Nutley’s last trip to The Stable in Livingston in the Jess Peslak era may have resulted in a 4-0 loss, but the level of respect shared by both teams is further proof that this rivalry be the best in the Super Essex Conference’s American Division.
Peslak, who is still battling the lingering effects of a virus which has swept through her home, was dominant today, striking out 9 and walking 1 while holding the Raiders to one hit in an economical performance. She had no-hit Nutley a few weeks back, 1-0, in Nutley.
“I was happy with my control,” Peslak said. “I have a great defense behind me and I just tried to throw strikes and when they hit it, I knew my teammates would get to it. I didn’t throw as many pitches today, which was nice. We’ve had some great games with Nutley over the years. You take what they give you, because they’re always battling at the plate. There are no easy outs with that team.”
That same respect carried over to the parents of the respective starting pitchers. Peslak’s mom, Jean, made her way to Nutley sophomore pitcher Carly Anderson’s dad, Harry, after the final out was recorded.
“Carly pitched a great game, ” Jean Peslak said. “She’s a really good pitcher.” (Ed Peslak, Jess’ dad, was home with the same virus which felled his daughter earlier this week, and it had to be bad, because this guy NEVER misses a game).
Back on the field, Anderson was outstanding again, but a four run second inning did the trick for Livingston (12-3). It started with a walk, a 15-foot seeing-eye single and another single to load the bases with no outs. Anderson retired the next two hitters without allowing a run, but then All State centerfielder and leadoff batter Kyle McLaughlin, a slap hitter with power to all fields came up. McLaughlin hit a shot to left field which skidded down the line and the speedy McLaughlin was on her way to a standup grand slam homer.
“I knew it was an important at-bat,” McLaughlin said. “She (Anderson) is so tough and if I don’t get a hit there, it’s scoreless. Nutley, is an amazing team. I love playing against them, but every time we do, it’s a battle. Both games with them this year were intense, just like last year. They never quit.”
McLaughin was also impressed with Peslak’s performance.
“She’s incredible,” McLaughlin said. “What Jess does out there is special. She was throwing so well today, moving the ball in and out and then throwing that riser. We’re an entirely different team when she’s pitching.”
Nutley (10-4) got its only hit off Peslak on a one-out single by Heather Williams in the fifth. Morgan Gualtieri drew a one-out walk in the seventh and Nutley’s other base runner was Brittany Currie, who reached on an error in the third.
“These games with Livingston always seem to come down to one key play,” Nutley coach Luann Zullo said. “Carly pitched a tremendous game, but, again, with a team like Livingston, you can’t give them an inch, because they’ll make you pay. McLaughlin is something else. In our first game with them, she tripled to lead off the game and scored the only run. Today, she gets the big hit as well. And Peslak threw the ball really well today.”
While this was the final regular season game between the two, Nutley and Livingston could meet in the Essex County Tournament final.
“That would be wild,” Zullo said with a laugh. “I’ll bet she (Peslak) would love to play us in the county tournament again. That’s probably the one game she’d love to see.”
Zullo was referring to the last time the teams met in the tournament, back in 2011, when the Raiders rallied for two runs in the seventh off Peslak to win, 5-4, despite 14 strikeouts by the-then sophomore righty, in the ECT semifinals.
Livingston coach Jason Daily was pleased with his team’s effort today.
“We played good defense and Jess let the game come to her,” Daily said. “She threw strikes and our defense made plays. Carly was outstanding for Nutley, and we’ll be seeing her a lot over the next few years. She’s tremendous.”
A third meeting between the two? Who knows? If it happens, see you on May 18 at Ivy Hill Park.