ECT Semis: Caldwell-Mount St. Dominic and Nutley-Cedar Grove provide interesting contrasts and plenty of studs

When the Final Four of the Essex County Softball Tournament is contested this Sunday afternoon, there will be two very interesting games on tap at Ivy Hill Park in Newark.

Sixth seeded Caldwell takes on second seeded Mount St. Dominic at 2 p.m., followed by ninth seeded Cedar Grove facing fourth seeded Nutley at 4 p.m.

On paper, where games are rarely won but hotly debated, Mount St. Dominic and Nutley are the two highest seeds remaining, at second and fourth, respectively. But there are a few other parallels to consider when it comes to the two teams which will ultimately meet in the 37th County final on Friday night, May 23.

Cedar Grove swept Nutley in a pair of Super Essex Conference games, with the Panthers rallying from large deficits to win both times, 9-8 and 10-6.

Mount St. Dominic also swept Caldwell in SEC play, by scores of 9-1 and 12-0.

There is the theory that it’s not easy to beat the same team three times in a season. Just ask West Essex, which had beaten Caldwell twice in league play, only to lose to the Chiefs, 11-0, in the ECT quarterfinals.

Mount St. Dominic can attest to that, too, in its games with Montclair. The Lions won the first two games by a combined 25-0. When they met a third time, in the county quarterfinal last Sunday, the Mount won, 2-0, on a two-run homer by Olivia Gemma (AKA Forego) in the fourth inning.

Unlike the past two seasons, when Livingston and Mount St. Dominic seemed to be a foregone conclusion in the title game, (with apologies to last year’s Cedar Grove team) you can make a case for any of the four teams to be playing in next Friday’s championship final.

So, let’s take a look at all four teams and why they can be playing in the county final.

For the record, the four schools have combined to win 20 of the 36 championships to date, with the head coaches accounting for 18 championships, dating back 35 years.

CALDWELL (12-12): The message to the Chiefs will be no one expects you to win this game. The players probably heard that before the West Essex quarterfinal, too. Caldwell pitcher Cayla Lombardi noted that she and her teammates were in a different type of zone against West Essex, so relaxed, with an unusual focus than the previous games against the Knights.

Star shortstop Gianna Genello (Smarty Jones) has a toe injury which kept her out of Caldwell’s state games on Thursday, but she’s confident she’ll be fine for Sunday’s semifinal. Lombardi was also rested for the state game and she’s hoping to be in the circle on Sunday.

Caldwell coach Mike Teshkoyan has plenty of experience in county games. He’s led Caldwell to eight ECT titles, the most of any coach in the county. Teshkoyan also won his 600th career game the other day, just the fifth coach in state history to accomplish that feat. He’s Essex County’s all time winningest coach, in terms of wins and county titles.

There could be a little magic in Chief land on Sunday.

sjShortstop Gianna Genello.

The 129th Preakness StakesSmarty Jones….

MOUNT ST. DOMINIC (22-3): The newest stud in the Essex stable, Olivia Gemma (Forego) has been swinging a hot bat. The one thing every coach says about Mount St. Dominic is that there is no easy out in that lineup, and no truer words could be spoken.

4dcd573fafa76.imageOlivia Gemma

Forego Willie Shoemaker txtForego

Mount St. Dominic is a combined 6-0 against the other three teams in the Final Four, and truth be told, none of those games were particularly close. Mount St. Dominic is also the newly crowned SEC American Division champions, ending Livingston’s two-year hold on that title after Nutley upset Livingston last week.

Mount St. Dominic also has a big edge in the circle, with that edge being depth. Freshman Kelsey Oh has logged the most innings, but senior righty Sam Platt has been dominant when she starts. And don’t forget that Forego can also pitch. She led MSD to the 2011 county final as a freshman, and has plenty of experience in big games, including starting last year’s county final against Livingston.

Mount St. Dominic coach Lorenzo Sozio is third, all time, with four county championships, and don’t be surprised if he mixes things up a little bit in the semifinals, or championship game, should MSD get there.

NUTLEY (15-10): Two words. Spectacular Bid.

Huh? That’s code for Carly Anderson, Nutley’s junior all-everything, who has been playing shortstop for most of the season, but appears to be getting her pitching groove back into gear after a sore elbow curtailed her in the circle for most of 2014.

ca4Carly Anderson

1124515785Spectacular Bid

Anderson came on in relief against a real good Livingston team earlier this week and pitched tremendously. Question is, how good is Nutley’s defense if Anderson is pitching and not playing shortstop?

The Cedar Grove factor has to be considered here, too. Bottom line is, Nutley hasn’t fared well against Cedar Grove over the years, including two strange losses this year in SEC play. On the other side of the spectrum was that Nutley’s win over Livingston on May 14 had to be a huge confidence booster for the Raiders. It was not only a road win, but avenged a 10-2 loss to the Lancers just a week earlier.

Nutley coach Luann Zullo is the only coach in ECT history to win championships at two different schools. She led West Essex to crowns in 1997 and ’98, then guided Nutley to the title three years ago, beating Mount St. Dominic in the final after an epic win over Livingston in the semis.

Zullo is as crafty as they come, and to be honest, she won’t give any insight as to how she’ll use Spectacular Bid in the semis, until the game starts.

Anderson is a difference make, make no mistake about that. And if Nutley gets by the semifinal, they’ll have five days until the final. Hmmm? Rest for Bid? Could be.

CEDAR GROVE (12-12): The Panthers have been on a roll, winning six of its last seven, with the only loss during that run to Mount St. Dominic in a SEC game. One of the wins in that streak came against top-seeded Livingston in the ECT quarterfinals, 5-4, ending Livingston’s two-year run as champion. Bear in mind, Livingston had dominated Cedar Grove the first two times the teams met in SEC play, winning by a combined 18-5.

Cedar Grove can flat out hit. Their lineup can be relentless, starting with leadoff hitter, Erin Stacevicz. Since she transferred back to her home town team after playing at Lodi Immaculate in 2012 and ’13, Stacevicz had to sit out a certain amount of games to start the 2014 season. She’s been a force in the lineup since her return. The kid is (you guessed it) a stud. (Official name coming soon).

Cedar Grove catcher Autumn Spinella hit two over-the-fence homers in a win at Caldwell earlier this week.

Potent-wise, Cedar Grove’s lineup may be as good as Mount St. Dominic’s. Pitching wise, the Panthers will need guile to win.

Coaching wife, Ray VanderMay led Cedar Grove to its first county crown 35 years ago. After a successful run on the college level, VanderMay returned to Cedar Grove last season and guided the Panthers to the ECT semifinals, where it lost a heartbreaker to Mount St. Dominic.

Cedar Grove is back in the semis and wants to finish the job it felt it didn’t get done last season.

Let’s see what happens on Sunday. One thing is for sure, both games should be exciting.





By mike051893

‘Faith, Family, Finish’: Caldwell’s Teshkoyan keeps low profile on victory #600

His team had just won a 15-0 game against Snyder of Jersey City in the first round of the NJSIAA tournament, but to see Caldwell coach Mike Teshkoyan afterward, it was business as usual.

This wasn’t a typical win, however. It was a milestone, the 600th win in Teshkoyan’s tremendous career as CHS softball coach.

But it was also Caldwell’s Senior Day, and Teshkoyan was quick to note that.


Mike Teshkoyan addresses his team after a win in the NJSIAA tourney on May 15. Teshkoyan won his 600th game as head coach at Caldwell.

“You can write about it,” he said with a smile. “But this is about our kids, especially the seniors. I don’t want to say anything.”

In the world of Twitter, a few of Teshkoyan’s players had read the tweets coming out on the milestone win, especially junior pitcher Cayla Lombardi.

“Guys, guys,” she shouted to her teammates, who were beginning to head to their cars. “Coach Mike and Mark just won their 600th!”

Lombardi’s announcement brought most of the team scurrying back to say congrats to their coach. While Mike Teshkoyan is the head coach, his brother, Mark, has been a big asset to the program since 1987, when Mike was named head coach after serving as an assistant for five previous years.

“I didn’t want the kids to know before hand,” Teshkoyan, himself a CHS grad, said. “I’m proud of this, because it speaks of the great kids we’ve had here over the years. But I didn’t want them to be pressing for it.”

Teshkoyan became just the fifth high school softball coach in New Jersey history to reach 600 wins, joining Pete Fick, Tom Erbig, Ed Levens and Don Panzarella.

Teshkoyan is Esesx County’s all time wins leader, too. He passed Carl Corino of Belleville, who had 507, a few years back.

Teshkoyan has also enjoyed a tremendous career as Caldwell’s girls soccer coach, too, amassing over 329 wins.

“Mark and I have always tried to put together a family-first atmosphere here,” said Mike. “It goes a long way in building relationships with the parents and for the kids to buy into what we’re trying to accomplish here.”

Lombardi concurred.

“Faith, family, finish,” she said, in talking about Mike and Mark. “Pride and poise, too.

“Coaches Mike and Mark always tell us how they care more about us as people, and they always have our best interest at heart. They always remind us that they care. They tell us to stay poised and to believe in ourselves. It means a great deal.”

Teshkoyan was moved when told of Lombardi’s comments.

“Faith, family and finish, that’s our motto,” Teshkoyan said. “It means even more when a great kid like Cayla says that. This is what makes coaching so special.”

Teshkoyan will lead Caldwell into the Essex County Tournament semifinals with a career rcord of 600-166-2. Caldwell has won a record 10 ECT championships and Teshkoyan has been at the helm for eight of those titles, again a record for most championship by a coach in ECT history. His teams won ECT championships in his first two years as coach, in 1987 and 1988.

He’s also guided Caldwell to numerous conference titles. The program last won a state sectional crown in 2011.

Among the twitter congratulations was one from SEC rival Mount St. Dominic, who Caldwell will play in the ECT semifinals, either on May 16, or 18, depending on the weather.

“Congratulations to Caldwell Coach Mike and Mark as Mike won his 600th game today,” the tweet from MSDA read.

tesh 2



By mike051893

Nutley visits Shangri-La this afternoon, as SEC American Division crown will be decided; Chiefs visit Mounties; State tourney and possible bad weather could play havoc on schedule

The Super American Conference’s American Division championship should be decided this afternoon.

Nutley visits Livingston while Mount St. Dominic plays host to West Orange in key league games. If Livingston and the Mount win, they’ll both finish 13-1 in the conference, which means the championship label attached to both schools. (There is not a ‘co-champ’, it’s champion for both schools in the case of a tie).

For Livingston, a win (and it won’t come easy against Nutley) would mean a third straight conference title, which is quite an accomplishment. The Lancers, again assuming a win today, would be 40-2 in American Division play since 2012. For Mount St. Dominic, the Lions, again assuming a win over West Orange, would claim its first SEC title since 2011.

As for the Shangri-La tag for the Stable in Livingston, that goes back to a memorable night in the winter of 2012. I was driving over to the Landmark Restaurant in Livingston, with a friend, when Michelle DiPiano, who was also going to the Landmark with her dad, Big Mike, pulled up next to me at a red light and said “Mike, we’re in Livingston now.”

Guess you had to be there.

Big Mike looked at both of us and said, with that gruff voice (And G-Rated) ‘what are you two talking about?’

When I saw Michelle, who is now an assistant softball coach at Nutley yesterday for the Belleville-Nutley softball game, I asked her if she would be heading to Shangri-La today. But she said she has to coach her freshman team in a home game against Belleville.

Oh well.

Maybe I’ll send her a youtube link to the Lettermen’s classic song, ‘Shangri-La’ so she doesn’t feel left out.

Another interesting game this afternoon in the SEC American will be played at Montclair, as Caldwell takes on the Mounties. Caldwell will play in the Essex County Tournament semifinals, scheduled for Friday against Mount St. Dominic, while Montclair is preparing for the NJSIAA Tournament. Both teams have played very well over the past few weeks.

The first round of the NJSIAA Tournament is supposed to be played by this weekend, but with a lot of rain predicted for Friday and the ECT still having to play out the semifinals and finals this weekend, it will be interesting to see how the schedule will pan out.




By mike051893

Belleville and Nutley put together a nice Senior Day; West Essex edges Wayne Valley; Cedar Grove hitting its stride; Forego, Smarty Jones and Spectacular Bid heading to Ivy Hill

Belleville and Nutley have long shared an intense, and somewhat bitter rivalry in all sports, dating back 70 years.

So, it was kind of nice to see the two teams come together on the softball diamond to honor each other’s seniors prior to their matchup today in Nutley.


Belleville coach Chris Cantarella (far left) and his counterpart, Luann Zullo of Nutley (far right) take part in a combined ‘Senior Day’ for Buccaneers and Raiders prior to their game today. (Photo courtesy of Luann Zullo)

Nutley is getting ready for the upcoming Essex County Tournament semifinals, set for this Friday night at Ivy Hill Park. The weather could be an issue on Friday. A similar instance occurred in 2011, ironically the last time Nutley won the championship.

That time, the semifinals were moved back to Saturday afternoon and the championship game was played the following day.

Of course, it’s way too early to predict what will happen four days from now, but I’m sure the committee will figure it out.

West Essex won’t be playing this weekend at Ivy Hill, but the Knights should gain a high seed for the NJSIAA tournament, in North Jersey, Section 2, Group 3. The Knights beat a Group 4 team today in Wayne Valley, 10-8, in a very entertaining game in Wayne, that went nine innings.

ihp 5Ivy Hill Park should be hopping this weekend for the ECT.

Sami Huetter (Canonero II) pitched a complete game for West Essex.

Cedar Grove could be a very interesting team at the county semis. The Panthers already dispatched top-seeded Livingston and will face fourth seeded Nutley next. This team can hit, and the pitching is starting to come around, as well.

In a 7-5 win over Caldwell the other day, Cedar Grove was led by Autumn Spinella, who hit two homers, Erin Stacevicz’s usual havoc at the top of the lineup and  Rianna Marinelli, who collected three hits.

Winning pitcher Gianna Capobianco kept the Chiefs off-balance for six solid innings.

Stacevicz has been electric for Cedar Grove as the leadoff hitter and first baseman. The Panthers may be hitting its stride at the right time.

STUD WATCH: With Forego now assigned to Mount St. Domnic’s Olivia Gemma, the Essex Stable now has seven studs.

Spectacular Bid, Smarty Jones and Forego will all be playing at Ivy Hill Park this weekend in the county semifinals, on the same weekend as the Preakness, no less.

And an eighth stud could be crowned shortly from that town with the initials CG.

Kyle McLaughlin, Seattle Slew

Carly Anderson, Spectacular Bid

Sammi Rothenberger, Riva Ridge

Gianna Genello, Smarty Jones

Sami Huetter, Canonero II

Victoria Ross, Sea Biscuit

Olivia Gemma, Forego

Out of Network:

Stef Thomas, Affirmed

By mike051893

30 Facts and Figures for the Essex County softball tournament

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.

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALivingston’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.

get-attachment.aspxLivingston’s Kylie McLaughlin (left) with teammate Alexa Altchek.

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.


31658_393721811721_640661721_4603106_4600613_nWest Essex won the 1998 ECT final, beating Belleville, 1-0. Head coach Luann Zullo (second from far right) and assistant Sergio Rodriguez (second from far left) are shown here with the team.

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.

ihp 5

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.

gc30-Olivia Gemma was the last freshman pitcher to start a county final, in 2011, for Mount St. Dominic against Nutley.

4dcd573fafa76.imageMount St. Dominic’s Olivia Gemma.

By mike051893

ECT Final 4 is set, with MSDA, Nutley, Caldwell and Cedar Grove; Lions new No. 1; Mounties continue to improve

Mount St. Dominic’s hard-earned 2-0 win over Montclair on May 11 has set up the Essex County Tournament semifinals for May 16, at Ivy Hill Park in Newark.

The MSD Lions, seeded second, take on sixth seeded Caldwell in the first game, at 6 p.m. while fourth-seeded Nutley battles ninth-seeded Cedar Grove in the 8 p.m. matchup.

Mount St. Dominic had its hands full on Sunday against a determined Montclair team, before Olivia Gemma hit a ‘Forego‘-like 2-run homer for the game’s only runs.

Forego Willie Shoemaker txtForego dominating another race….

Montclair continues to play well, and the Mounties turned in a solid defensive effort, as well as an excellent game in the circle. (We’ll have more on Montclair later this week).

There should be no question about the quality job head coach Dan Roberts and his staff are doing at Montclair.

As far as the Final Four, there will be plenty to talk about leading up to Friday’s exciting games. Check back during the week for updates.

Here is the updated FMTC Top 10 rankings, as Mount St. Dominic moves up to number 1.

1-Mount St. Dominic (20-3)

2-Livingston (16-4)

3-West Essex (12-7)

4-Nutley (13-9)

5-Caldwell (11-10)

6-Cedar Grove (10-12)

7-Montclair (8-11)

8-West Orange (7-15)

9-Montclair Kimberley (8-6)

10-Newark Academy (8-9)

By mike051893

Surprises abound in ECT quarters as Caldwell, Cedar Grove advance to Ivy Hill

The ‘Final Four’ of the Essex County Tournament is almost set.

Right now, only the fourth seed, Nutley, has advanced as a team that was somewhat expected to make it, based on its seed.

Top seeded Livingston, the defending two-time champion, is out, as Cedar Grove, the ninth seed, won a thrilling come-from-behind 5-4 contest on May 9, in Livingston.

West Essex, the third seed, was eliminated on May 10, by arch rival Caldwell, 11-0, in six innings. In both instances, the teams that lost had swept their opponent in Super Essex Conference play before failing to gain that elusive third win in the county tournament.

It’s been a while since Caldwell last qualified for the Final Four, but the Chiefs have a rich tradition in this tournament with a record 10 championships in 11 finals, so you never know.

Nutley, which last won the title in 2011, will return to the Final Four for the first time since winning the championship there years ago. It defeated 12th seeded Verona today in a good game, 4-2.

Coach Luann Zullo’s team will face Cedar Grove in the late game (probably 8 p.m.) on May 16 at Ivy Hill Park. Cedar Grove already has two wins over Nutley this year in SEC play. In both games, the Raiders held good-sized leads before the Panthers rallied back to win.

Second seeded Mount St. Dominic hopes to be the final team to qualify for Friday’s semifinals at Ivy Hill Park when it takes on the 10th seed, Montclair, on May 11, at 2 p.m. The teams had tried to play on May 10, in a late afternoon game at MSD, but rain intervened after a scoreless first inning.

The winner of the MSD-Montclair game will take on Caldwell in the 6 p.m. matchup at Ivy Hill Park on May 16.

Cedar Grove’s win was indeed a stunner, as the Panthers took a 3-0 lead, only to have Livingston rally back to take a 4-3 advantage after six innings. Cedar Grove stormed back with a pair of runs in the top of the seventh and held on to win, 5-4.

In the first 36 years of the ECT, only one team, Caldwell, has won three straight championships. Obviously, it’s not easy. The last team to attempt to win three straight, Mount St. Dominic, also lost in the quarters in 2010 to West Orange.

Upsets in this round aren’t uncommon. Two years ago, Newark Academy had to qualify through the play-in round, then went to Nutley, who were the defending champs, and stunned the Raiders in the first round before dominating Caldwell in the quarters.

The seemingly obvious choice of Livingston and Mount St. Dominic meeting in the final for a third straight year won’t happen in 2014, and in a way, that’s good, too. It just goes to show that the games are won on the field.

Caldwell coach Mike Teshkoyan called his team’s win over West Essex in the quarters at Cedar Grove’s Panther Park, its best effort of the 2014 season.

Cayla Lombardi was outstanding in the circle with a six inning shutout, but she wasn’t taking too much credit afterward.

“My teammates were hitting the ball early, when we got a 3-0 lead in the first inning,” Lombardi, a junior righty, said. “How many did I struck out, two (batters)? Another words, the defense was doing a great job. I felt like my pitches were in good spots, and I’m happy about that. This was hard to describe today. I just felt really good during warm ups and I think all of us were loose and ready to play. It was a good win for us.”

Without getting into a diatribe about Lombardi’s injury which kept her out for most of the 2013 season, her comeback this year is nothing short of outstanding.

And while West Essex and Livingston may be out of the ECT, let’s not write them off, either. West Essex has one of the youngest rosters in the SEC American Division and will be a tough out in the NJSIAA tournament.

Livingston needs to win its final two conference games to claim a third straight SEC American Division championship. It will also seek a third straight state sectional title, beginning later this month.

There’s lots of softball ahead and these SEC American Division schools will be more than battle tested come state tourney time.

As for the ECT semis, much more to come later this week in regard to the history of his wonderful tournament, and a look at all four teams and the matchups for Friday night at legendary Ivy Hill.



By mike051893

Popcorn could be soggy, as ECT quarterfinals are moved around

Get your popcorn ready for what should be four good Essex County Tournament quarterfinal games.

Originally, there was one game (Montclair at Mount St. Dominic) scheduled today, while three more (Caldwell vs. West Essex, Cedar Grove vs. Livingston and Verona vs. Nutley) were set for Saturday, at 11 a.m.

That was before the latest round precipitation stepped in. The weather could be iffy for May 9 and 10, but hopefully, it holds. Sunday is Mother’s Day, so it’s doubtful any of the four quarters will be played then.

Anyway, with the schedule changes, top-seeded Livingston is actually playing its quarterfinal game a day earlier, May 9, at the Stable, starting at 4 p.m.

Meanwhile, second-seeded Mount St. Dominic, which was originally playing the only May 9 quarterfinal game, is now playing the last quarter game, on May 10, at 4 p.m. In between the top two seeds, come these changes.

The Caldwell at West Essex game is now Caldwell vs. West Essex at Panther Park, in Cedar Grove, at 12 p.m. on May 10. Also on May 10, Nutley will still host Verona, but instead of an 11 a.m. game, it’s 1 p.m. and the site has changed, too, to Owens Field.

Got it?

Back in the ‘old days’, the four quarterfinal games were at one site, which made for a tremendous day of watching the kids play at one venue. That ended after the 2009 season. Would love to see it come back one day.

Anyway, here’s the updated schedule, again, for tomorrow.

Friday, May 9

No. 9 Cedar Grove at No. 1 Livingston, 4 p.m.

Saturday, May 10

No. 6 Caldwell vs. No. 3 West Essex, at Panther Park in Cedar Grove, 12 p.m.

No. 12 Verona vs. No. 4 Nutley, at Owens Field, Nutley, 1 p.m.

No. 10 Montclair at No. 2 Mount St. Dominic, 4 p.m.



By mike051893

Gemma (win and a save), Canonero II (3-run homer) lead West Essex past Smarty Jones (3 hits, 3 runs scored) and Caldwell, 10-9

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.

monWest Essex coach Andrea Mondadori uses a softball bucket to get a better angle of her team’s game at Caldwell on May 7. Knights held on to win, 10-9.

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.



By mike051893

It’s Riva Ridge by 5 lengths as Livingston downs Nutley, 10-2

Sammi Rothenberger knows the time is starting to wind down on her fantastic athletic career at Livingston High.

She’s going to finish with 12 varsity letters over four years, covering outstanding efforts in soccer, basketball and softball. And it’s clear that this spring, the William Paterson-bound shortstop wants to finish a softball season with the incredible success that has come Livingston’s way over the past two years.


srSammi Rothenberber is having a tremendous softball season for Livingston High.

rivaridgeThe ‘other’ Riva Ridge.

Rothenberger (AKA Riva Ridge) had another excellent day at the ball park, as she homered in the second inning and played stellar defense to lead Livingston, No. 1 in the FMTC Top 10, past Nutley, 10-2, in Nutley.

In addition to her dominance at the plate, Rothenberger teamed up on two double plays in the field. She made an excellent swipe of a hard grounder and threw to second baseman Kylie McLaughlin, who avoided a sliding base runner and threw to first baseman Ana Chambers for a 6-4-3 gem.

jpiLivingston softball parents intensely watch their daughters play softball at Nutley.

Two innings later, when a hard grounder bounced toward reserve second baseman Blake Saperstein, Riva Ridge never wavered.

“Two, two,” she shouted, meaning let’s go for the double play, and Saperstein obliged, throwing to Rothenberger for the force at second and then a blazing throw back to first completed the DP.

“We practice it all the time,” said Rothenberger. “We’re always trying to be aggressive in the field and get that lead runner.”

As for her homer in the second, a long blast over the centerfield fence, Riva Ridge just smiled and said “I knew it was gone.”

The Lancers got another solid game from Katie Horiuchi at the plate, too, against Nutley today. She has yet to make an out in six official at bats, covering two games, including a pair of walks, and a long double in today’s game that hit the top of the centerfield fence.

Horiuchi, a senior, has missed most of the season with a back injury, but she’s rounding into game shape now. She’s been the DP the past two days, but hopes to be back at third base soon.

“I’m feeling good,” Horiuchi said. “Coach (Jason Daily) wants me to take it slowly, and that’s good. I’m looking forward to playing the field, too.”

Livingston (15-3) will take on West Orange on May 7, then prepare for the Essex County Tournament quarterfinals on Saturday, May 9, when the top-seeded and two-time defending champions take on Cedar Grove at 11 a.m.

With the loss, Nutley fell to 10-9. The Raiders are seeded fourth in the ECT and could play Livingston twice next week. The teams are slated to meet in a SEC game on May 14, at Livingston, and would meet in the semifinals on May 16, at Ivy Hill Park, if both schools win their quarterfinal game this Saturday.

By mike051893