ECT semifinals feature four storied programs; Genello nears Capardi mark

Sunday’s Essex County Tournament semifinals at Ivy Hill Park will feature two outstanding games, with four teams that have enjoyed tremendous success in the tournament.

The 38th ECT is down to the Final Four, with West Essex and Nutley meeting first in a battle of the second and third seeds, at 5 p.m, followed by a 7 p.m. contest between fifth seeded Livingston and Mount St. Dominic, the top seed and defending champion.

Between the four schools, 15 county titles have been won, with MSD and Livingston tied for second, all time, in the tourney’s history, with five championships each. (Caldwell has the most titles, with 10). West Essex has three championships, with the last coming in 2007 while Nutley has won two titles, in 1993 and 2011.

Current Nutley coach Luann Zullo led West Essex to back-to-back crowns in 1997 and 1998, then guided the Raiders to the 2011 championship. Zullo is the only coach to have coached two different schools to ECT championships.

The games themselves should also be interesting, since Nutley and West Essex generally have really intense matchups. The two could also meet in the NJSIAA tournament later this month. Last year, Nutley eliminated West Essex in the state tourney.

And it goes without saying that a Livingston-Mount St. Dominic game never disappoints. The two schools met in the 2012 and 2013 ECT finals, with the Lancers winning two close, hard-fought games. This year, the Mount has to be considered the favorite, but Livingston has been playing well of late, including a very impressive win over Cedar Grove last Saturday in the quarterfinals.

The dates of the semifinals and finals were changed recently, because of a conflict with possible first round state tournament games. And with that said, the NJSIAA tourney could have a good Essex showing this spring, with teams like Cedar Grove, Verona, West Essex, Nutley, Mount St. Dominic, Livingston, Caldwell and Newark Academy advancing deep in their respective brackets.

So, with that said, enjoy the ECT games this Sunday. The semifinal winners will meet on Memorial Day, Monday, May 25, for the championship at Ivy Hill. And by next week, we’ll have a good idea of what teams will be making serious runs in the state tournament, too.

Caldwell’s senior shortstop Gianna Genello was closing in on a coveted school record. Entering  her team’s May 14 state game with Harrison, Smarty Jones was two hits shy of breaking Gina Capardi’s mark of 209 career hits. Capardi played at Caldwell from 2002-2005.

Here are the updated FMTC rankings.

1-Mount St. Dominic (24-1)

Sort of a quiet week for the Lions, who were set to play Livingston in a SEC game on May 13, then face Livingston again on May 17 in the semifinals. Sophomore pitcher Kelsey Oh will be tough to handle in the county tournament.

2-Nutley (20-6)

Coming down to the wire for a talented team, which already has 20 wins. The Raiders are the top seed in its state section, but also have eyes on bringing home that ECT crown. An ECT semifiinal pitching matchup between Spectacular Bid (Carly Anderson) and Canonero II (Sami Huetter) should have the fans buzzing on Sunday.

3-West Essex (16-9)

Are the Knights playing its best softball now? Could be, especially with impressive wins over Bergen powers Lodi Immaculate and Indian Hills, as well as a 2-0 mark against Livingston, something that hasn’t happened since 2010. A trip to the ECT final for the first time in five years means beating Nutley in the semis. Should be fun.

4-Livingston (16-7)

Coach Jason Daily’s team played six games in six days from May 4-9, and were 4-2 in those matchups, including a big win at Cedar Grove last Saturday night in an ECT quarterfinal. While they’re the underdog in this year’s semifinal, expect a young Livingston team to give a good effort. Lancers could also be a team to watch in the state tournament.

5-Cedar Grove (17-7)

Panthers will be among the favorites to win a state sectional title. An aggressive offense and good pitching will make them formidable.

6-Caldwell (20-5)

Senior pitcher Cayla Lombardi won her 20th game in a win over Passaic Valley on May 12. Chiefs have a long and storied history in state tournament play and this year’s team could add to that tradition. Caldwell could have at least two home games in the states, starting with a May 14 contest against Harrison.

7-Columbia (16-7)

Seventh seeded Cougars having a very good season, and will host a first round state game against Piscataway.

8-Bloomfield (5-14)

It’s been a frustrating year for the Bengals, but this team plays hard every time out. A first round state game against a familiar foe in Bloomfield will be interesting.

9-Verona (13-6)

Hillbillies having a very good season and will host Hasbrouck Heights in a first round state game.

10-Newark Academy (7-12)

You always wonder if this team can make a good run in the Non-Public B tournament. Minutemen get a bye in first round of states and could face top-seeded Lodi Immaculate in the North semifinals.

STUD WATCH

The Essex studs, so far, in 2015.

Sami Huetter, Canonero II

Gianna Genello, Smarty Jones

Carly Anderson, Spectacular Bid

Sydney McCormack, Syd The Kid

Marina Lombardi, Silver Charm

Erin Stacevicz, California Chrome

Sophie Rosenberg, Arts and Letters

Sarah Guy, Charismatic

Ally Dabroski, Real Quiet

Out of Network

Southpaw Secretariat, IHA

Amanda Ayala, (DePaul), Whirlaway

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By mike051893

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