Caldwell coach Mike Teshkoyan looked over in the third inning and shrugged his shoulders.
Teshkoyan was watching his team battle Livingston in a Super Essex Conference game on May 5, but didn’t know a lot about Livingston’s pitcher, Sydney McCormack.
“Where did she come from?” said Teshkoyan. “Their other pitcher (Sammi Passeri) is pretty good, and now they’ve got her, too? Makes a really good team even stronger.”
Teshkoyan has been coaching long enough to know when a player is on her game, and such was the case today.
Livingston won, 2-0, as McCormack spun a complete game, no-hitter. She needed every bit of that effort, too, as Caldwell’s Cayla Lombardi was also pitching lights out.
It was one of the better games in Essex County softball this spring, with both pitchers dictating the tempo of the game while relying on the defense to make plays, as well. Livingston improved to 14-3 on the season while Caldwell fell to 9-9.
In her second varsity start, McCormack struck out eight and walked none. Just two Caldwell baserunners reached safely against McCormack. Casey Ward was safe at first in the first inning on an overthrow by McCormack, with one out. McCormack retired the next 18 batters before Christina Guarino walked with one out in the seventh inning. The Livingston pitcher then closed out the game by inducing two pop ups.
“I was a little nervous at the beginning, but I started to feel comfortable, especially with my curve ball,” said the soft-spoken McCormack. “I know my teammates are there for me on defense. This was a good win for our team.”
McCormack had started one previous varsity game, that against Newark Academy a few weeks back, when Livingston won a close game, 3-2. She was thrust into the starting role when Passeri went down with an injury last Friday against Mount St. Dominic.
“We’re hoping Sammi will be back and ready to play in a few days,” said Livingston coach Jason Daily. “I was really impressed with Sydney’s mindset in the circle today. She threw strikes. On a few occasions when she fell behind in the count, she was able to battle back. That’s important, especially with a lot of big games coming up.”
Daily awarded a game ball to right fielder Yinka Fasehun, who singled, scored a run and also laid down a key bunt which moved Cate Leu into scoring position in the second inning. Leu eventually scored on a fielder’s choice bunt by Katie Horiuchi, who was making her first appearance at the plate this season after a back injury kept her on the sideline.
“Getting Katie back is a huge lift for us,” said Daily of the senior who started all of last season at third base. “We’re getting her into the lineup slowly, but I liked what I saw today from her at the plate. She makes contact, knows what she’s doing up there and is a big part of our lineup.”
Batting eighth in the lineup, Horiuchi also drew a walk and singled.
Kylie McLaughlin was her usual force at the top of the lineup for Livingston, as Seattle Slew had two hits and an RBI.
While McCormack was scintillating, let’s not overlook the job of Lombardi, Caldwell’s junior righty. She ended up throwing a complete game, scattering seven hits, striking out three, walking two and not allowing an earned run.
“I felt pretty good today,” said Lombardi. “I really think our team is starting to come around. My pitches were working and our defense was excellent. You never like to lose, but this game showed what we’re capable of, too.”
Teshkoyan was impressed with the quality of play by both teams.
“I was very proud of my team today,” said Teshkoyan. “Livingston’s pitcher was outstanding and Cayla was excellent, too. That’s the kind of game you have to enjoy watching. Our kids were aggressive at the plate and hit the ball pretty well. But Livingston’s defense was tremendous, and I thought our defense did well, too.”
Lombardi, who missed most of the 2013 season with an injury, continues to show improvement. Her ball has gained a lot of velocity and it’s evident she is much more confident in the circle.
A classy young woman, Lombardi also made it a point to seek out Passeri, who was in street clothes on her team’s bench, during the game to ask about her injury status.
“(Livingston catcher) Marina (Lombardi) is my cousin, so I know some of their players,” said Cayla. “I had heard that Sammi had gotten hurt and just wanted to check on her.”
Daily was impressed with Cayla Lombardi, too, and also noted his team didn’t need much encouragement to bounce back from a May 2 loss to Mount St. Dominic, 7-3.
“It’s great to see Cayla pitching well and bouncing back from that injury,” said Daily. “As for us, the game against Mount was just that, a game. We had a county game the next day, and that was our focus.
“Mount hit the ball really well in our game against them. Losing Sammi was tough, but our kids worked hard. It was a 4-3 game in the seventh inning and we made some mistakes that cost us, as well. But there’s no question that Mount St. Dominic has an outstanding team.”