The 37th Essex County Softball Tournament reaches the semifinal round on May 16, when Mount St. Dominic takes on Caldwell, followed by Nutley playing Cedar Grove.
Those four schools have a rich history in the ECT, so the ‘Final Four’ should certainly be entertaining at Ivy Hill Park. The winners of Friday’s semifinal return to Ivy Hill on Saturday for a 7 p.m. championship game.
Here are some 30 things you need to know about the tourney’s storied history.
FACTS AND FIGURES
This is the 37th ECT, so let’s look back at some facts and figures over the past 36 tourneys.
1-Caldwell won the first championship in 1978, defeating Bloomfield, 2-1. The Chiefs have the most championships with 10 and also boast the best record in championship games, 10-1.
2-Caldwell’s appearance in this year’s semifinal marks the first time in eight years since the Chiefs last made the Final Four. In 2006, it lost in the semi to Bloomfield, in its attempt to win a third straight championship for the second time in its history.
3-Belleville appeared in nine county finals during the 1980s, winning three championships, including back-to-back titles in 1982 and ’83. Belleville made it to eight straight finals, a record which still holds, from 1982-89. The Buccaneers also won in 1989 and appeared in the 1998 and ’99 final. Belleville’s 12 appearances in the finals are the most by any school.
4-Livingston is second, all time in county titles, with five, including the last time championships. Mount St. Dominic and Cedar Grove are tied for third in overall championships with four each, with a good possibility one of those schools can tie Livingston on Saturday night.
5-Livingston pitcher Jess Peslak had three of the most dominant performances in the ECT semis in recent memory. In 2011, she struck out 14 and actually lost in the seventh inning to Nutley, 5-4. The following year, she fanned 17 in a 9-0 victory against West Essex and in 2013, she spun a five-inning, no-hitter as the Lancers defeated Bloomfield, 12-0.
Livingston’s Jess Peslak (28) pitching in the 2012 ECT final, as Mount St. Dominic coach Lorenzo Sozio looks on. The ’12 final was a well played game, as both Peslak and MSD’s Sam Platt didn’t allow an earned run. Livingston prevailed, 2-0.
6-Before Livingston’s victory in 2013, Mount St. Dominic was the last team to repeat as champions, winning in 2008 and ’09, both at the expense of Cedar Grove. The Lions also beat the Panthers in the 2011 and 2013 semifinals.
7-Caldwell is the only team to three-peat as champions. (1986-88).
8-Cedar Grove was the first team to repeat as champion, doing so in 1980. At that time, the Panthers were led by pitcher Laurel VanDer May while its head coach was her brother, Ray, who returned to the helm of Cedar Grove in 2013. In VanDerMay’s second year, he has led Cedar Grove to back-to-back ECT semifinals, including a stunning win over Livingston in this year’s quarterfinal.
9--Livingston’s ‘Seattle Slew’, Kylie McLaughlin, hit a rare inside-the-park homer at Ivy Hill Park in the 2013 semifinal against Bloomfield. She led off the bottom of the first with a shot that hit the center field fence and bounced past a Bloomfield outfielder, as the speedy ‘stud’ rounded the bases.
10-Cedar Grove (1979-80), Belleville (1982-83), Caldwell (1990-91 and again 2004-05), West Essex (1997-98),Bloomfield (1999-2000), Montclair Kimberley Academy (2001-2002), Mount St. Dominic (2008-09) and Livingston (2012-2013) are the schools which have won back-to-back titles.
11-Caldwell coach Mike Teshkoyan has the most championships with eight. Mount St. Dominic’s Lorenzo Sozio has won four, which is good for second overall while VanDerMay can tie Sozio for second with a championship this year.
12-Belleville-Caldwell (1986-88), Caldwell-Livingston (1990-91), Mount St. Dominic-Bloomfield (1995-96), Mount St. Dominic-Cedar Grove (2008-09) and Mount St. Dominic-Livingston (2012-2013) are the championship game matchups which occurred in consecutive years.
13-Cedar Grove’s crowns in 1984 and 2010 represent the longest gap between titles for a championship team.
14-Nutley waited 18 years between titles. (1993-2011).
15-Belleville’s Carl Corino coached in 12 county finals and led his team to the Final Four 16 times.
16-The highest scoring final occurred in 1992, when Livingston and Bloomfield combined for 14 runs. Cedar Grove and Belleville collected 13 runs in the ’84 title game.
17-Only three of the first 36 championship games have gone into extra innings, with Belleville (1989), Mount St. Dominic (2003) and Caldwell (2005) all winning by 1-0 decisions. The 2003 game between Mount St. Dominic and Bloomfield went 11 innings, the longest final on record.
18-Caldwell had one of the most improbable wins, rallying from 2-0 down to stun Belleville, 3-2, in the 1987 final. Caldwell scored all three runs without a ball leaving the infield. The Chiefs had a similar rally in the 2004 county final opposite MKA, once again coming back from 2-0 down in the seventh. Both of those games were at Pulaski Park.
19-Luann Zullo is 3-0 as a head coach in the finals and she’s the only coach to win crowns at two different schools. She won a pair of championships at West Essex (1997-98) before leading her alma mater, Nutley, to the 2011 championship. Ironically, her first championship in ’97 came against Nutley.
20-Livingston coach Jason Daily is 3-0 in county finals.
21-MKA is the only team to beat Caldwell in a county final, doing so in 2002, 4-1, for its second straight title and last to date. Two years later, Caldwell turned the tables and beat MKA, 3-2.
22-Livingston and Belleville had quite a rivalry in the 1980s. The schools met three times in a county final (1982, ’85 and ’89), with Belleville winning twice. In 1982, Livingston rallied from 4-0 down to stun Belleville, 6-4, in a state sectional semifinal. Five days later, the two met again for the county championship and Belleville won, 8-0, for its first ECT crown. A generation later, the two met in the 2001 county tournament, with Belleville prevailing by the mercy rule. A few weeks later, the teams met in the state sectionals, with Belleville winning a close 3-1 contest, en route to a sectional championship. The following year, Livingston went to Belleville in a sectional and won.
23-Newark Academy made it from the play-in round all the way to the ECT semis in 2012, the first school to accomplish that feat. It stunned second-seeded and defending champion Nutley in the first round, 6-4, then defeated Caldwell in the quarters before losing to Mount St. Dominic.
24-It’s not often that sisters play against each other in a county tournament, but it happened in the 2011 championship game when Nutley, led by Eileen Purcell, defeated Mount St. Dominic, 3-0. The Mount’s junior catcher that year was Jamie Purcell, Eileen’s twin sister. Both girls are now playing on the collegiate level, at different colleges.
25-From 1993-1997, the final score of the championship game was 2-1.
26-Mount St. Dominic’s four runs in last year’s county final was the most by a team which didn’t win the title during this century.
27-Livingston’s ouster in this year’s quarterfinal marked the first time a top seeded team didn’t get to the semifinals since Belleville was defeated in the 2008 quarterfinals. The last top seeded team that didn’t win the tourney was West Essex in 2010, which fell to Cedar Grove, 2-0, in the final.
28-This is the 10th straight year that the ECT final will be held at Ivy Hill Park. The first championship game there ended in dramatic fashion when Gina Capardi hit a walk-off homer for Caldwell’s 10th championship, and last to date.
29-Cedar Grove pitcher Gabby Castelli, who enjoyed a tremendous freshman season at William Paterson this season, was the last freshman pitcher to lead her team to a ECT championship, when she blanked West Essex in the 2010 final, 2-0.