Not many surprises with the Final Four teams for the 36th Essex County Tournament. Top seeded Livingston, No. 2 seed Mount St. Dominic and No. 4 Bloomfield all advanced. Sixth seeded Cedar Grove edged No. 3 Nutley to also earn a spot in the semis.
The semifinal round moves to Ivy Hill Park, where the first game on May 17 features Cedar Grove against Mount St. Dominic. The second game will put Bloomfield against Livingston. Game times should be 6 and 8 p.m.
All four semifinalists have its share of history in the ECT, especially against one another. Mount St. Dominic, Cedar Grove and Livingston have each won four county titles, which is tied for second most behind Caldwell’s 10. Bloomfield has three crowns to its credit.
Mount St. Dominic: The Lions last won the title in 2009, when it repeated as champion. In 2008 and 2009, MSD defeated Cedar Grove in the title game. Mount St. Dominic has also made an appearance in five of the last six county finals.
Its 10 appearances in the final are tied for third most in ECT history. Don’t be surprised to see coach Lorenzo Sozio use pitchers Sam Platt and Olivia Gemma in Friday’s semifinal.
Cedar Grove: It last won the championship in 2010, ending a 26-year drought between crowns. The Panthers pitcher in the ’10 title game was freshman Gabby Castelli. Now a senior, Castelli pitched well against Nutley in last Friday’s quarterfinal and she would like nothing more than to begin and end her high school career as a member of a county championship team.
In addition to the ’08 and ’09 finals, Cedar Grove and Mount St. Dominic met in the 2011 ECT semifinal, with the Mount winning that one, too. In a battle of big cats, the Lions have had the upper hand on the Panthers in tourney play.
Livingston: The defending champions will be a tough out if starting pitcher Jess Peslak is healthy. The senior righty hurt her back in the quarterfinals against Caldwell last Friday. At last report, she seemed to be feeling better and was questionable for Livingston’s Super Essex Conference matchup with Mount St. Dominic on May 13. The winner of that game wins the SEC American Division title outright.
Livingston and Bloomfield have met twice in the county finals, with the Lancers winning in 1992 and 2006. More recently, Livingston defeated Bloomfield last month, at home, 10-3.
Livingston has appeared in eight title games. Get your popcorn ready !
Bloomfield: The Bengals can hit. Just ask Livingston coach Jason Daily, who said after his team’s win earlier this season that he didn’t want to see Bloomfield again. Well, he will on Friday.
No one is swinging a bat as hot as Victoria Ross, and the junior catcher has also excelled on defense. Senior shortstop Jenna Orlando and senior outfielder Damariz Mercado will both play on the collegiate level next season at Lafayette and Rowan respectively.
The Bengals should see Peslak this time after Livingston’s pitcher missed last month’s game with an illness.
Bloomfield has been to 10 finals, which ties Mount St. Dominic for third most in ECT history. It last won the championship in 2000. The Bengals will be making its first appearance in the semifinals in five years and last played in a title game back in ’06, where it to Livingston.
Newark Academy’s run in the county tournament ended in the quarterfinals with a lopsided setback to Mount St. Dominic.
“I had said the kids were tired and it caught up to us today,” said Newark Academy coach Sergio Rodriguez. “We were spent. I liked the way we hit the ball, but we couldn’t get our pitching going. It happens. We’ll get ready now for the states and prep tournament.”
Newark Academy had won 14 straight before the loss to MSD.
Here are the updated FMTC rankings.
2-Mount St. Dominic (19-4)
5-Cedar Grove (11-8)
6-Newark Academy (16-5)
8-West Essex (10-11)
9-Glen Ridge (12-9)
10-Montclair Kimberley (11-8)