There were whispers that Nutley could be in for a rebuilding season in 2017, but the young Raiders don’t want to hear about that. Nutley defeated a big-time nemesis, Livingston, 2-1, in a well-played game at Nutley, on April 12.
The Raiders improved to 3-2 on the season and won its fourth straight game against Livingston, dating back to 2015. Prior to last season, Livingston had dominated Nutley on the Raiders’ home field, winning six straight before Nutley won a 4-0 decision in 2016.
Nutley was led by pitcher Courtney Wilde, who spun a complete game 5-hitter, striking out six and even more importantly, walking none.
On offense, Melanie Conca, the ninth hitter in Nutley’s lineup, was 3-for-3, with a double, and scored both of her team’s runs, including the game-winner in the bottom of the seventh on a wild pitch.
In her 19th season, Nutley head coach Luann Zullo knew this year’s team would be a work-in-progress, as a young team learns the intricacies of the varsity game.
“Every game, we get a little better,” said Zullo, whose team improved to 3-2. “We still have a lot to learn, but I like what I’m seeing. We hung in there with West Essex the other day, which was a good test for us.”
Livingston, which won a state championship in 2016, fell to 2-2 on the season, but head coach Jason Daily, like Zullo, has a young team which will get better as the season progresses. Nicolette Luzzi scored her team’s only run in the Nutley game, when she tripled and scored on a single by Ashley Reuter in the sixth inning.
Cedar Grove sophomore right-hander Mia Faieta continues to excel. In back-to-back games last week against Mount St. Dominic and Montclair, Faieta struck out 33 batters. Cedar Grove is 4-2, and will visit Nutley on April 13.
Mount St. Dominic and West Essex are the top two teams in the FMTC Top 10, after the Lions defeated the Knights, 12-9, earlier this week, at MSDA. The teams will meet again in a conference matchup later this season and will probably be the top seeds for the always exciting Essex County Tournament, next month.
Bloomfield freshman pitcher Lexi Corio threw a complete game shutout for the Bengals, in a win over Montclair on April 11.
Here is the first FMTC Top 10.
1-Mount St. Dominic (4-1): The Lions are loaded on offense, with Dani Dabroski and Julianna Kocenski among the top hitters, and a tremendous pitcher in senior Kelsey Oh.
2-West Essex (7-1): Perhaps the deepest lineup in the county, the Knights are a senior-oriented team, but two underclassmen, sophomore Julia Vardiman and junior Lily James, have also been big time contributors.
3-Cedar Grove (4-2): An above-average offense is paced by two solid pitchers in Mia Faieta and Kelly Toomey.
4-Nutley (3-2): The Raiders are off to a good start, with senior Sam Echevarria batting third and playing a solid second base.
5-Livingston (2-2): Never count out the Big Green Machine. Freshman second baseman Nicolette Luzzi is playing well and catcher Emma Cooney is tremendous on defense.
6-Caldwell (3-0): The Chiefs will be among the favorites to win the SEC Liberty. Senior catcher Christina Guarino picked up her 100th career hit last week.
7-Verona (5-0): There are high hopes for the Hillbillies, who have a new field to play on in 2017.
8-Bloomfield (3-3): Senior captains Jalia Santos and Kasey Coury will be key players for the Bengals, as they battle for a league title in the SEC Liberty.
9-Millburn (3-2): The Millers have moved up a level to the SEC Liberty, which should have a spirited race for the championship among three or four teams.
10-Montclair (1-3): After a slow start, the Mounties were a county finalist in 2016, so there’s no reason not to believe they will be a tough out this spring.
Who will join Citation (Olivia Sprofera), Canonero II (Sami Huetter), Funny Cide (Alexa Vardiman), Nyquist (Jessie Masur), Sunday Silence (Reese Guevarra) and American Pharoah (Kelsey Oh) in the FMTC barn in 2017?
Some great candidates will be joining soon.