When she struggled at the plate earlier this week, against Nutley, Bridget Betley of West Essex didn’t want to hear about her solid defensive game, even though West Essex had won.
Today, Betley’s bat was especially hot, as she drove in three runs with a pair of clutch hits, but all she seemed to dwell on was an error that did not cost her team any runs.
Like any player who has championship aspirations, Betley, a junior second baseman, is her own worst critic, but she did manage a smile, as West Essex, No. 2 in the FMTC Top 10, defeated SEC rival Livingston, 5-2, in ShangriLa.
“I felt good today at the plate,” said Betley. “I don’t really carry over a bad day at the plate into another game. (Nutley pitcher) Emily (Holden) did a good job against me that day. And Emily had a big day today, so I’m happy for her. (Holden pitched a gem against Mount St. Dominic today, winning 1-0).
“I was disappointed in the error I made today. It was a ball I should have handled. Yeah, I guess I talk more about the mistakes.”
In addition to Betley’s solid game, her classmate, catcher Alexa Vardiman (Funny Cide) had a tremendous performance, finishing 3-for-4 at the plate, and threw out two would-be base stealers at second base. Vardiman had two hits batting left handed and one hitting at her natural right handed side.
Unlike some righty batters who ‘slap’ effectively left handed. Vardiman is a true switch hitter, with as natural a swing from both sides of the plate.
“I batted lefty to get a quicker start at the plate my first two at-bats,” said Vardiman. “I went righty when (Livingston pitcher) Sydney (McCormack) came in. It was a just a different look.
“I learned how to swing left handed a few years back, and I like it. I’m a (natural) righty in everything else I do, whether it’s writing, or throwing.”
West Essex improved to 5-1 on the season, with its only loss a 6-4 setback to No. 1 Mount St. Dominic last Friday.
Livingston, which fell to 3-4 on the season, was held hitless until the top of the seventh inning by West Essex junior righty Sami Huetter (Canonero II). The Lancers tacked on a pair of runs in the seventh. Emma Cooney, a sophomore catcher, made a fine defensive play, picking a runner off first base. Cooney continues to play solid defense for the Lancers and is also Livingston’s leadoff hitter.
Huetter pitched a two-hitter for the Knights.
“You can’t win when you have zero on the scoreboard,” said Livingston coach Jason Daily. “I thought our kids played good defense today, and they stayed aggressive, but West Essex is such a good team. Sami threw the ball really well. She’s always around the strike zone and her stuff is great. At the plate, just about everyone in West Essex’s lineup contributes, and that was the case today.”
In Nutley, the Raiders’ Emily Holden matched up against junior righty Kelsey Oh of Mount St. Dominic, in an outstanding game, with Nutley winning a 1-0 decision.
It was the first time Nutley (5-1) had defeated Mount St. Dominic since April 20, 2012 and was Nutley’s first shutout win over the Lions since the 2011 Essex County Tournament final.
Holden scattered three hits and struck out 10. Oh was simply marvelous, again, limiting Nutley to just one hit, by Holden, while striking out 12 and walking two. Nutley scored the game’s only run in the bottom of the fifth inning, when Danielle Pomponio came around to score.
It was the first time Mount St. Dominic (4-1), the two-time Essex County Tournament and SEC champions, had lost to an Essex County opponent since April, 9, 2014, a span of 36 games.
Nutley, Livingston, Caldwell, Newark Academy, West Essex and Mount St. Dominic are among the Essex County teams with a busy weekend coming up. Nutley will play at Ivy Hill Park on Saturday, opposite Morris Knolls, in a 7 p.m. game, then heads to Mount St. Dominic on Sunday to compete in the Lions Invitational. Mount St. Dominic faces powerful Middletown South on Saturday afternoon, at Ivy Hill, then will play two games at its tournament on Sunday.
West Essex plays at Ivy Hill on Saturday morning, at 11 a.m., then will be at Emerson High on Sunday for a tournament game. (More on that in another blog).
Cedar Grove will host its annual Black and Gold Tournament on Saturday morning/afternoon, where the Panthers will play a pair of games.
And Livingston is busy, taking on Hillsborough on Saturday afternoon, at Ivy Hill, then facing up-and-coming Newark Academy, on Sunday afternoon, at the Lions Invitational. Newark Academy will also be in action on Saturday, at Ivy Hill, taking on Raritan High School.
The weather this weekend promises to be beautiful, with sunny skies and temperatures in the low 70’s. It should be a great time to come out and watch some quality softball, with five games on Saturday, at Ivy Hill Park, a huge slate of contests, at Cedar Grove, also on Saturday, and what looks to be a marvelous, all-day tournament, Sunday, at Mount St. Dominic.