IHA Tournament on Saturday will feature top teams, quality softball, and A Wizard of Westwood Experience

Okay, so the term Wizard of Westwood was used a long time ago, about a great college basketball coach in California.

In Westwood, NJ, there’s a pretty good high school softball program, led by a winning coach in Anthony LaRezza. And this Saturday, LaRezza will welcome some very good teams to IHA’s home field, for its annual two-day tournament.

ihaCoach LaRezza and IHA will be hosting its annual tournament on Saturday.


The weather (FINALLY !) is supposed to pretty nice on both Saturday and Sunday.

Here are the schedule of games. And don’t forget to visit the snack stand at IHA. It’s tremendous !

Saturday, April 11

IHA vs. St. Joseph (Hammonton) 9 a.m.

Saddle Brook vs. Raritan, 11 a.m.

Old Tappan vs. Butler, 1 p.m.

Warren Hills vs. Northern Highlands, 3 p.m.

Sunday, April 12

IHA vs. Immaculata, 9 a.m.

St. John Vianney vs. Caravel (Del.) 11 a.m.

Indian Hills vs. Caravel 1 p.m.

Red Bank Catholic vs. Hillsborough, 3 p.m.


There isn’t a bad game on this slate. Really looking forward to seeing as many games as possible.

And through it all, you’ll get plenty of LaRezza-isms….Classic stuff, like Memorial Day 2010-revisited, Nestor C, Upset, Godfather and Soprano quotes, and it’ll be fun to see how many former pro athletes make an appearance !

Should be a fun couple of days at IHA.

Get your popcorn ready. There may even be a Southpaw Secretariat sighting. And, even better, a former president may visit !




By mike051893

Syd the Kid, aggressive base running, lead Livingston past Nutley; West Essex is 4-0; MSDA No. 1 in FMTC, Top 10

Livingston gained a big win on April 8, when it traveled to its mini house of horrors and defeated Nutley, 3-2, in 8 innings.

While the Lancers are 6-0 against Nutley on the Raiders’ home field, since 2010, there were two losses in the NJSIAA Group 4 semifinals, in 2012 and 2013, that bring a bad taste to a Lancers’ fan’s mouth.

Be that as it may, Livingston, with new uniforms, won a very big game against an excellent Nutley team.

“We had a really good practice the day before we played Nutley,” said Livingston coach Jason Daily. “Our kids are starting to come around. We’re very young this year, but I like the way we competed today. Playing Nutley is never easy. They’re so well coached and have great kids.”

Livingston (2-1) has had its share of studs, (as I like to call them), in Secreatariat (Jess Peslak), Seattle Slew (Kylie McLaughlin) and Riva Ridge (Sammi Rothenberger), along with an underrated but outstanding infielder in Rachel Wasilak. But they’ve all graduated, and the faces are markedly different this year for the Big Green Machine.

After losing its season opener to Mount St. Dominic, the Lancers edged Bloomfield, 7-6, then defeated Nutley. The winning run came off a Nutley fielding error, when Allie Beinhacker reached safely, advanced to second on a sacrifice, then pulled a Seattle Slew and never stopped running on a ground out, scoring on a close play at the plate.

“We had to do that,” said Daily. “We weren’t going to get many chances against (Nutley pitcher) Carly (Anderson). She’s tremendous.”

And credit Livingston pitcher Sydney McCormack, or Syd The Kid, the newest in the stable of stud Essex (and an occasional IHA) players, named after a pretty good quarter horse from a few years back. To be honest, Daily was calling her Syd The Kid during the majority of the game. McCormack relieved starting pitcher Sami Passeri in the fourth inning and worked out of some major jams, including a one-out, bases loaded situation in the bottom of the seventh inning, with a pair of strikeouts.

“I didn’t think Sami was feeling it today, like she usually does,” said Daily. “I’m confident in both kids stepping up. Today, I felt Sydney could help us, and she did. Sami is a tremendous pitcher, as well. We have two quality kids in the circle.”

Daily feels the win against Nutley should help his team.

“Mainly because it came against a quality program like Nutley,” said Daily. “We’ve had some great games against them over the years.”

Ironically, in a game late last season, Nutley edged Livingston, 3-2, in similar weather conditions (chilly, with drizzle), in Livingston, also in extra innings. These two will meet again, and perhaps a third time, in the county tournament this spring.

Nutley (3-1) was on board a flight to Orlando early Thursday morning and will play four regular season games in six days at the Disney Complex. Spectacular Bid (Anderson) and company will be more than formidable in the SEC, and county races this year.

West Essex is 4-0, including a pair of wins in the Super Essex Conference’s American Division. Andrea Mondadori’s team will be heard from the entire season. Sami Huetter (Canonero II) is a power pitcher who is averaging over 10 strikeouts per game. West Essex is very young, too, with a sophomore-laden team, and most of those kids saw significant playing time a year ago.

Belleville is also off to a 4-0 start, but it’s difficult to gauge the Bucs in the early going. With SEC realignment last year, Chris Cantarella’s team moved to the SEC’s Colonial Division and, to be honest, they’re not going to really be tested this spring in that division.

The SEC tries its best for competitive balance, but Belleville hasn’t fared well in that strategy, when it comes to softball. From 2008-2011, Belleville had some very good teams, with excellent players. The Bucs were mostly in the SEC’s Liberty Division, but in 2012, were promoted to the elite American Division. Problem was, those outstanding players who helped the Bucs had been graduated by 2012, and Belleville had an inexperienced team, which couldn’t compete against the likes of Livingston, Mount St. Dominic and Nutley. After a year, Belleville moved back to the Liberty. After a so-so year last spring, they were moved to the Colonial. But that so-so year in 2014 also developed some very good, young players, who would have been more than capable of competing in the stronger Liberty in 2015.

Cantarella and the Bucs have scheduled some good out-of-conference games. The Bucs should also get a high seed in the NJSIAA tournament next month. Let’s see how Belleville does when it comes to the county tournament. A Colonial team has never had much of an impact before in the ECT, but that could change this season.

The first FMTC Top 10 is out. Not many surprises here.

1-Mount St. Dominic (4-1)

Lions are a tremendous team, with exceptional pitching. Coming off a state championship in 2014, they’ll clearly be the team to beat in Essex County.

2-West Essex (4-0)

Knights are young, but very talented. And great new uniforms.

3-Livingston (2-1)

Well coached team lost some studs, but they can play.

4-Nutley (3-1)

A fantastic pitcher and potent offense will make Raiders a dangerous team.

5-Cedar Grove (3-2)

Panthers have a new coaching staff, but a well-deserved reputation for winning, dating back to Rob Stern’s days as a very good coach.

6-Caldwell (4-1)

The winningest program in Essex County history, the Chiefs are now in the Liberty Division, where it will be favored to win.

7-Bloomfield (1-2)

Always a solid program, with a great coach in Bob Mayer, Bloomfield is young, but up and coming.

8-Verona (3-1)

The Hillbillies had a big game on April 9 against MKA. A new coach there, too.

9-Montclair Kimberley (2-1)

Head coach Jess Sarfati could have a diamond in the rough with this year’s team. We’ll see.

10-Belleville (4-0)

Hard to tell, based on the schedule, but the Bucs have some good players this year. Third baseman Sarah Guy is outstanding.



The Essex softball studs, so far, in 2015

Sami Huetter, Canonero II

Gianna Genello, Smarty Jones

Carly Anderson, Spectacular Bid

Sydney McCormack, Syd The Kid

Out of Network…

A possible Southpaw Secretariat brewing in Westwood…

Obviously, more to come….

By mike051893