, in a tremendous game and played another classic last weekend, against IHA.

Mia Faieta (arms folded, standing) has pitched very well for the Panthers. (Click on photo for larger 

2-Mount St. Dominic (8-5): The defending ECT champions won 2 of 3 in Ohio last weekend, and are still the dominant team within Essex County, over the past five years.

3-Columbia (7-2): Six straight wins to start the season, including a win over Nutley gives the Cougars a high ranking this week.

4-West Essex (4-5): Knights had back-to-back wins over Livingston and Nutley last week.

Lily James, here with her parents, has been a key to West Essex’s recent surge. 

5-Verona (4-6): Hillbillies have won three straight, including a win over Nutley, and their pitching could make it very dangerous in the county tournament.

6-Nutley (5-6): Edged Livingston, in 8 innings, after losing in 8 to the Lancers six days earlier. Has a big early season win over an 8-3 Teaneck team.

7-Bloomfield (5-5): After 0-4 start, including 3 losses by a combined 5 runs, it has won five of its last six and Lexi Corio’s pitching could be a factor.

Lexi Corio had a good run in the 2017 Essex County Tournament and hopes to find similar success this year. (Click on photo for larger image)

8-Livingston (3-6): Lancers are always competitive, but it’s lost four of its last five, three of which have been by one run. Livingston has a good win over Verona.

9-Millburn (9-2): Millers have played well, winning six straight heading into this week’s action.

10-Caldwell (7-3) and Montclair (6-5): Mounties picked up a huge win over Columbia, rallying from 3-0 down, on April 23 to win, 9-5, while Caldwell has been pretty consistent all season.

By mike051893

‘Citation’ and ‘Chrome’ put on a show, as White (20 K’s) and Faieta (18 K’s) give the fans a night to remember

One could probably say it was just another game, but for those who watched Immaculate Heart and Cedar Grove play softball in the final game of the Black and Gold Tournament in Cedar Grove on April 21, it was hard not to marvel at the pitching efforts of both Mia Faieta and Ryleigh White.

Faieta, a junior from Cedar Grove, would strike out eight of the first nine batters she faced and finished with 18 strikeouts in 9 1/3 innings of work, while giving up four hits (three of which came in the top of the 10th), walking six and hitting a batter.

White, dubbed ‘Citation‘, is a close friend of Faieta’s, since the two play on a club team together. She struck out her 20th batter to end the game in the bottom of the 10th inning, as IHA edged Cedar Grove, 2-0.

Mia Faieta and Ryleigh White, along with coaches Phil Delgado and Diana Fasano, at a NJFight gathering last winter. (Click on photo for larger image)

White, a sophomore righty, would scatter three hits and walk three.

“I had never been a part of the international tie-breaker,” said White, referring to the rule of putting a runner on second base to start the 10th inning, and beyond, when a high school softball game is tied. “I didn’t think too much about it, especially after Mia (Recenello) made that catch for the first out. After that, I was really confident we’d win it.”

White was referring to her catcher, Recenello, who made a beautiful catch of an attempted bunt to secure a crucial first out in the 10th inning. With two Cedar Grove runners on base, White induced a fly to right for the second out, then recorded her 20th strikeout to end it. She actually got stronger as the game progressed, and struck out seven in a row late in the game.

Faieta, a junior righty, was dominant as well. Dubbed ‘California Chome‘, Faieta allowed an infield single through nine innings of work while striking out 18. Afterward, she spent time talking to White, along with a few other IHA players.

It was about competition, but also friendship, and the game kept the fans on the edge of their seats for three hours.

Faieta (right) and White were all smiles after a tremendous game. (Click on photo for larger image)

By mike051893

‘Naturally’, IHA’s Mia Recenello would have a HAND in a huge win over her old friends from Cedar Grove

In the middle of what turned out to be a marathon contest between two outstanding teams on April 21, Immaculate Heart Academy catcher Mia Recenello was in the process of catching another be-be from pitcher Ryleigh White, when suddenly Recenello went running to the sideline, in obvious pain.

The junior had been hit by a foul pitch, and the impact caught her fingers, as well as the nail, on her throwing hand. Writhing, she attempted to catch her breath, and as the pain subsided, she had to convince herself that she’d be able to not only play, but catch and throw back to White, something which seemed routine just a few minutes earlier.

Recenello flexed the hand noticeably, and even kept her hand behind her back, while catching with the natural glove hand. Throwing back to the pitcher seemed to be an issue, but for the kid dubbed ‘The Natural’, because she hit a homer last season, which hit the scoreboard, similar to the epic movie with Robert Redford, it was time to grind it out.

Recenello not only did that, but she would come to bat in the top of the 10th inning and laced a triple to drive in the game’s first run. It was just the second hit allowed by Recenello’s long-time friend, Mia Faieta, of Cedar Grove, and it set the stage for two runs, as Recenello would eventually come home on a single by Danica Yatko and, appropriately, slid into the plate, hand first.

With a 2-0 lead, IHA bore down, as Cedar Grove would start a rally. But again, it was Recenello who made a huge defensive play, diving to catch a foul ball for the crucial first out.

Recenello resides in Cedar Grove and knows all the players on the Panthers’ roster. In fact, Recenello and Faieta were each cut from their first softball team, as 10 year olds, in Cedar Grove.

Mia Faieta (left) and Mia Recenello have known each other for a while. (Click on photo for larger image)

(Read about the early days of the ‘2 Mias’.

Following the game, Recenello was met by her parents and younger sister. She then sought out Faieta, who was chatting with White about the just-completed game between IHA and Cedar Grove. (Faieta and White are teammates on a club team in the summer and fall). The two Mias hugged and another game was completed.

Mia Recenello and her family, left to right, her dad, Sam, mom, Kristen and younger sister, Talia, along with the family’s dogs, were all smiles after an exciting victory at the Black and Gold Tournament. (Click on photo for larger image)

Both young ladies had exemplified a championship character, and for Recenello, overcoming a painful injury to lead her team to a big win could go a long way in IHA’s quest to win another state championship in early June.

By mike051893

Columbia defeats Newark Academy to improve to 6-0, as Alexa Stephan (homer), Jordan Stephan, Goldman (3 RBI), John (2-hitter) and Hassler lead way; Nutley and Livingston play another nail biter and this time, the Raiders win, in 8 innings; Bloomfield defeats Dayton

Six games may not define an entire season, but Columbia’s 6-0 start has been impressive.

The Cougars’ latest win was a 13-1 triumph over Super Essex Conference Liberty Division rival Newark Academy, in Livingston, on April 20, in 5 innings. And while Columbia head coach Cliff Smith knew it was just one game, Smith was also hoping his team’s good start would coincide with next week’s seeding selections for the 41st Essex County Tournament.

“I’d like to think we could get a high seed,” said Smith. “But we can’t worry about that, as much as continuing to work hard. Right now, the kids are having fun and they were excited to play Newark Academy today. We have two games at a tournament at Gov. Livingston (on April 21) and a big conference game with Montclair (on April 23). If we keep playing well, we’ll be okay.”

Despite the score, all the runs came in the span of one inning. Newark Academy (3-3), which came in with a 3-game winning streak, took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the second on back-to-back doubles, but Columbia charged back in the top of the third, by scoring 13 times. The rally began on a leadoff homer by sophomore second baseman Alexa Stephan, as the ball sailed over the left centerfield fence to tie the game.

“She hit it well,” said Smith of Stephan, who later left the game after being hit on the elbow by a pitch. “At first, I didn’t think it was going out, but it kept traveling. I like the way our kids rally back after falling behind. This was a strange game, in that you don’t normally score the way we did in one inning. Newark Academy is a good team. We were able to capitalize with some good hitting and some walks, and next thing you knew, we had a big lead.”

Columbia coach Cliff Smith and Alexa Stephan following the Cougars win at Newark Academy on April 20. (Click on photo for larger image)

Alexa’s older sister, Jordan Stephan followed with a double and Ally Krause singled. A wild pitch moved the runners to second and third and winning pitcher Catherine John singled in a run. Paige Carlson walked to load the bases and Cara Harrington and Claire Salinardo walked to force home a pair of runs. Hudson Hassler singled in a run and Sophie Goldman had the biggest hit in the frame, a 3-run double. Carlson later singled in another run in the inning.

John scattered two hits, struck out eight and walked just one in five innings.

Alexa Stephan’s aggressive play has led to more than her share of black and blues, including her elbow, when she was hit by a pitch.

“She battles,” said Smith. “Hopefully, she’ll be okay.”

Newark Academy third baseman Sam Burggraff made a tremendous catch in the game, running toward the fence on the third base line and hauling in a pop foul right before the ball hit the fence.

On the other side of town, Livingston and Nutley played another nail biter. This time, it was Nutley which won an 8-inning game, 4-3, over the Lancers. Six days earlier, Livingston had gone into Nutley and won a 7-4 game, in extra innings.

The Raiders improved to 4-4 with the win and will play a huge game, against West Essex, on April 21, at home, starting at 1 p.m.

Bloomfield won for the third time in its last four games, defeating Dayton High, 10-0, at The Pond, on April 20. After an 0-4 start, the Bengals are now 3-5.

The Bengals got a much needed win today. (Thanks again, to Jerry Simon. Click on photo for larger image) 







By mike051893

James’ solo homer in bottom of 6th lifts West Essex past Livingston, 1-0, as Vardiman and Gorman both pitch well; Cedar Grove’s Black and Gold Tournament set for April 21

Lily James’ prowess as a hitter generally revolves around scattering the ball into the gaps for extra base hits.

But in the midst of a scoreless game, at home, against arch rival Livingston, on April 18, L.J. did something she hadn’t accomplished at West Essex, hitting an over-the-fence homer. So when she connected on a pitch with two outs in the bottom of the sixth inning, she felt the ball had a chance to clear the fence.

“When I hit it, I thought it sounded good off the bat,” said James, who will play at Stockton University this fall, reuniting with one-time West Essex teammate Sami Huetter. “But as I’m running to first, I see their left fielder going back and running out of room, and then Coach (Andrea Mondadori-Llauget) said ‘it’s gone.’ I was really excited. We needed a run. Both pitchers were throwing the ball well.”

Lily James, with her mother, Anne and dad, Albert, after her solo homer won a big game for West Essex. (Click on photo for larger image)

James’ homer accounted for the game’s only run, as West Essex defeated Livingston, 1-0, in North Caldwell, in a Super Essex Conference American Division game. The win was the second straight for the Knights, which improved to 3-4 on the season. Livingston, which had won its last two games, fell to 2-3. The win was also the seventh straight for West Essex, over Livingston, dating back to 2015.

Pitchers Julia Vardiman of West Essex and Livingston’s Jess Gorman were both outstanding.

“That was a good game to coach,” said West Essex’s assistant coach Jay Ahmed. “Both pitchers threw well, there were no walks and the defense was excellent by both teams.”

Each pitcher scattered three hits. At one point, Vardiman retired 11 straight batters before giving up a one-out single in the seventh. She then retired the final two hitters to end the game.

Gorman retired 14 straight, before James’ homer in the sixth. She struck out five batters.

As James waited for parents, Anne and Albert after the game, a West Essex player walked by and proclaimed “Lily’s a stud!”

Could be…

The annual Black and Gold Softball Tournament at Cedar Grove will be held on Saturday, April 21. There are some outstanding teams participating.

The schedule is as follows:

At Field A, which is Panther Park.

Game 1: Johnson Regional vs. Pope John, 9 a.m.

Game 2: Lenape Valley vs DePaul, 11 a.m.

Game 3: Livingston vs. Immaculate Conception, 1 p.m.

Game 4: Newark Academy vs. Cedar Grove, 3 p.m.

Game 5: Immaculate Heart Academy vs. Cedar Grove, 5 p.m.


At Field B, L.R. Parks Field

Game 1: Immaculate Conception vs. Lenape Valley, 9 a.m. 

Game 2: Pope John vs. Livingston, 11 a.m.

Game 3: DePaul vs. Johnson Regional, 1 p.m.

Game 4: Immaculate Heart Academy vs. Watchung Hills, 3 p.m. 








By mike051893

Salinardo (HR, 2B, 2 RBI), Hassler, Goldman (3 RBI), Jordan Stephan and Alexa Stephan lead resilient 4-0 Columbia to SEC crossover win; Cedar Grove wins a close one in battle of top Essex teams; Bloomfield captures second straight, as Bretz (HR, 5 RBI), Corio, Quiles and Marte star

Columbia coach Cliff Smith thought he was witnessing deja vu a week later.

The Cougars coach had seen his team drop a 6-0 lead in a game at Millburn last week, only to watch Columbia rally with six runs in the seventh inning to win it.

Now, on April 17, Columbia had opened a 7-0 lead, at Nutley, in the fifth inning, before the Raiders stormed back to score five runs in the last of that frame. And again, resiliency had its say, as Claire Salinardo blasted a homer over the centerfield fence to lead off the top of the sixth, and the Cougars went on to a 10-5 Super Essex Conference cross over victory, which improved its record to 4-0 on the season.

“Yeah, I was thinking ‘here we go again’,” said Smith after the Nutley game. “You never count a team like Nutley out. They hit the ball, they’re so well coached and play hard. This was exactly what I wanted to see from our team today. Claire’s homer came at the right time. It’s a really big win for us.”

Columbia had come into the game ranked fifth in the FMTC Top 10, while Nutley was fourth. The seeding for the 41st Essex County Tournament should be announced some time next week, and Smith is hoping his team could get a higher seed.

Hudson Hassler, a talented sophomore shortstop, has been a key to Columbia’s 4-0 start. (Photo courtesy of Cliff Smith. Click on photo for larger image)

“There’s a lot to do before that,” said Smith. “We have a game with Belleville (on April 18) then at Newark Academy (April 20), two tournament games over the weekend and Montclair next Monday, at home. But this was a good step.”

The resiliency factor was also evident in that Columbia scored four of its runs, in three different innings, after two were out and no one on base.

Columbia scored first, in the top of the third. With two outs, Sophie Goldman drew a clutch walk and scored on a double by Salinardo. In the Columbia fourth, again with two outs, Paige Carlson reached on an error and later scored on a single by Cara Harrington and a subsequent passed ball.

The Cougars appeared to put the game away in the top of the fifth, as Hudson Hassler, Columbia’s stellar leadoff batter and shortstop, doubled to lead off the frame. Hassler moved to third on a wild pitch and scored on a fielder’s choice by Goldman, who was safe at first. Salinardo drew a walk and winning pitcher Jordan Stephan singled in a run, to make it 4-0. Alexa Stephan followed with a hit to score a pair and Ally Krause hit a sacrifice fly to plate another run and give Columbia a 7-0 lead.

Nutley (2-4) rallied with five runs in the bottom of the fifth, on four hits, including a pair of doubles, and had the tying run at the plate, but Jordan Stephan struck out three in the frame and worked out of further damage.

Salinardo got one run back in the top of the sixth with her homer and Goldman hit a two-run single in the seventh, scoring Clementine Sherman and Hassler with insurance runs. Again, the two runs in the seventh came after two outs and none on base.



They are clearly the two best teams in Essex County so far in 2018, and the first of three possible games between Caldwell and Mount St. Dominic went to the Panthers, who rallied from 1-0 and 2-1 deficits to edge the Lions, 3-2, in nine innings, on April 17.

Mia Faieta pitched a complete game for Cedar Grove and also hit a solo homer to tie the game in the fifth inning. Kelly Toomey continued her outstanding play with a run-scoring double in the ninth which tied the game, 2-2, and led to Jules Cicala driving in the game-winning run later in the frame.

Fans won’t have to wait too long to see these teams play each other again. They’ll meet at Mount St. Dominic, on April 27.

In the meantime, both teams have big games coming up. Cedar Grove (7-2) has matchups with Newark Academy and Immaculate Heart Academy when its hosts the Black and Gold Tournament on April 21 while the Lions (4-4) play at Verona on April 18, then head to Ohio for the prestigious Wendy’s Invitational this weekend.



Bloomfield started slowly, losing its first four games, including three contests by a total of five runs, but the Bengals have come back strong, with two straight wins, in which it scored over 10 runs both times.

The Bengals downed long-time rival Belleville, 11-0, on April 17 and were to face a big test a day later, at Cedar Grove.

Katie Bretz slides into home against Belleville. (Bloomfield photos courtesy of Jerry Simon) 

Katie Bretz was 3-for-3 with 5 RBI and 3 runs scored, while winning pitcher Lexi Corio, Jamell Quiles and Melissa Marte had two hits each for the Bengals.

Corio spun a complete game, no-hit shutout.

Lexi Corio squares for a bunt in a win over Belleville. 


By mike051893

Coach Hill keeping it low-keyed, but Passaic Valley softball off to a good start, as Bernardo, Rodriguez, DiPasquale, Taylor Hill and Sol lead the way

Kathy Hill may not be a Bill Belichick advocate, but she certainly has the New England Patriots’ head coach mannerisms, when it comes to keeping the expectations somewhat modified.

The Hornets’ 3-1 start to the 2018 softball season clearly has Hill happy, but she also knows there’s a lot of big games ahead for her team.

Passaic Valley defeated Wayne Valley, 5-2, Wayne Hills, 12-1, and Fair Lawn, 5-0, to open the season last week, before dropping a hard-fought 5-4 game to West Milford, on April 9.

PV seniors, left to right, Monica Fontana, Sam Amico, Alyssa  Bernardo and Rachel Sol. (Click on photo for larger image)

The team had a busy week coming up, with a home game against Montclair on April 12, at 4 p.m., and then off to the Darlene Dondero Classic, on April 14, to play Clifton, in Wanaque, at 2:30 p.m. Looking ahead, the team will host Lakeland, on April 16 and Passaic, on April 18, with both games starting at 4 p.m.

This is Hill’s third season of her second tenure as the team’s head coach. When she returned in 2016, Hill had felt that the 2018 season could be the start of a good run for the program. And, so far, so good.

“We just want to stick to the plan,” said Hill. “And that’s to play the game with energy and good chemistry. I’ve seen that, so far. The kids have been really excited about the good start, and that’s nice to see. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy with what I’m seeing, but I’ll keep saying the same thing. We have to stick to the plan.”

And while she didn’t say ‘we’re on to Cincinnati’, Hill is keeping the team’s good start close to the vest.

In the season opener against Wayne Valley, the Hornets were led by Jada Rodriguez, who was 2-for-4 with a double and RBI. Sam Amico, Brianna DeLuccia, Madison Leech and Rachel Sol also had hits for PV, with Leech’s hit a triple.

Alyssa Bernardo pitched a solid game for PV, spinning a complete-game, four-hitter and striking out five. The Hornets scored three times in the bottom of the third to break a 2-2 tie.

Versus Wayne Hills, Danielle Gaita had two hits and Devyn DiPasquale drove in a pair of runs, as PV opened a 12-0 lead after three innings. Bernardo and DiPasquale both pitched for PV, in the five inning game.

A big win over Fair Lawn, on April 7, was paced by a brilliant pitching effort from Bernardo, who tossed a complete-game, two-hit shutout. DiPasquale and Sol had two hits each, with Sol driving in three runs and DiPasquale with two RBI. Freshman Taylor Hill scored a pair of runs and drew two walks.

Hill has also been pleased with the play of her four senior captains, Bernardo, Amico, Sol and Monica Fontana. The team lost the services of sophomore leftfielder Maiya Sanchez, who was injured in the season opener.

“We’re hoping to get her back this season,” said Hill of Sanchez. “She’s a good player, but, of course, we want her to be completely healthy.”

By mike051893

Essex Softball: Cedar Grove wins big games against Nutley and Chatham, as Toomey, Faieta, Fernandez, Kubu and Mandela star; Livingston rallies for 2 SEC wins; Zullo happy with her team’s progress; Columbia off to a 3-0 start with a young and talented infield; Luzzi’s speed at top of lineup gives Caldwell a new dimension; Collins and Corio lead Bloomfield to its first victory

Cedar Grove bounced back nicely from a pair of setbacks at the Anthony LaRezza Invitational on April 8, by defeating SEC rivals West Essex and Nutley, followed by an impressive victory last Saturday against Chatham.

The Panthers improved to 6-2 with those wins and showed versatility. The pitching was spectacular as Kelly Toomey spun two solid games against West Essex and Nutley, allowing a combined one run, while pitching no-hit ball versus Nutley, and Mia Faieta tossed a 1-hitter in the win over Chatham.

The Panthers’ offense, which has been impressive this season, was led by Ava Fernandez, Ava Mandela and Gianna Kubu, who singled in Fernandez with the game-winning run at Nutley on April 13.

Cedar Grove’s Kelly Toomey (left) and head coach Nicole Velardi. (Click on photo for larger image)

Fernandez had all three of her team’s hits in the win over Chatham and Kubu scored the game’s only run.

Weather permitting, the Panthers should be playing Mount St. Dominic this week, in a battle of the top two teams in Essex County, thus far. It will be the first of at least two meetings this season between the Panthers and Lions. A third matchup could occur in the 41st Essex County Tournament, which celebrates its 40th anniversary next month.



After losing its first two games to Cedar Grove and Mount St. Dominic, Livingston rallied back late last week with two exciting wins over Verona and Nutley. Head coach Jason Daily has stuck to his ‘catch the ball and hit the ball’ theory, and has stressed a emphasis on defense, long a Lancers staple to success.

Livingston has a young nucleus, to go along with solid veteran leadership in catcher Emma Cooney (the new ‘Charismatic‘) and shortstop Ashley Reuter. Pitcher Jess Gorman is a smart player, who can keep teams off balance with her pinpoint control.

Livingston coach Jason Daily addresses his team after an extra inning win at Nutley on April 14. (Click on photo for larger image)

Despite the near 80 degree temperatures at Nutley last Saturday morning, Daily wore his usual dark coaching attire, along with the always-present reflective sunglasses. He joked after the game that he probably lost a few pounds in the heat, but it was worth it since his team played well.



Her team had lost back-to-back close home games in the Super Essex Conference, but Nutley coach Luann Zullo was far from disappointed after Nutley’s 7-4 setback to Livingston, a day after falling to Cedar Grove, 3-2.

“I really like this group of players,” said Zullo. “They work hard. Do we make mistakes? Yes, but I’m also seeing a lot of improvement, too. We’re getting better and played well against two really good teams last week.”

Zullo also complimented Livingston, a team Nutley has long enjoyed a storied rivalry with.

“We have great games with Livingston. Jason always has his team prepared. I’ve coached against him for 18 years. We’ll battle for 7 tough innings, or sometimes more, then have a chance to talk afterward. He’s a great coach.”

Livingston and Nutley will play again on April 20, in Shangri La.



Columbia head coach Cliff Smith is seeing a lot of good things from a young team so far in 2018. The Cougars were off to a 3-0 start, including impressive wins against Westfield and Millburn. Versus Westfield, Columbia trailed 6-1 early, but rallied back to win, 8-7. Then, against Millburn, a day later, the Cougars opened a 6-0 lead, only to see Millburn come back to tie it, at 6. Columbia then won it, 12-6, with six runs in the top of the seventh inning.

“As a coach, seeing our team not get down after giving up a six run lead was good to see,” said Smith. “It’s one game, in a long season, but they’re all important.”

A sophomore-dominated infield gets better with each game. Hudson Hassler plays a stellar shortstop, Lucy Gagne has a rocket for an arm at third base, Alexa Stephan is a determined second baseman and Paige Carlson has tremendous range at first base.

In addition, Claire Salinardo, the team’s catcher against Westfield, threw out a base runner at second base, in the top of the seventh inning to end the game. Pitcher Jordan Stephan throws strikes. The senior is also a key leader of the team.



Nicolette Luzzi, a sophomore with good speed, is Caldwell’s new leadoff hitter. Luzzi’s wheels were a key, as the Chiefs edged Verona, 2-1, in Caldwell’s season opener on April 10. The right-handed batter hit a triple to the opposite field to lead off the bottom of the sixth, then stole home for what proved to be the game-winning run.

Taylor Stafford hit a solo homer for Caldwell in the bottom of the first and pitcher Carlie Corrigan tossed a complete game.

Caldwell will once again be in the mix to win a Super Essex Conference Liberty Division title.



After starting 0-4, including three losses by a combined 5 runs, Bloomfield got back on track on April 14, with a 12-3 win at Union City.

Bloomfield pitcher Lexi Corio is now sporting a face mask while in the circle. Photo by The Great Jerry Simon. (Click on photo for larger image)

Sophomore pitcher Lexi Corio pitched a complete game and Kristina Collins, a talented outfielder, had three hits, including a double, three RBI and two runs scored. Corio struck out six and scattered six hits.



1-Mount St. Dominic (4-3)

2-Cedar Grove (6-2)

3-Livingston (2-2)

4-Nutley (2-3)

5-Columbia (3-0)

6-Caldwell (3-1)

7-Millburn (6-2)

8-West Essex (2-4) 

9-Newark Academy (2-2) 

10-(Tie) Verona (1-4) and Montclair (3-3) 

By mike051893

Toomey spins a 2-hitter, drives in 3 runs to lead Cedar Grove past West Essex; Hail Columbia! Cougars win again and improve to 3-0, as Hassler (grand-slam), Salinardo and John excel; Conca, Kunz and Fogle guide Nutley past Bloomfield

Senior lefty Kelly Toomey had a brilliant game, as Cedar Grove defeated West Essex, 8-1, on April 11, at Panther Park.

Toomey, who earlier in the day announced she will attend the University of North Carolina-Wilmington this fall, gave up just two hits while striking out seven and walking one. At the plate, she was 2-for-3 with 3 RBI, including a 2-run double in the second inning, when Cedar Grove jumped out to 3-0 lead.

The Panthers scored two more runs in the third, due in part to some West Essex miscues and some clutch Cedar Grove batting to move base runners over. Toomey drove in her third run in the fifth inning when Cedar Grove scored three more runs.

Kelly Toomey and head coach Nicole Velardi after a Cedar Grove win on April 11. (Click on photo for larger image)

Toomey has been a consistent pitcher for the Panthers over the last four years. As a freshman in 2015, she pitched a complete game in the Group 1 championship, at Kean University, as Cedar Grove defeated Henry Hudson for its first state championship in 38 years. Her pinpoint control has long been a key to her success.

“Kelly is a tough competitor,” said Cedar Grove head coach Nicole Velardi. “She works the corners well and has tremendous movement on the ball.”

Cedar Grove improved to 4-2 while West Essex fell to 1-3. The Knights lone run came in the sixth, as Jessica Coia doubled home Lily James. Rightfielder Amanda Broemmer of West Essex made the defensive play of the game with a tremendous catch in right field, with a perfect slide to shoe string the ball. She was also able to hold a runner at third from tagging and scoring on the play.

“West Essex has given us fits over the years,” said Velardi. “They have such a good program. This was a good win for us. I think our team is doing well. We’re getting better, with each game. We’ll play a good Nutley team on Friday, then face Chatham at home, on Saturday. Next week, there are more tough games coming up.”

The win snapped a 6-game losing streak by Cedar Grove to West Essex, dating back three years. Cedar Grove last defeated the Knights, 5-4, on April 22, 2015. West Essex swept three games from the Panthers in 2016 and 2017.

Columbia improved to 3-0 on the season with a 12-6 win over Millburn, in Millburn. Head coach Cliff Smith’s team has been impressive in the early going, as well as resilient. The Cougars led 6-0 against Millburn, only to see the Millers rally back to tie it, before Columbia won it with six runs in the top of the seventh inning.

The Cougars play an inspired brand of softball and today, were led by shortstop Hudson Hassler, who had three hits, including a grand-slam homer and drove in five runs. Claire Salinardo was 4-for-5 with three runs scored and Catherine John had two hits and drove in three runs.

Nutley got back on the winning track, with a 4-2 victory over Bloomfield. The Raiders improved to 2-1 while Bloomfield, which has lost three games by a combined five runs, fell to 0-3.

Melanie Conca and Sydney Kunz paced the Nutley offense while Isabella Fogle pitched a solid game.



By mike051893