It’s one of the most enjoyable weekends in the calendar year, at least for me, when the Essex County softball tournament heads into the semifinal round.
Once again, Ivy Hill Park on the campus of Seton Hall University will be the host for tonight’s semifinal games and tomorrow’s final. The May 17 semis feature sixth seeded Cedar Grove taking on second seeded Mount St. Dominic Academy in a 6 p.m. contest followed by the 8 p.m. game between No. 4 Bloomfield and top seeded Livingston.
The winners of tonight’s games will return to Ivy Hill on May 18 for a 7 p.m. championship game.
This is the 36th ECT, so let’s look back at some facts and figures over the past 35 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 the most by any school.
3-Mount St. Dominic, Livingston and Cedar Grove are all tied for second in overall championships with four each. There’s a good possibility that after this weekend, one of those schools could be in second place, by itself with five titles.
4-Bloomfield is in its first ECT semi since 2008. It last won the championship in 2000 and appeared in a county final last in 2006. Bloomfield is tied with Mount St. Dominic for third in finals appearances with 10 and has won three championships overall.
5-Mount St. Dominic is the last team to repeat as champions, winning in 2008 and ’09, both at the expense of Cedar Grove, whom the Lions will face tonight in the semifinals.
6-Caldwell is the only team to three-peat as champions. (1986-88).
7-Livingston will look to repeat as a ECT champ for the first time in school history.
8-Cedar Grove was the first team to repeat as champion, doing so in 1979 and ’80. 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 this spring.
9-Cedar Grove (1979-80), Belleville (1982-83), Caldwell (1990-91 and again 2004-05), West Essex (1997-98), Bloomfield (1999-2000), Montclair Kimberley Academy (2001-2002) and Mount St. Dominic (2008-09) are the schools which have won back-to-back titles. Livingston will attempt to join that list in 2013.
10-Caldwell coach Mike Teshkoyan has the most championships with eight. Mount St. Dominic’s Lorenzo Sozio has won four, which is good for second overall.
11-Belleville-Caldwell (1986-88), Caldwell-Livingston (1990-91), Mount St. Dominic-Bloomfield (1995-96) and Mount St. Dominic-Cedar Grove (2008-09) 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 championship team.
13-Nutley waited 18 years between titles. (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 1992, when Livingston and Bloomfield combined for 14 runs while Cedar Grove and Belleville collected 13 runs in the ’84 title game.
16-Only three of the first 35 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, the best mark for a coach with at least two titles. She won a pair of crowns at West Essex (1997-98) before leading her alma mater, Nutley, to the 2011 championship. Ironically, her first championship in ’97 came against Nutley.
Zullo is also the only coach in ECT history to win championships at two different schools.
19-Livingston coach Jason Daily is 2-0 in county finals and will be leading Livingston to the county semis for a fifth straight season.
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 2001 state sectionals, with Belleville winning, en route to a sectional championship. The following year, Livingston went to Belleville in a sectional and won.
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-Every school which has accounted for a county championship has at least two titles to its credit and that won’t change this year. No school has appeared in one final and prevailed.
24-From 1993-1997, the final score of the championship game was 2-1.
25-The last three county finals and five of the last six have been by shutout. In the one game during that stretch, Cedar Grove scored once in a 3-1 setback to Mount St. Dominic. Bloomfield was the last runnerup to score more than a run in the final, losing 5-3 to Livingston in 2006.