Over the past four seasons, Livingston has fared pretty well while playing in Nutley. The Lancers are 4-0 there in regular season play since 2010.
However, there was a fifth game for the Green and Black last June which didn’t turn out as favorably as Livingston’s 28-game winning streak ended in Nutley with a 4-0 setback to Hunterdon Central in the NJSIAA, Group 4 semifinals.
Just about a year later, Livingston is back in the Group 4 semi, which once again is being hosted by Nutley. This time, the Lancers’ opponent will be Watchung Hills on June 4. The winner of that game moves on to Toms River four days later to face the Washington-Hillsborough victor for the group championship.
Livingston (25-3), which has won 19 straight, put itself in position for another trip to Nutley by defeating Morris Knolls, 11-3, in the North Jersey, Section 1, Group 4 title last Friday. After the game, the comparisons between the ’12 Lancers and this year’s version quickly became conversation pieces among the fans.
Which team is better?
Many feel this year’s version is clearly more battle tested, having gone through last year’s 29-1 campaign, which produced a Super Essex Conference, Essex County Tournament and state sectional championship.
This year’s team has matched those crowns and seem more relaxed than a year ago. This is a faster Livingston team that also has a more potent offensive lineup than in 2012.
Defensively, this year’s team is better. In the circle, the Jess Peslak of 2013 might be a more complete thrower, mainly because she hasn’t been as healthy as she was in 2012. But because of that, she might be more tenacious this year, because when opponents think they’ve found a chink in the armor, she’s responded in a big way.
Peslak’s mental toughness has carried over to the team. And players like shortstop Sammi Rothenberger, centerfielder Kylie McLaughlin and first baseman ‘Princess’ Jazzy Pignatello are more vocal leaders.
Then, there’s senior second baseman Rachel Wasilak, who may be Livingston’s most complete player in 2013. She’s that good. (And, just as quiet). And the second most underrated player on the team is probably sophomore catcher Marina Lombardi. All she does is excel defensively, has a rocket for an arm and is tremendous at the plate. Add in Alexa Altcheck’s speed and the Lancers seem to be pretty complete.
So, like I always say, get your popcorn ready.
Mount St. Dominic will seek a North, Non-Public A title on Tuesday night when it faces the state’s best team in Immaculate Heart Academy at Ivy Hill Park, beginning at 6 p.m.
Honestly, it’s hard to handicap this one. IHA is loaded, plain and simple. It has met every challenge en route to a marvelous season, including a third straight Bergen County Tournament title on June 1, and that’s even more impressive considering it ran through last season undefeated en route to the state’s number 1 ranking.
Nothing seems to fluster this team. Its coach, Anthony Larezza, pushes the right buttons. He gets mad when necessary, encourages his players when they need that and is seemingly two steps ahead in his strategic process.
So, where does that leave the Lions of MSDA? Well, if you know the Lions and their intense coach, Lorenzo Sozio, anything can happen.
Mount St. Dominic (25-6) has one of those teams where any player in the lineup can hurt you. I often kid about teams having ‘studs’. The Mount has a bunch of colts who are real close to being studs, and a few of them have already shown signs of being able to take a game over in pressure situations. And come Tuesday, the pressure will certainly be in the air.
Sam Platt bats leadoff and has one of the best hitting eyes on the team. Katie Johnson can hit for power; Gabby Lombardi is a smooth fielding shortstop who has come around offensively, as well; Ashley Kowalski has power from the left handed side and runs like a deer; junior catcher Alexis Havrilla has been very efficient on defense; Olivia Gemma established herself as the real deal in the Essex County Tournament; Bria Bartsch is a very good outfielder and don’t be surprised if Ally Dabroski comes up with a big play to win a crucial game.
Pitching-wise, Platt and Gemma can both throw it with velocity and movement. They seem to compliment each other quite well and Sozio won’t hesitate to use either, and then possibly re-enter one or the other, to finish a game.
As for Newark Academy (22-7), the Minutemen have already set a school record for wins in a season. Now, coach Serg Rodriguez is a game away from his first trip to Toms River for the Non-Public B title.
Standing in Newark Academy’s way is Lodi Immaculate, a hard-hitting, young team, with good pitching and flashy defense. The teams will meet on June 4 in a 4 p.m. start at Ivy Hill Park.
The Minutemen will counter with Laura Catena, Becca Butler, Courtney Luing, Lisa Swenson and Gabby Giachin.
Newark Academy can hit with the best of them and if the pitching stays as consistent as its been for most of the season, Newark Academy has more than a legit shot against a state-ranked team in Lodi Immaculate.
Special thanks to Bob Leu, who put together a wonderful party for the Livingston parents to celebrate their daughters’ second straight sectional title. It was an enjoyable evening with parents and friends who are excited for Livingston’s success and, perhaps, a trip to Toms River on Saturday.
Here is the updated FMTC Top 10.
2-Mount St. Dominic (25-6)
4-Newark Academy (22-7)
5-Cedar Grove (15-10)
8-West Essex (12-15)
10-Montclair Kimberley (12-12)