After six days of delays, first because of the prom, then consistently bad weather, West Essex finally got to play its first regular season game, and looked good, in a 5-2 victory over Cedar Grove, at Panther Park.
West Essex has a tough weekend ahead, as its faces powerful Mount St. Dominic, on April 8, in Caldwell, then travels to Immaculate Heart Academy, on April 10, to play in the Anthony LaRezza Invitational, against Delaware-powerhouse, Caravel Academy.
For coach Andrea Mondadori’s team, winning on the road in SEC play is always a good thing, and beating a defending state champion in Cedar Grove, an intense rival, made it even more gratifying.
Sami Huetter (Canonero II) pitched a complete game for West Essex, and worked out of a few jams, to secure the win. West Essex’s infield defense was very impressive. Second baseman Bridget Betley made some very good plays and showed outstanding range. Betley also had a big hit in the first inning, lining a two-run double that gave her team a 2-0 lead.
Freshman shortstop Julia Vardiman did well in her varsity debut and Lilly James, was lights out at third. Don’t forget senior first baseman Kate Jencarelli and junior catcher Alexa Vardiman (new stud name, Funny Cide) and it was easy to see why Mondadori was pleased.
“Lilly James is the real deal,” said Mondadori of the sophomore at the hot corner. “I’m not surprised at how well she played today. Bridget was outstanding at second, Kate is always a solid player and Julia was sharp at shortstop, especially for a freshman.”
Huetter, the always smiling junior righthander, was warming up in all-stud bullpen (Canonero II and Funny Cide), before the game. “Well, here we go,” Huetter said. “It’s April 7, let’s open the season.”
The Knights will be plenty busy over the next 10 days, making up a few games while playing its regular schedule.
Cedar Grove, which fell to 0-2, hit the ball well, but West Essex had the answers on defense, and Huetter had excellent control, throughout the game.
Mondadori knows the weekend will be challenging.
“The Mount and then Caravel,” she said with a smile. “That’s what will make us better. And beating a real good team in Cedar Grove was a good start.”
Cedar Grove’s first-year coach Nicole Velardi is confident in her team’s abilities.
“We haven’t hit with runners on base,” said Velardi afterward. “I like this team. We’ll figure it out.”