In the history of Essex County softball, there’s no question that one school stands on the loftiest perch when it comes to success.
Caldwell High School’s prowess in the Essex County Tournament (ECT) is unparalleled.
It has won 10 ECT crowns. No other school has won more than five.
Caldwell won the first ECT title in 1978 and is 10-1 in championship games.
It is the only school which has won at least one championship in each decade since the ECT’s inception.
Current head coach Mike Teshkoyan has won the most ECT titles, with eight. No other coach has more than four.
Caldwell is the only team to have won three straight titles (1986-1988).
In addition to the only three-peat in ECT history, it is also the only program to repeat as champions on two different occasions (1990-1991) and (2004-2005).
In addition to the county accolades, Caldwell has won more than its share of conference and state sectional titles, as well as being an overall state champ.
Another words, the Chiefs have been really good.
And when the team practices, there’s the famous Circle of Life, which not only defines team chemistry and bonding, but also establishes respect for one another and the opponent.
As the 2013 NJSIAA tournament gets underway, the current group is beginning to make a serious run toward its second sectional title over the past three years. And this, after a 3-9 start and the loss of its starting pitcher earlier this season.
First and foremost, sophomore pitcher Cayla Lombardi is showing improvement after being hit in the head with a line drive during a game in April against Roxbury. Lombardi will miss the remainder of the season, but according to Teshkoyan, she’s raring to come back in 2014.
“She’s getting there, but it takes time,” Teshkoyan said. “It was one of the toughest injuries I’ve ever seen in a game. The ball hit her pretty flush. Obviously, it was tough on our kids, too, but Cayla has been around practice and the games and it’s good to have her here.”
Danielle Pesante, a junior, has done a tremendous job in the circle for Caldwell. She throws a lot of off-speed stuff and keeps teams off balance.
Following a victory over Leonia in the first round of the NJSIAA, North Jersey, Section 2, Group 2 tournament on May 21, the Chiefs had won 11 of its last 13 to improve to 14-11. One of its two setbacks came to powerful Livingston in the quarterfinal round of the ECT, but even in that game, Caldwell had its chances before losing a 5-2 decision. It trailed 3-2 in the sixth and had an opportunity to tie it before the Lancers scored two key runs in the last of that inning.
“I thought we gave Livingston a good game, and they’re obviously a tremendous team,” Teshkoyan said. “To be honest, this is the most fun I’ve ever had coaching a team. These kids are wonderful, and that’s not to say other teams weren’t, because, believe me, I’m very proud to have coached all the years that I have and I hope to for a while longer.”
Teshkoyan is Essex County’s all time wins leader in softball, with 587, all at Caldwell. (In his 28th season, Teshkoyan’s overall record is 587-146). He is also the girls soccer coach at CHS, where success has certainly found its way there with 318 victories. He should surpass 600 wins on the softball diamond in 2014 and could, in a couple of years, reach 1,000 wins, combined, between the two varsity sports.
He’s a Caldwell guy in every respect, having attended and graduated CHS.
On the field, the Chiefs have received a solid effort from a core base of players which are predominately sophomores and seniors.
Gabby Roselle is a solid second baseman, Gianna Genello is a dynamic shortstop, Gina Veneziano is a stud third baseman while Rachel Curtiss and Carleigh Trivino are excellent outfielders.
“Genello is just a sophomore, but she’s closing in on 100 career hits,” Teshkoyan said of the slap hitter who creates havoc at the plate and the basepaths. “And kids like Gabby, Gina, Rachel and Carleigh are tremendous leaders and hard workers.”
Among the seniors, Trivino will play soccer at Stockton this fall, Roselle aspires to attend the United States Naval Academy and has other top schools in her sights, as well, as she hopes to be a Naval officer one day and Curtiss plans to attend Salve Regina University in Florida.
For Mike Teshkoyan, the years have gone by quickly. He doesn’t see a big difference between the athlete of today and the girls he coached three decades ago.
“Kids are kids,” he said. “There’s more social media today, but the bottom line is, you want the kids to learn how to compete and play hard. You want them to respect one another. It’s what our Circle is all about.
“If someone is a good teammate and a good person, that means a lot. I’m glad these kids have had the chance to experience winning a conference title (the Chiefs won the Super Essex Conference’s Liberty Division in 2012) and a state sectional (in 2011). We’re hoping we can make another run to a sectional title this year.
“We award a shovel to the kids, which is passed around. It’s for the player who has dug the hardest, or the deepest. It works for us, and I’m proud to be a part of watching these kids grow up.”