James stars as West Essex holds off stubborn ‘Maddux’ and Montclair, 7-3; Bloomfield’s Mayer close to 500th victory

Lilly James of West Essex had just made a stellar play at third base in an April 22 game against Montclair. The first person to congratulate her was….the Montclair head coach, Phil Delgado, who was coaching at third.

After James made a nice stab of a hard grounder and threw the runner out, a bewildered Delgado could only express appreciation for a well-played ball.

“Lily James is a stud,” said Delgado afterward. “She’s the best third baseman I’ve seen this year.”

James’ defense was key, as West Essex needed an all-around game to defeat Montclair, 7-3, in Montclair, on the Mounties’ normal JV field, on Grove Street, that was actually a really good place to watch a game.

West Essex coach Andrea Mondadori has been touting James’ prowess at the hot corner all season long.

lilyLilly James (right) and Sami Huetter led the Knights to its 10th win of the season, and ninth straight victory, against Montclair on April 22.

“She’s the real deal,” said Mondadori of the sophomore. “She made a play the other day that was incredible. Her instincts are special. She sees things out there and makes things happen.”

James came up with at least four outstanding plays at third against Montclair. She has helped make West Essex one of the best infield defenses in the county, along with shortstop Julia Vardiman, second baseman Bridget Betley, first baseman Kate Jencarelli and catcher Alexa Vardiman (Funny Cide).

West Essex’s Sami Huetter (Canonero II) and Jessie ‘Maddux’ Mazur of Montclair had a good pitcher’s duel going on for the first four innings. The only run came when Montclair’s Erica Robles hit one of the longer homers of the season, in Essex County, in the bottom of the fourth inning. The centerfield fence at Montclair measured 217 feet in center, and the ball must have traveled nearly 260 feet, maybe longer, and went into the trees.

“There was a stewardess on that flight,” said Delgado. “Seriously, it was a nice, shot, because it came off a great pitcher, in Sami. Even Sami was laughing about it afterward. It’s part of the game. Sometimes you give up a homer.”

To Huetter’s credit, she was all smiles about it, too. “I don’t think that ball came down yet,” she said. “I threw a double change-up, and it didn’t change much. It happens. Just get the next batter out.”

Huetter’s teammate, the incomparable junior second baseman, Betley, put it best.

“Two seconds,” Betley said after the game. “You get to be mad for two seconds, and then move on.”

West Essex (10-1), which won its ninth straight game, rallied for six runs in the fifth inning, five of which were unearned against Mazur, who was outstanding, but got hurt with a few fielding errors.

“She pitched a really good game against us,” said Mondadori of Mazur. “She throws strikes, hits the corners really well, and the movement on her ball is tremendous. That’s a really good pitcher.

Delgado agreed.

“Jessie was great,” said Delgado. “She’s supposed to get out of the fifth inning with probably no runs allowed, maybe one, and instead, we’re down 6-1. It’s been that kind of season. We were 1-1 with Mount St. Dominic in the sixth (earlier in the week) and then we’re down, 9-1. (On April 21) we played Paramus Catholic and lost, 5-1. We gave up all five runs in one inning.

“But you know what? We’re getting better. We’re really young, and we’re learning that when you play teams the quality of what we’re seeing regularly, you can’t make mistakes and hope to get away with it. These teams make you pay. And that’s how you get better.”

For West Essex, it wasn’t their most effective all-around game, but it was a victory nevertheless. The Knights will have a short turnaround, and play arch rival Caldwell on Saturday morning, at 10 a.m.

“Caldwell is always a big game for our kids,” said Mondadori. “They all know each other. It should be an exciting game.”

April 23 should also be a big day for the Bloomfield Bengals. Head coach Bob Mayer has 499 career wins and has a good chance to become just the eighth coach in state history, and third in Essex County, to reach the 500 milestone. Bloomfield plays a pair of games on Saturday afternoon, the first against Memorial of West New York and the second opposite Clifton.

Mayer has been low keyed about the milestone, but appreciates its significance.


“I know it’s something special,” Mayer said after win number 499 against Wayne Valley. “Honestly, I can’t wait for it (the 500) to be over, so we can just concentrate on winning games.”

BvdN3VZIEAA4jYh.jpg largeBloomfield coach Bob Mayer (right), here in a light moment with Newark Academy coach Serg Rodriguez, is one of the most well-liked coaches in Essex County.

Bloomfield athletic director Steve Jenkins noted that Mayer’s work with student-athletes speaks for itself.

“Coach Mayer is as unassuming an individual as you will ever find,”said Jenkins in a statement. “But his impact on the athletes and students of Bloomfield stretches across generations.”

The Bloomfield players are also excited to get the win for Mayer.

“We know it’s a big deal,” said senior Sam Corio. “Only seven others have done it. That’s pretty nice.”



By mike051893

Corio stud-like in circle; Collins, Ramirez have 3 hits each, as Bloomfield stops Wayne Valley, 9-3

Bloomfield coach Bob Mayer feels his team is starting to come around, after a slow start.

Then again, Mayer also noted that the ‘slow start’ came against the likes of Mount St. Dominic, Nutley (twice), Livingston (twice) and West Essex.

Mayer saw his team hit the ball well on April 21, as the Bengals spotted Wayne Valley three early runs, then stormed back to prevail, 9-3, behind a tremendous pitching performance by senior Samantha Corio, and the hot bats of Christina Collins and Rachelle Ramirez.

“We can’t make excuses about our schedule, because I think it will make us better as the season goes on,” said Mayer, noting his team plays in the rugged Super Essex Conference, American Division. “We’re starting to play better, but we still need to work on base running and overall defense. But this was a good win today.”

Mayer made a quick pitching change with two outs in the second inning, moving Corio from her regular centerfield position to pitcher. Corio, who has a tremendous throwing arm, enjoys pitching, as well.

“Coach did say I would probably pitch, but I figured it would be later in the game,” said Corio. “But when I got called in, I knew I had to throw well.”

When Corio entered, the Bengals were down 3-0 and Wayne Valley had runners on base. Corio retired the last batter in the second, and went on to pitch 5 1/3 innings of outstanding ball, striking out four and walking one while scattering three hits.

“Sam came up big for us,” said Mayer. “If we fall behind 5 or 6-0 at that point, it’s a long haul back.”

Corio also worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the sixth inning. The senior will be attending Kean University this fall, and hopes to continue playing on the collegiate level.

corioBloomfield’s Samantha Corio is the team’s offensive leader, as well as a tremendous outfielder and pitcher. (Photo courtesy of Joe DiFranco)

Bloomfield’s starting pitcher, Courtney Politz, had taken a line drive off her hip in Bloomfield’s last game, on April 19, at Livingston, on the final pitch of that game. Politz left with a large ice pack on her side, but appeared ready today.

“She struggled a little bit with her control,” said Mayer. “Courtney took quite a pop on that hip, but she’ll be okay. She’s a big part of our team.”

Ramirez and Collins’ contributions also encouraged Mayer.

“They bat 8 and 9 in our lineup, so it was good to get that kind of production from them,” said Mayer.

Shortstop Jalia Santos also made a big play, on defense, by snaring a line drive that seemed to be headed into the gap. And Bloomfield catcher Kasey Coury continues to play well defensively, and has a good arm behind the plate.

Bloomfield will play a pair of games at a tournament, in Clifton, on Saturday, then has conference games coming up with Montclair and Cedar Grove next week.

“They’re all big games for us,” the coach said. “We don’t take anything for granted. But if we can get this kind of effort, we’ll be okay.”

By mike051893

Canonero (3 hits, complete game), Betley, Julia Vardiman and Jencarelli pace West Essex past Cedar Grove, 7-1

West Essex won its seventh straight, with another potent offensive attack, as well as the usual pitching performance from junior righty Sami Huetter (Canonero II), as the Knights defeated Cedar Grove, 7-1, at Mondo Field, on April 20.

Huetter’s outstanding pitching is not a surprise. She pitched a complete game against the hard-hitting Panthers, striking out eight and walking one, while scattering five hits. But it’s her bat that has been a surprise for Huetter this season.

West Essex (8-1) will be favored in its next three games, as the Knights take on Glen Ridge, Montclair and Caldwell on consecutive days, starting on April 21.

“We don’t take anything for granted,” said West Essex coach Andrea Mondadori. “I’d like to think we can give some of our younger kids a chance to play, which would be nice. I was hoping to pitch Amanda Schwartz against Glen Ridge. She gave us a good effort, in relief, against Ramsey and has a good arm.

“But we have to keep the intensity. We did well today, against a tough Cedar Grove team. The last few games, we opened a big lead, but weren’t finishing well. Today, we did.”

Canonero was 3-for-3 at the plate, and drove in two runs. She’s often said that hitting isn’t her forte, but with her (brand new) bat in the middle of an already potent lineup, it makes Mondadori’s team that more dangerous.

we1Sami Huetter’s new bat has resulted in multiple-hit games for the West Essex star.

Junior second baseman Bridget Betley had another good game, collecting three hits and actually expressing some satisfaction with her overall game.

“I guess I did okay,” said Betley. “There was one play in the field, early in the game, that bothered me, but I got three hits. Yeah, three hits. That’s not bad.”

Julia Vardiman, a freshman shortstop, continued her hot streak. After a 4-for-4 effort, and four runs scored, in a win over Ramsey last Sunday, Vardiman had another two hits in the win over Cedar Grove. Kate Jencarelli tripled and singled.

Cedar Grove (5-6) has battled a tough schedule, but coach Nicole Velardi’s team struggled a bit out of the gate last year, but came on strong in the second half, en route to a state title.

A highlight for the Panthers was a marvelous catch by junior centerfielder, Rianna Marinelli, who made an over-the-head catch, near the fence, on a long drive off the bat of Amanda Garofalo, who, ironically has made similar catches when she plays centerfield.




By mike051893

Essex Softball: Montclair gets a much-needed ‘W’, as ‘Maddux’ fans 11 and Silverstein drives in winning run; Livingston edges Bloomfield on Saperstein hit; Belleville to name its field after legendary Coach Carl Corino, on Saturday

Montclair won a big game on April 19, defeating Gov. Livingston, 3-2. For a young team struggling to find an identity, any win is a good one, especially in a hard-fought, well-played game.

Jessie ‘Maddux’ Mazur struck out 11 for the Mounties (2-7) in a complete game effort. Lilly Silverstein drove in the game-winning run, in walk-off fashion, with a single in the bottom of the seventh inning. Erica Robles had two hits for Montclair.

“It was a good sign today,” said Montclair coach Phil Delgado. “We played the kind of game I know we’re capable of playing. I was happy with the effort.”

Bloomfield and Livingston played another close game, at ShangriLa on April 19, with the Lancers (5-6) edging the Bengals, 4-3, with a run in the bottom of the seventh inning.

Bloomfield (3-7) trailed, 3-1, in the top of the seventh, before tying it on a two-run single by pinch hitter Rachelle Ramirez, along with a rare fielding error by the Lancers. Livingston would come back to win it on a leadoff triple by Allie Beinhacker and a single by Blake Saperstein.

The Bengals earlier run came on a single by Sam Corio and a double by Jalia Santos,  in the fourth inning, that tied the game at one.

Livingston pitcher Sydney McCormack (Syd The Kid) threw a complete game for the victory.

Jason Daily, Livingston’s coach, wasn’t surprised by Bloomfield’s tenacity.

“We’ve had some crazy games with them, especially here,” said Daily. “Bloomfield always comes to play. (Bloomfield coach) Bob (Mayer) has those kids battling all the time.”

Daily’s infield defense continued to impress, especially in fielding the bunt.

“We work on that all the time,” said Daily. “Our kids are good at getting to the right spot on a bunt and knowing where their assignments are.”

Daily also looked back at his team’s 9-2 loss to No. 1 Mount St. Dominic a day earlier.

“I thought we played well,” Daily said. “We got an early 1-0 lead, they went ahead, 2-1, we tied it, 2-2 and had some opportunities. But the Mount is so tough. And let me tell you, (MSDA pitcher) Kelsey (Oh) was incredible. Eighteen strikeouts? She was really on. That kid is so good, and she’s a big time competitor.”

Belleville has a big day planned on April 23, when the Bucs will honor former coach, Carl Corino, by naming its home field the Corino Softball Complex at Clearman Field.

Corino was the first Essex County high school softball coach to win 500 career games. He was also the state’s winningest coach, from 2002-2004. Corino guided Belleville to 12 Essex County Tournament championship games, three county titles, seven conference crowns and two state sectional championships.

And in a hard-nosed county like Essex, where coaches take their craft quite seriously, the compliments have flowed for Corino.

corinoCarl Corino (back row, center) joined his former team when the Bucs were in Florida in March. Corino was informed then, by current coach, Chris Cantarella, that the field would be named in his honor on April 23.

“Our teams had some great battles over the years in the Essex County Tournament,” said MSDA coach, Lorenzo Sozio, who throws compliments around as freely as a manhole cover, but is also quite honest in assessments. “Carl is an icon in high school softball. There’s no other way to put it. He helped put our sport on the map.”

Daily recalled the first time he coached against Corino, in 2001.

82The 1982 Belleville softball won the first of three county championships, under coach Corino, pictured here, back row, far left.

“Belleville beat us by the mercy rule,” said Daily, with a laugh. “And afterward, Carl called me over and said something along the lines of ‘you’re going to do okay.’ That meant a lot. We played them again later in 2001, in the state tournament, and they beat us, 3-1, in a much better game. I’ve always had the highest regard for Carl. He certainly deserves this moment. I just wish I could be there, but our team has a game that day, at the time of the dedication.”

Belleville plans to honor Corino around 2 p.m. on April 23, after the Bucs play a varsity game against New Providence at 11:30 a.m.


By mike051893

Nutley keeps on rolling, as Genuine Risk blanks Bloomfield; Ziemer’s defense a key for Raiders

Nutley’s been in a stretch where it seems to be playing every day. The Raiders defeated Bloomfield on April 18, 9-0, at The Pond, behind another solid pitching effort by senior lefty Emily Holden, the new Genuine Risk.

With an April 19 game scheduled at Lenape Valley, it will be the fifth straight day the Raiders have played. The streak started on April 15, with a 1-0 win over Mount St. Dominic, then continued with a 2-0 setback to Morris Knolls, at Ivy Hill, on April 16. Shutout wins over Pequannock, on April 17, and Bloomfield a day later, set the stage for Tuesday’s game at Lenape Valley. After an actual day off, the team is back on the field for a home game on April 21, then heads south to Raritan for a tournament game on April 23.

zulloGenuine Risk and her coach, Luann Zullo, after a win over Bloomfield, at The Pond.

Through it all, Holden has asked for, and gotten the ball, as the team’s starting pitcher, and she’s been nearly flawless. In her two losses, the Raiders have scored one run for her. Holden’s bat has also been consistent. In the win over Mount St. Dominic, she had the only hit off of junior righty, Kelsey Oh.

In a loss to West Essex, Holden was just as impressive, matching up against the Knights’ Canonero II (Sami Huetter). Her work was so good there that a number of West Essex players couldn’t help but rave about her performance afterward.

As good a player Holden is, on the field, her demeanor and leadership qualities, off the field, have drawn raves from her coaches.

Nutley’s streak of games didn’t seem to bother Zullo.

“When we were in Florida in March, we played every day, and that’s the kind of thing we do every spring,” said Zullo. “So, when we get into a stretch of games like this, it shouldn’t be a problem. I did ask Emily before Sunday’s game (at the Lions Invitational) if she felt she could pitch, after having thrown the night before, and she said she was ready. That’s the kind of kid she is.”

With the graduation of stud pitcher and shortstop, Carly Anderson, last spring, there might have been questions whether Holden, who had done her share of pitching the past few seasons, would be ready to take the lead as Nutley’s No. 1 pitcher.

The answer is obvious. Nutley’s 7-2 record speaks for itself.

And not to be forgotten is senior shortstop Stefanie Ziemer. A starter as a freshman, Ziemer struggled with her confidence in 2014. But she’s become a key player, both in the field, and in the bottom of the lineup as a reliable hitter. Ziemer helped Nutley to a state sectional title last year, and she’s been the model of consistency so far in 2016.

She just made her decision to attend Monmouth University this fall, and while she won’t be playing on the collegiate level, it’s hard to believe she won’t stay involved with the game, in some capacity.

“Stefanie is one of the nicest and hardest working kids I’ve ever been around,” said Zullo. “She’s such a good kid. She was actually brushed by a pitch in the Pequannock game last Sunday. We saw it, but the home plate umpire didn’t. Stefanie didn’t say anything to the umpire, because that’s the way she is. We told her, ‘just go to first base next time’. We laughed about it, but that’s the way she is. She just plays the game and is great with her teammates.”


Stefanie and her dad, Bill, enjoy a nice father-daughter moment after a Nutley win.


By mike051893

Good week for Nutley, as Genuine Risk (Emily Holden) joins the studs; West Essex keeps rolling, as Julia Vardiman and Jencarelli excel; Mount St. Dominic remains No. 1, as Oh dominates; Royce grand slam helps Livingston rally past Newark Academy, 7-5

Following her team’s hard-fought win over Nutley last week, West Essex coach Andrea Mondadori discussed Nutley’s senior lefty pitcher, Emily Holden.

“You gotta give that kid a (stud) name,” Mondo said. “She’s really good. What a pitcher.”

And with that, Holden is dubbed Genuine Risk.

GenuineRisk_300x300_080818The other Genuine Risk.

Holden had an incredible week, highlighted by a 1-0 win over Mount St. Dominic, the No. 1 team in the latest FMTC Top 10, last Friday, in Nutley.

Holden pitched the entire weekend, too, losing a close game to Morris Knolls, then tossing a shutout against Pequannock at the Mount St. Dominic Lions Softball Invitational, on April 17.

Nutley coach Luann Zullo wasn’t sure if she’d use Holden in three straight games, especially on the heals of what will be a busy upcoming week.

“I asked her after Saturday’s game (against Morris Knolls, at Ivy Hill Park), if she felt she could go on an early game Sunday, after pitching late the night before, and she said yes,” said Zullo. “Emily just takes the ball and pitches. She’s a great competitor.”

Speaking of West Essex, the Knights won its sixth straight game last Sunday, defeating Ramsey, 10-5, at the annual EDSAF Tournament, in Emerson.

West Essex (7-1) cranked out 14 hits in the victory, as freshman shortstop Julia Vardiman was 4-for-4 and Kate Jencarelli had two hits. Amanda Garofalo continued her aggressive play at the plate, and her speed has been key to rallies. Garofalo also plays an outstanding centerfield.

IMG_20160417_165813027Amanda Garofalo and her did, Bill, after the Knights defeated Ramsey at the EDSAF Tourney, on April 17.

Kelsey Oh continues to dazzle, as the junior righty had a tremendous week for Mount St. Dominic. Oh fanned 17 against hard-hitting Middletown South, at Ivy Hill Park, on April 16. In her only loss, against Nutley a day earlier, it was hard to ask for anything better. Oh struck out 12 and allowed one hit.

Mount St. Dominic hosted its annual tournament on April 17, under perfect weather conditions. MSDA athletic director and head softball coach Lorenzo Sozio puts in an incredible amount of work to make this tournament what it is, a tremendous showcase for players and fans, year in and year out.

The ‘Battle of Livingston’ went to the Lancers, who edged Newark Academy, 7-5, at the Lions Softball Invitational last Sunday. Livingston trailed, 5-1, but stormed back as Allie Royce launched a grand-slam homer and Julia Viggiano had two hits. In the circle, Jess Gorman, a sophomore, pitched well in relief and got the win.

Livingston coach Jason Daily was happy with the win, but knows his team needs to play better.

“Newark Academy hit the ball well,” said Daily. “That team has a chance to make a good run in the Essex County Tournament. (Newark Academy head coach) Serg (Rodriguez) has a really good team.

“As for us, we’re not consistent enough. I like the way these kids battle, but we have to be better defensively. We’ve played a tough schedule, but we know it’s not going to get any easier.”

Here’s the updated Top 10:

1-Mount St. Dominic (7-1): They’re still the best in the county, with Kelsey Oh in the circle and a pesky offensive attack, led by Julianna Kocenski, Elizabeth Cowell and Sarah Taffett.

2-West Essex (7-1): A stud battery of pitcher Sami Huetter (Canonero II) and catcher Alexa Vardiman (Funny Cide) continues to excel, and the offense has been nearly unstoppable.

we2Huetter (right) and Vardiman (left) with Mondo.

3-Nutley (6-2): Senior pitcher Emily Holden (Genuine Risk) had a week for the ages, with multiple shutouts. Holden is also a tough out at the plate. Danielle Pomponio, Stefanie Ziemer and Breanna DeMaio are also key to the Raiders’ offense.

4-Livingston (4-5): Lancers have been close in most of their setbacks and appear ready to make a run. They’ll have a tough task on April 18, when it visits Mount St. Dominic.

5-Newark Academy (4-3): This team can hit, led by Sam Keller and Sophie Rosenberg (Arts and Letters). Its three losses have come by a combined four runs.

6-Cedar Grove (4-5): The Panthers split two games at its tournament last weekend. A very aggressive schedule early on should put the team in good stead as it gears for the county tournament.

7-Caldwell (6-1): The Chiefs’ only loss came in a 7-6 setback to Newark Academy. Coach Mike Teshkoyan’s team is still very much in the running for an SEC title and could get a high seed in the county tournament.

8-Bloomfield (3-5): Bengals seem to be playing better after a slow start, winning two straight entering this week’s action. Crystal Rodriguez had two hits, and Courtney Politz drove in a pair of runs in a 5-1 victory over Lakeland this past weekend.

9-Verona (5-5): The Hillbillies had won 5 of 6, after a slow start, and scored 40 runs in its last three games, all wins, heading into this week.

10-Millburn (11-0):  A new entry into the Top 10, the Millers are off to a big start, and appear to be running away with an SEC title, which would be its second straight crown. Rachel Hubertus had six RBI in a win over Belleville, including a homer and two triples. It will be interesting to see where Millburn is seeded in the upcoming county tournament.

The latest stud watch…

Sami Huetter, Canonero II

Sydney McCormack, Syd The Kid

Sophie Rosenberg, Arts and Letters

Alexa Vardiman, Funny Cide

Emily Holden, Genuine Risk

Out of Network:

Olivia Sprofera, Southpaw Slew

Reese Guevarra, Sunday Silence


By mike051893

IHA wins a thriller over Pope John, in a ‘hate losing more than failing to win’ moment; Oh brilliant again as MSDA wins; West Essex continues its run, as Garofalo and Jencarelli star; Livingston, despite loss, playing well

Immaculate Heart Academy coach Diana Fasano was relishing her team’s dramatic 2-1 victory over Pope John at the Black and Gold Tournament in Cedar Grove, when she suddenly became philosophical.

“That shows a lot about this team,” said Fasano, as the Eagles improved to 7-1 on the season. “Your hatred to lose has to be greater than your failure to win.”

With that, she enjoyed recalling how her team, down to its last strike in the bottom of the seventh, and trailing 1-0, found a way to tie it, with three consecutive singles, two of which came when the respective batter had two strikes on her.

Sarah Browning, the eighth hitter in the lineup, singled with two outs and two strikes, and then Reagan Jones followed with a single, again with two strikes on her. Reese Guevarra (Sunday Silence) then lined a single that drove home Caroline Ventor, who was pinch running for Browning, with the tying run.

reaganReagan Jones, with her dad, Bob Jones, following an exciting win for IHA against Pope John. Reagan and her team was 7-1 heading into this week’s action.

Starting pitcher Olivia Sprofera (Southpaw Seattle Slew), who pitched a marvelous game, kept Pope John off the board in the eighth inning, and then in the bottom of the frame, the Eagles got it done, as Ally Dudek drove in Danica Yatko with the winning run.

Sprofera struck out 10 and walked one while scattering just four hits. Fasano felt the victory would do a lot for team’s psyche going forward.

“We have a big week coming up, with games against Indian Hills, Old Tappan and Butler,” said Fasano. “This kind of win, against a really good team like Pope John, showed a lot about this team’s resiliency.”

According to Fasano, the hatred to lose more than a failure to win was a line used by the late IHA coach Anthony LaRezza. There’s a line similar to that, which was used in the movie ‘Moneyball’, which was a story about the Oakland A’s, which was LaRezza’s favorite Major League baseball team.

thThe Oakland A’s were Coach LaRezza’s favorite MLB team.

“Not surprising,” said Fasano, when told about the movie. “(We) miss the guy.”

Mount St. Dominic junior pitcher Kelsey Oh was magnificent once again, as she struck out 17 batters, helping the No. 1 team in the FMTC Top 10 to a big 1-0 win over an excellent Middletown South squad, at Ivy Hill Park, on Saturday afternoon.

The Lions will host its annual tournament on April 17, with some great games at its campus, in Caldwell. The first games should begin around 8:30 a.m. Beautiful weather is expected.

West Essex also got a win at Ivy Hill today, defeating Bridgewater Raritan, as junior outfielder Amanda Garofalo and senior first baseman Kate Jencarelli had solid games.

The Knights will play at the EDSAF & Emerson Softball Benefit Tournament, on April 17, at Emerson High School, against Ramsey, starting at 3 p.m.

Livingston coach Jason Daily was proud of his team’s effort, despite a 3-1 setback to a good Hillsborough team at Ivy Hill Park. Livingston rallied to load the bases, after two were out, before a hard hit grounder was handled for the game’s final out.

“We’re getting there,” said Daily. “These kids work hard. I think we’re turning the corner. The competition we’ve faced lately, in Butler, West Essex and Hillsborough today shows we’re capable of playing at a good level.”

Livingston will be at the Mount St. Dominic Lions Softball Invitational, on April 17, to face Newark Academy, in a battle of Livingston. The winner will probably earn the fourth seed for the upcoming Essex County Tournament. Game time is expected to be around 4:30 p.m.




By mike051893

Betley (who’s never satisfied), Funny Cide and Canonero II lead West Essex past Livingston, 5-2; Nutley surprises Mount St. Dominic, 1-0, behind Holden

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).

weAlexa Vardiman (left) and Bridget Betley had excellent all-around games for West Essex, as it defeated Livingston, 5-2.

“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.

By mike051893

With another football season nearing, Chet Parlavecchio already in mid-season form, recalls great Belleville football tradition and the ’77 ‘hip pad’ incident

Chet Parlavecchio is in a good place.

He’s back at Passaic Valley High School, where he’ll begin the second year of his second tenure as the head football coach. The changes between last year at this time, and this year, are incredible. Parlavecchio’s players are way ahead of schedule, as far as weight lifting and conditioning.

As far as the game itself, Chet is always in a talkative mood. He and I sat down in his football office earlier this week, to discuss a bunch of things, and one that came up was the Belleville High School football program.

“I hope they get that program back to where it was,” said Parlavecchio. “I mean, Belleville football has a storied tradition. I remember some of the games we played against them, way back when. Those guys never stopped coming after you.”

Parlavecchio’s playing career is legendary. He was a star linebacker at Seton Hall Prep, located then in South Orange. His 1977 team may be one of the best defensive units in New Jersey High School history, as the Pony Pirates finished 10-0-1 and won a state title.

PART_1460644617289_208123369-1Parlavecchio exhorts his team after Passaic Valley won its season finale last fall.

Chet would go on to play college football at ‘Linebacker U’, also known as Penn State, and, in his senior year, was a team captain for the Nittany Lions. From there, he was drafted by the NFL’s Green Bay Packers and later played for the St. Louis Cardinals, before an injury ended his playing career.

Parlavecchio has had a tremendous coaching career on the high school level, beginning at Bloomfield (1987-1990), Irvington (1991-1992, where he coached a future NFL linebacker, in Al Singleton, and future NFL head coach in Raheem Morris), Passaic Valley (1994-1998), Clifton (1999-2003), Elizabeth (2006-2009, leading the ’06 team to a state title) and the return to Passaic Valley in 2015.

There was also a year on the collegiate level, at Temple University, in 1993 and three years as a special teams assistant and linebackers coach with the NFL’s Tennessee Titans (2011-2013), working under the direction of head coach Mike Munchak, who was Chet’s roommate at Penn State.

chetParlavecchio spent three years as an assistant coach with the NFL’s Tennessee Titans.

Getting back to the Belleville connection, it’s actually quite interesting. In 1977, Seton Hall would play at Belleville, in a regular season game, in week seven.

Belleville had a new head coach in John Senesky, and the Bellboys were actually playing well after a slow start, having won two straight. At 2-4, with wins over Irvington and Essex Catholic, the team had a little confidence, but knew Seton Hall Prep would be a huge assignment.

Before the start of the game, the Pirates were actually called for a 15-yard penalty.

“One of our guys, Joe Aulisi, wasn’t wearing a hip pad,” recalled Parlavecchio with a laugh. “And (Belleville assistant coach) Joe (D’Ambola) tells the official that. The official agreed, and hit us with an equipment violation penalty, before the game even started. Well, we went nuts on the sideline. It was crazy. We’re yelling across at D’Ambola. But it was actually funny.”

The Pirates would go on to beat Belleville that day, 63-0, and Parlavecchio recalls scoring a touchdown, then throwing up in the end zone, since he was so fired up.

“That’s the reason why I said Belleville’s tradition is what it is,” Chet said last week. “It wasn’t the score of that game. We were a better team that year. But those Belleville kids never stopped playing hard. And what happened two years later? Belleville beat Seton Hall (14-13) on the same field. I’ve always said John Senesky ran a great program and when you look at guys like Frank Fazzini and Phil Cerza, man they were tough.”

It was another in a long line of great conversations with Parlavecchio that could make for a good book one day. But in the meantime, thought it would be fun to share, with the high school football season (believe it or not) not too far off.

Practice can start in less than two months now, and you can bet Coach P will be ready to go.


By mike051893

Anthony LaRezza Invitational to be completed this Sunday, April 17

Immaculate Heart Academy coach Diana Fasano has announced that some of the postponed contests from the first day of the Anthony LaRezza Invitational will be made up on Sunday, April 17, at the Eagles’ home field, in Washington Twp, on the IHA campus.

Rain postponed all four games on April 9. The second day of the tournament was played, as scheduled, on April 10, with IHA, St. John Vianney, West Essex and Jefferson winning their respective games.

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So far, two contests are set.

At 12 p.m., St. Joseph of Connecticut will face Notre Dame of Lawrenceville and at 2 p.m., Notre Dame takes on Butler.

Fasano is also hoping to schedule one, or two more games, in addition to the two confirmed contests, this Sunday.

Beautiful weather is expected on April 17, with sunny skies and temperatures near 70 degrees, and the usual large crowd should be on hand to support a great cause.




By mike051893