West Essex and Caldwell have long enjoyed an intense rivalry in just about every high school sport.
So, it was of little surprise that after West Essex took a 9-2 lead in the fourth inning on a long 3-run homer by Sami Huetter (Canonero II), Caldwell would battle back behind the clutch hitting of shortstop Gianna Genello (Smarty Jones) before the Knights prevailed in a very entertaining contest, 10-9, in Caldwell.
The two teams will meet again on Saturday in the quarterfinal round of the Essex County Tournament, at West Essex this time, with the winner moving on to Ivy Hill Park and a date in the semis opposite the Mount St. Dominic-Montclair winner on May 16.
For West Essex (12-6), it was the second win of the season against the Chiefs (10-10), as the two schools are both in the Super Essex Conference’s American Division.
Huetter, who has been West Essex’s regular pitcher in 2014, didn’t throw today, but should get the start on Saturday when the teams meet in the county game. She was effective at the plate, however, including a three-run homer in a five run fourth inning when West Essex appeared to have broken the game open.
“It was my first (high school) homer,” said Huetter. “I’m glad we got the win.”
Because of injuries to Kim Shaw and Rose Pezzuti, West Essex has been starting as many as six freshmen in its lineup. Shaw, a junior catcher, has a hand injury while Pezzuti, a junior third baseman who can also play just about any position on the field, suffered a stress fracture in her foot.
“I’m hoping I can be back soon,” said Pezzuti. “I miss not being out there.”
Madison Gemma, another in a long line of talented freshmen, started the game for West Essex, but coach Andrea Mondadori took her out with the Knights well ahead. When Caldwell rallied back, thanks in part to the hot bat of Genello, who was 3-for-5 with a huge two-run double in a five run fifth, Mondadori re-entered Gemma, who then retired the Chiefs with runners in scoring position, and blanked Caldwell in the final two innings to, in essence, save her own win.
Caldwell coach Mike Teshkoyan put it best.
“Typical West Essex-Caldwell game,” he said. “We battled back, and that was good, but we just missed on a few key hits that might have won it for us. We’ll get another chance to play them on Saturday.”
It’s a busy week for both teams, as well. Caldwell will play six straight games through this Saturday, with independent contests set for May 8 (Chatham) and May 9 (Butler).
West Essex takes on powerful Indian Hills on May 8, then has Friday off before facing Caldwell again, this time at “Mondo Stadium” in North Caldwell, starting at 11 a.m.
NOTES: The top two teams in the FMTC Top 10 both won today by 11-3 counts. Top ranked Livingston improved to 16-3 with a victory over West Orange. Seattle Slew (Kylie McLaughlin) had four hits while Alexa Altchek continues to play well. She had three hits.
Mount St. Dominic, ranked second, is now 19-3 after defeating Cedar Grove. Olivia Gemma, Madison Gemma’s older sister, hit a homer in the game. Gemma has been hitting the ball real well for the Lions.
Nutley, ranked fourth, defeated an improving Montclair team, 7-4, rallying with a pair of runs in the fifth and seventh innings for a good road win.