All-Essex Softball: Livingston’s Wasilak is Player of the Year; Peslak is Pitcher of the Year; MSD’s Sozio is our Coach of the Year; Caldwell’s Roselle prepares for Naval career and All-Essex Players for 2013

PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Rachel Wasilak of Livingston was her usual understated self in 2013. She makes the difficult plays at second base appear routine. She’s as disciplined as they come at the plate, hitting with pop, but most importantly, in the clutch. 

rachelRachel Wasilak at the plate in a game earlier this season. (Courtesy of Jason Daily)

Most of all, Wasilak is a winner, and her game was a prime reason why Livingston captured its second straight Super Essex Conference, Essex County Tournament and state sectional championships this spring.

Headed for William Paterson University, where she’ll continue playing softball this fall, Wasilak’s relative silence when it comes to discussing her softball prowess should never be confused with indifference.

“Rachel is such a smart player,” Livingston coach Jason Daily said. “She’s almost like a soldier in the field. She’s so disciplined and makes the hard plays look easy because she’s always in the right position on the field. Her softball IQ is tremendous. She just understands the game. It’s hard to explain.”

rwRachel Wasilak was an outstanding defensive player and clutch hitter. (Courtesy of Wasilak family)

Wasilak hit .344 with seven doubles, seven triples and 14 RBI. Batting mostly second in the lineup, she was sometimes under the radar, but her performance in the sectional championship game against Morris Knolls, when she collected three hits.

Her defensive game is off the charts. Just ask opposing coaches.

“That kid is the real deal,” said Immaculate Heart Academy coach Anthony Larezza. “I don’t think people realize how good she is, but she makes every play.”

Caldwell College coach Dean Johnson agrees.

“She can play, plain and simple,” Johnson said. “She fields like a vacuum cleaner and hits in the cluch. She’ll be  a very good college player.”

Wasilak’s love for the game should continue in earnest at William Paterson, where she’ll play in the very competitive NJAC.

“This game is a big part of my life,” Wasilak said. “Watching my team get better every year was exciting. I’m looking forward to William Paterson. I didn’t want to go too far away, so this is a good move for me.”

PITCHER OF THE YEAR: Jess Peslak. What can you say about one of the most dominant pitchers in Essex County softball history? The strikeouts? Sure. The grittiness? Of course. The toughness? Not even a question.

In her junior year, Peslak was a strikeout machine, leading Livingston to a 29-1 record. This season, despite numerous physical ailments, she was up to the challenge once more, guiding the Lancers to a second consecutive conference, county and sectional championship.

jess and marinaJess Peslak, seen here with batterymate Marina Lombardi. (Courtesy of Lombardi family)

She’s not called Secretariat for nothing.

Sure, there were the strikeouts, including 15 Ks against Cedar Grove and 17 versus Belleville. She averaged well over a strikeout per inning and nearly 10 a game while pitching to a 23-4 record and 1.13 ERA.

But there was much more to her game in 2013 than meets the eye.

There was her effort in the Essex County Tournament championship game, when she gave up three runs in the top of the first inning, then held Mount St. Dominic to a run for the rest of the game as the Lancers rallied to win, 5-4, in what was clearly the county’s game of the year.

Her bat was also key, as she drove in the game-winning run in the bottom of the fifth in the county final. And when teams seemed to think they had a chance for a big inning against her, Peslak shut the door, either with a big strikeout (including the last out of the county final) or relying on her defense to make plays.

There was never a complaint about a hip flexor, back spasms and hamstring ailments all season.

“That kid was in pain more often than not,” said West Essex coach Andrea Mondadori. “She gutted that season out. She’s as good as they get.”

An outstanding student and 2013 recepient of the Men of Essex’s highest honor, the aspiring lawyer will attend Hofstra University this fall, where she’ll also continue playing softball.

pesm 2Jess Peslak with her parents, Jean and Ed, at the Men of Essex dinner, held on May 15, 2013.

Get your popcorn ready, Hofstra fans.

stock-photo-4276574-bag-of-popcorn

And thanks for the memories, Jess.

TEAM OF THE YEAR: Livingston’s 25-4 campaign featured a second straight SEC, Essex County Tournament and state sectional championship. The county title was Livingston’s fifth overall and second straight.

livThe 2013 Lancers. (Courtesy of Lombardi family)

COACH OF THE YEAR: The general consensus is a private school can just go out and get whatever player it wants, which is not true.

And with that said, a coach of a private school can somewhat be overlooked, but in this case, the job turned in by Mount St. Dominic’s Lorenzo Sozio more than makes him worthy of this accolade.

Sozio guided MSDA to a 25-7 record. It lost in the county final and Non-Public North A final to two of the state’s best teams in Livingston and Immaculate Heart Academy, both by one run. No program in Essex played as tough an overall schedule as the Mount.

SozioFam_072612_BL_tif_Mount St. Dominic coach Lorenzo Sozio and his family.

The Lions were outstanding in the SEC, losing just two games, both against Livingston. And most of the team will be back in 2014, giving hope that MSDA will be a serious contender for a fourth straight ECT finals appearance and perhaps its first championship since 2009.

The hard-working Sozio, who has 426 wins at the Mount and four county titles in 18 seasons, also serves as MSDA’s athletic director and discipline coordinator. He’s held that job for nearly 14 years.

And getting outstanding players to attend a private school isn’t easy. Like anything worthwhile, it takes work and diligence. And the rigors of a private school, with the academic workload, is well documented.

The jobs turned in by Nutley coach Luann Zullo, Sergio Rodriguez of Newark Academy and Livingston’s Jason Daily should also be noted. Zullo took a team with four freshmen in the starting lineup and guided the Raiders to a 22- win season.

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Luann Zullo of Nutley

Rodriguez led Newark Academy to its best season in school history as the Minutemen finished 22-8.

naNewark Academy’s Sergio Rodriguez 

And while expected to win, it’s never easy when the opposition circles your team as its biggest game. With that said, Daily led Livingston to 25 wins this spring. Over the past two seasons, the Lancers were 27-1 in league play and 54-5 overall, with only one loss coming to an Essex County opponent during that run.

jasonLivingston’s Jason Daily (right) celebrating a sectional championship in 2013.

STUD OF THE YEAR: Kylie McLaughlin of Livingston was the most dynamic player in Essex County, both at the plate, on the basepaths and in the field, in 2013.

The ultimate compliment by an opposing coach is when that player is dubbed ‘A Stud’ and McLaughlin gets that accolade this year. She hit .468 with 44 hits, 27 stolen bases, six homers and 24 RBI. And bear in mind, those numbers were by a natural right-handed hitter who ‘slapped’ from the left side.

km 4Kylie McLaughlin was outstanding once again in 2013.

McLaughlin’s speed on the basepaths was incredible, so much so that parents from opposing teams couldn’t believe how fast she was. One joked, in a game against Bloomfield, that McLaughlin was already at second base when the ball she hit smacked against the wall. By the time the ball was fielded, she was rounding third for a rare inside-the-park homer at Ivy Hill Park.

She hit two laser shots for homers at Livingston’s fence-less field in a game against Mount St. Dominic and also put one over the fence in the Lancers’ Group 4 semifinal versus Watchung Hills at Nutley.

And, guess what? She’s back next season for her senior campaign.

Seattle Slew !

sea slew

AT-BAT OF THE YEAR: Kim Shaw vs. Jess Peslak. In a game at Livingston in late April, West Essex sophomore catcher Kim Shaw fouled off nine pitches on a 3-2 count against Livingston’s hard-throwing Jess Peslak before the 10th pitch was called a strike. The call may have been a little questionable (the pitch appeared high), but it shouldn’t take away from a classic competition.

GAME OF THE YEAR: MSDA vs. Livingston, Essex County final: Mount St. Dominic had taken its first lead in six games (spanning two seasons) against Livingston pitcher Jess Peslak when the Lions gained a 3-0 advantage in the top of the first at Ivy Hill Park. But Livingston would rally back with a pair of runs in the bottom of the first and Peslak would settle down, allowing just one run for the remainder of the game.

Mount St. Dominic pitchers Sam Platt and Olivia Gemma both pitched well for the Lions, which held a 4-2 lead heading into the bottom of the fifth. There, Livingston scored three times, capped off by a run-scoring hit by Peslak. Livingston would hold off Mount threats in the sixth and seventh innings to win a classic, 5-4.

plattSam Platt of Mount St. Dominic

Gemma was marvelous in this game,  especially at the plate, where she had two hits.

Livingston became the first team to repeat as county champions since the Mount did it back in ’08 and ’09.

EPIC HOMERS: Mount St. Dominic’s Olivia Gemma blasted a three-run homer over the right centerfield fence against Cedar Grove in the bottom of the sixth and the Lions held on to win in an ECT semifinal, 4-3. That same night, Sammi Rothenberger drilled a homer that went through the trees in left field for Livingston as the Lancers defeated Bloomfield in the other semifinal.

CEDAR GROVE’S CASTELLI WAS A GAMER: Gabrielle Castelli of Cedar Grove closed out her high school career by leading the Panthers to the Essex County semifinals, as well as the sectional semis. Castelli won over 70 games in a four-year career and guided Cedar Grove to the 2010 county championship, as well as the 2011 and ’12 sectional crowns.

She probably deserved a better fate in the county tournament this year as she pitched tremendously against the Mount, but lost a close game, in part, because of errors in the field.

castelli 2Good luck to Gabrielle Castelli as she begins her college career.

Castelli will attend William Paterson University in the fall, where she’ll continue playing softball.

NUTLEY’S OUTSTANDING BATTERY: Victoria Malanga of Nutley put together a fabulous high school career. In 2013, the senior catcher hit .303 and was outstanding behind the plate. Her batterymate, sophomore pitcher Carly Anderson, had a tremendous season. She was 21-7 with a 1.06 ERA while recording 222 strikeouts. As a leadoff hitter, she hit .326 with 29 runs scored and 21 walks.

ca 5

vicCarly Anderson of Nutley (top) had a tremendous sophomore season while senior catcher Victoria Malanga was one of the best to ever wear the gear at Nutley.

ENSIGN ROSELLE?: Caldwell second baseman Gabby Roselle will attend Old Dominion University this fall where she will be a part of that school’s Naval ROTC program.

gabby r 2Gabby Roselle was an excellent second baseman for Caldwell.

Roselle has a long affinity toward the United States Navy and admits her love for the Military came in part to a sad Tuesday in Sept. 2001, when as a first grader, she recalled the day we now know as 9-11.

By the time she was 11 years old, Roselle joined the Naval Sea Cadet Corps, whose mission is, ‘through organization and cooperation with the Department of the Navy, to encourage and aid American youth to develop, train them in seagoing skills, and to teach them patriotism, courage, self-reliance and kindred virtues.”

She has excelled with the Sea Cadets, rising to the rank of Chief Petty Officer, the highest level a cadet can attain.

gabby rGabby Roselle (far left) is looking forward to attending Old Dominion University, where she will be in the Naval ROTC program. (Photos courtesy of G. Roselle)

Roselle hopes to major in Engineering and would like to focus her Naval career in Surface Warfare. She’s also considering a career as a Naval pilot after graduating from Old Dominion as a commissioned officer four years from now.

COUGAR UPRISING?  Montclair Kimberley showed a good deal of improvement in 2013. The young team, coached by Jess Sarfati, finished at .500 and were a factor in the SEC, Liberty Division. The Cougars last won a Non-Public B championship in 2009 and heading into 2014, there’s no reason why they can’t be a factor once again.

Sarfati just completed her third full season as the team’s head coach, which at MKA is saying something. With some much needed coaching stability and a core of young players, MKA could be a team to watch next spring.

mka 2The MKA Cougars hope to be a factor in the conference, county and state section in 2014.

Final FMTC Top 10:

1-Livingston (25-4)

2-Mount St. Dominic (25-7)

3-Nutley (22-7)

4-Newark Academy (22-8)

5-Cedar Grove (15-10)

6-Bloomfield (19-7)

7-Caldwell (14-12)

8-West Essex (12-15)

9-Montclair (7-17)

10-Montclair Kimberley (12-12)

FMTC All-Essex:

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bloom 3

km 4castelli

jp 2

swen

ca 2

Among the first team, All FMTC players are (top to bottom), Victoria Malanga, Jenna Orlando, Kylie McLaughlin, Gabrielle Castelli, Jess Peslak, Lisa Swenson and Carly Anderson. (See complete list below)

FIRST TEAM

Rachel Wasilak, Livingston

Jess Peslak, Livingston

Sammi Rothenberger, Livingston

Kylie McLaughlin, Livingston

Gabrielle Castelli, Cedar Grove

Olivia Gemma, Mount St. Dominic

Sam Platt, Mount St. Dominic

Alexa Altcheck, Livingston

Victoria Ross, Bloomfield

Jenna Orlando, Bloomfield

Ashley Kowalski, Mount St. Dominic

Victoria Malanga, Nutley

Carly Anderson, Nutley

Lauren Catena, Newark Academy

Lisa Swenson, Newark Academy

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Among the second team, All Essex players are (top to bottom) Katie Johnson, Jazzy Pignatello, Damariz Mercado, Heather Williams and Gabby Roselle. See complete list below)


SECOND TEAM

Deja Davis, Montclair

Ashley Kowalski, Mount St. Dominic

Heather Williams, Nutley

Candice Mitola, Cedar Grove

Jazzy Pignatello, Livingston

Marina Lombardi, Livingston

Gianna Genello, Caldwell

Carleigh Trivino, Caldwell

Kaitlyn Johnson, Mount St. Dominic

Gabby Roselle, Caldwell

Damariz Mercado, Bloomfield

Becca Butler, Newark Academy

Gabby Giachin, Newark Academy

Tara Kelly, Glen Ridge

Jenny Shaw, West Essex

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Among the third team, All-Essex players are (top to bottom) Gabby Lombardi, Tina Spithogiannis, Stephanie Ziemer and Phoebe Labat. (See complete list below)



THIRD TEAM

Greer Manton, West Orange

Debbie Mazzeo, Bloomfield

Gabby Lombardi, Mount St. Dominic

Monica Onorata, West Essex

Sofia Cusenza, Montclair

Caroline Chivily, Verona

Courtney Luing, Newark Academy

Frankie Ann Fontana, Belleville

Izzy Mendez, Montclair Kimberley

Sophie Silberman, Montclair Kimberley

Phoebe Labat, Columbia

Laura Hart, Verona

Christina Spithogiannis, Bloomfield

Vicky Finlay, Glen Ridge

Stephanie Ziemer, Nutley

ALL-SEC AMERICAN DIVISION, AS VOTED BY THE COACHES

FIRST TEAM

Jessica Peslak 

P

Livingston    

Deja Davis

IF

Montclair       

Sammi Rothenberger

IF

Livingston  

Rachel Wasilak

IF

Livingston 

Olivia Gemma

IF

MSD     

Ashley Kowalski

OF

MSD  

Kylie McLaughlin

OF

Livingston

Alexa Altcheck

OF

Livingston    

Victoria Malanga

C

Nutley

Samantha Platt

Op

MSD  

Carly Anderson

Op

Nutley 

Gabrielle Castelli

Op

Cedar Grove

 

 

SECOND TEAM:

Name

Pos           

School            

Jennifer Shaw

P

West Essex

Heather Williams

IF

Nutley

Candice Mitola

IF

Cedar Grove

Jazmine Pignatello

IF

Livingston

Gianna Genello

IF

Caldwell

Carleigh Trivino

OF

Caldwell

Jahnaya Howard

OF

West Orange

Bria Bartsch

OF

MSD

Marina Lombardi

C

Livingston

Gabby Roselle

Op

Caldwell

Gabriella Badurek

Op

West Orange

Gabrielle Lombardi

Op

MSD

 

HONORABLE MENTION:

Name

School

Ana Chambers

Livingston

Kaitlyn Johnson

MSD

Niki Maffettone

Cedar Grove

Monica Onorata

West Essex

Brittany Currie

Nutley

Sofia Cusenza

Montclair

Greer Manton

West Orange

Rachel Curtiss

Caldwell

 

 ALL-SEC LIBERTY DIVISION, AS VOTED BY THE COACHES

FIRST TEAM:

Name

Pos

School

Debbie Mazzeo

P

Bloomfield

Victoria Ross

C

Bloomfield

Jenna Orlando

IF

Bloomfield

Lauren Catena

IF

Newark Academy

Lisa Swenson

IF

Newark Academy

Stephanie Mancuso

IF

Bloomfield

Damariz Mercado

OF

Bloomfield

Jenna Dembner

OF

Millburn

Courtney Lving

OF

Newark Academy

Tara Kelly

OP

Glen Ridge

Becca Butler

OP

Newark Academy

Caroline Chivily

OP

Verona

 

 

SECOND TEAM:

Name

Pos

School

Gabby Giachin

P

Newark Academy

Frankie Ann Fontana

C

Belleville

Sophie Silberman

IF

MKA

Izzy Mendez

IF

MKA

Phoebe Labat

IF

Columbia

Brianna LaFiura

IF

Bloomfield

Carly McMahon

OF

Newark Academy

Christina Spithogiannis

OF

Bloomfield

Vicky Finlay

OF

Glen Ridge

Rebecca Mandelbaum

OP

Newark Academy

Laura Hart

OP

Verona

Samantha Corio

OP

Bloomfield

 

HONORABLE MENTION:

Name (First Last)

School

Stephanie Komorowski

Glen Ridge

Emily Tross

Newark Academy

Anna Mandel

Millburn

Nadia Uberoi

MKA

Noelle Agosta

Bellevile

Taryn Williams

Columbia

Olivia Feigler

Verona

 

ALL-SEC COLONIAL DIVISION, AS VOTED BY THE COACHES

FIRST TEAM:

Name (First Last)

Pos

School

    Jerypher Cruz

P

Bloomfield Tech

Michelle Mayorca

C

Arts

Samantha Sanchez

IF

Science

Jenna Correia

IF

East Side

Ayannah Lawrence

IF

St. Vincents

Karina Ortega

IF

Bloomfield Tech

Keturah Mitchell

OF

Arts

Shley Hossic

OF

East Orange

Krizia Morell

OF

Bloomfield Tech

Shannon Thomas

Op

Arts

Jenifer Elizondo

Op

Bloomfield Tech

Amber Hunter

Op

Arts


SECOND TEAM:

Name (First Last)

Pos

School

    Shea Hollins

P

East Orange

Nyasia Sanchez

C

Science

Alyssa Morales

IF

East Side

Marielis Alicea

IF

Bloomfield Tech

Katarina Najdeic

IF

St. Vincents

Leah Rowan

IF

St. Vincents

Melissa Budhu

OF

Bloomfield Tech

Jada Owens

OF

Barringer

S’Miyyah Boss

OF

East Orange

Gaby Rosario

Op

Arts

Janay Plaza

Op

Bloomfield Tech

Rachel Neilan

Op

Science

 

 

HONORABLE MENTION:

Name (First Last)

School

Niagia Belton

East Orange

Tatiana Gonsalez

Arts

Kat Garcia

Bloomfield Tech

Stacy Arce

Science Park

Allyson Pereira

St. Vincent

Yesenia Parada

East Side

Selena Santiago

Barringer

 

ALL-SEC INDEPENDENCE DIVISION, AS VOTED BY THE COACHES

FIRST TEAM:

Name

Pos

School

Dericka Rieley

P

Irvington

Chiquela Dennis

C

Irvington

Crystal Garcia

IF

Technology

Simone Moore

IF

Orange

Jasmine Harrell

IF

University

Lashun Shaw

IF

Central

Quiyanah Muse

OF

University

Ashley Massieu

OF

Technology

Joinay Carr

OF

Irvington

La-Nijah Willis

Op

Orange

Monique Taylor

Op

Orange

Natasha Stewart

Op

Central

 

 SECOND TEAM:

Name

Pos

School

Aysia Blake

P

University

Johaunna Faison

C

Orange

Tyzhane Lassiter

IF

Irvington

Zhane Robinson

IF

Central

Carla Reynolds

IF

Weequahic

Marilyn Hernandez

IF

Technology

Gloria Ekeh

OF

Orange

Ameerah Hines

OF

Weequahic

Kaitlyn Perez

OF

Technology

Nijah Thomas

Op

Central

Leana Thompson

Op

Irvington

Madai Torres

Op

Technology


HONORABLE MENTION:

Name

School

Dominque Jarrell

Weequahic

Idaliss Rivera

Technology

Maria Cancillano

Orange

Nikiyah Simpson

Irvington

Jordan Schenker

Golda Och

Samirah Jones

Central

Iricelly Caban

University

 

 

 

 

 

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By mike051893

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