Sweet Caroline! IHA edges West Essex in an 8-inning classic, 2-1, as Guevarra and Betley provide stellar defensive plays and Dudek drives home Jones with the winning run; Corio pitches Bloomfield to a pair of victories; Amanda Ayala a ‘Whirlaway’ stud; Faieta pitches a gem against Pope John; Great job by Cedar Grove in running a nice tournament; Newark Academy battling tough schedule; MSDA remains atop rankings

A wonderful Black and Gold Tournament at Cedar Grove on April 23 was culminated by an incredible game, as Immaculate Heart Academy rallied from a 1-0 deficit in the bottom of the seventh to tie it, then won in the eighth inning on a triple by Reagan Jones and subsequent single by Ally Dudek, for a 2-1 win.

This game, which was scheduled just a day earlier, was as good as advertised, as two of the best teams in North Jersey played marvelous softball. The pitching was ridiculous (in a good way, of course), as Olivia Sprofera and Sami Huetter were stud-like, all evening long. #citation #canoneroII

The defense featured some tremendous plays, including a diving catch by Reese Guevarra in centerfield for IHA and a leaping grab at second base by West Essex’s Bridget Betley.

Bridget Betley is having another solid season for West Essex. (Click on photos for larger images)

Left to right, Sami Huetter, Alexa Vardiman and Bridget Betley, team captains for West Essex, have the Knights playing well once again.

In the end, a nice piece of opposite-field hitting by Jones found the gap in right center for a triple that led off the eighth.

Earlier in the game, Julia Vardiman drilled a homer over the left-centerfield fence to give the Knights a 1-0 lead, and that margin held until the bottom of the seventh, when IHA tied it, and forced extra innings.

With the advent of the new NJSIAA Tournament of Champions in high school softball this June, there’s always the possibility that IHA and West Essex could meet again, perhaps in an ultimate championship game.

But that’s still a good six weeks away, and there are plenty of tremendous teams out there, who will be battling for a Group championship.

IHA actually won two games at the Black and Gold, defeating Livingston earlier in the day.

And speaking of the Black and Gold, kudos to Cedar Grove athletic director Rob Gogerty, the Cedar Grove coaching staff, led by Nicole Velardi, as well as the Cedar Grove parents, for putting together an incredible day-long event. On a perfect weather day, there was a good crowd, plenty to eat and some great music during time outs and in between innings.

The IHA players were enjoying Neal Diamond’s ‘Sweet Caroline’ during a pitching change. They had it choreographed pretty well, led by Sunday Silence, Reese Guevarra, who was standing at second base and leading the charge when the song hit the airwaves.

Still a classic.

Lexi Corio, a freshman righty picked up two wins at the Black and Gold Tournament, as Bloomfield defeated Kittatinny and DePaul. The Bengals are 8-6 through games of April 24, and Corio has provided a boost to the pitching staff, which had lost two key hurlers from last year, to graduation.

Lexi Corio, here with her father, Joe, has pitched well for the Bengals. (Click on photo for larger image)

DePaul centerfielder Amanda Ayala (stud name, Whirlaway) appears to be 100 percent after a serious leg injury kept her out of the lineup for all of 2016. The senior centerfielder homered against Bloomfield and had a tremendous overall week for the Spartans, both at the plate, and in the field, including an incredible catch last Monday.

Cedar Grove sophomore pitcher Mia Faieta was outstanding at the Black and Gold, as well, pitching a one-hitter, with 15 strikeouts, as the Panthers defeated Pope John, 4-0, for its second win of the day. Faieta had to leave her previous start on Aprili 21 with an injury, but she was back in form last Sunday.

Mia Faieta (right), here with teammate Gianna Kubu, has been among the strikeout leaders in Essex County so far this season. (Click on photo for larger image)

Newark Academy’s record may be a bit deceiving. The Minutemen have played well against a Super Essex Conference American Division schedule, and have also played solid teams outside the conference. While coach Serg Rodriguez’s team probably won’t finish above .500, they could still be a factor in the Non-Public B Tournament, as third baseman Sam Berggraf is a solid defender and tremendous with the bat and pitcher Mallory Shaw continues to get better.

Mallory Shaw (Click on photos for larger images)

Sam Burggraf

Always the coach, Sergio Rodriguez giving pointers to a player during a recent game.

Mount St. Dominic continues to play well against a top schedule, including a successful trip to Ohio last weekend. The Lions remain the number one team in the most recent Top 10. They’ll also, most assuredly, be the top seed for the 40th Essex County Tournament, as MSDA seeks a seventh overall crown and third in the last four years.

Here’s the updated FMTC Top 10, through games of April 24.

1-Mount St. Dominic (10-3)

2-West Essex (12-3)

3-Cedar Grove (10-4)

4-Verona (10-2)

5-Nutley (4-5)

6-Livingston (6-6)

7-Caldwell (6-4)

8-Columbia (6-5)

9-Bloomfield (8-6)

10-Montclair (4-6)




By mike051893

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