A tourney near and dear to the Mondadori family’s heart, West Essex to play Demarest in annual EDSAF game on April 9

The side of coaching that any man or woman would like to avoid has also provided solace to an extended softball family.

The 14th annual EDSAF & Emerson Softball Benefit Tournament will be held on April 8 and 9, at Emerson Borough High School.

The final game of the tourney will feature West Essex taking on Northern Valley-Demarest, at 3 p.m., on April 9.

The EDSAF tourney is certainly close to West Essex assistant coach Steve Mondadori and his daughter, West Essex head coach Andrea Mondadori Llauget. The tournament benefits Ari Solimando, a 2004 Emerson High graduate and former catcher for then head coach Steve Mondadori, who was paralyzed in an accident back in 2003.

Ari, with her long-time companion, Nexus.

For many years at EDSAF, Steve’s team would play Andrea’s West Essex squad in the tourney. Steve coached at Emerson, then for a few seasons at St. Mary (Ruth.) before retiring as a coach at the end of the 2013 season.

Steve never misses this event. One year, he had a surgical procedure and was somewhat limited, but he was there, watching as his youngest daughter coached Emerson and his oldest daughter, of course, was leading West Essex.

mondoAndrea Mondadori Llauget and her father, Steve.

Steve decided to come back to coaching as an assistant to Andrea for the 2016 season and West Essex had one of its best seasons, ever, finishing 26-3 and winning an Essex County, Super Essex Conference and state sectional tournament championship.

See link on Steve’s official return. https://mikelamberti.wordpress.com/2015/10/28/father-knows-best-andrea-mondadori-announces-the-hiring-of-a-new-softball-coach-at-west-essex/

The expectations are high again for the Knights in 2017, as Steve is back on the staff.

West Essex has also fared quite well at the EDSAF, winning nine of 12 games and five straight.

The tournament is held over two days and features a number of excellent softball programs in Northern New Jersey.

By mike051893

The Anthony LaRezza Invitational at IHA, set for April 8 and 9, brings back a lot of memories from when Anthony kept the place hopping with his humor and candor

We’re only a week into the 2017 softball season, but some interesting tournaments are set for this weekend, and hopefully the weather will cooperate.

Among those are the Anthony LaRezza Invitational Softball Tournament, at Immaculate Heart Academy in Washington Township, on April 8 and 9. This is the second year that the tourney will bear the name of IHA’s late head softball coach. The event, of course, has been long-standing, and Anthony was a big part of the two days. When he wasn’t coaching, he’d be running around between the snack stand and the field, and in between greeting hundreds of fans and handing out softballs to the MVP’s of the other games.

The man never missed a beat. One year, as I walked into the IHA complex, a man, who said he was a certified umpire, handed me a softball, said to give to Anthony, and to make sure that ball was thrown out of play, because it was worn.

When I gave Anthony the message and the ball, he smiled with that wheels-turning smirk, looked at me, and said, about the certified ump, “who is he, Nestor Chylak?”, referring to the legendary MLB umpire.

Anthony, sitting in the rain and watching a Bergen County Tournament game at IHA a few years back. (Click on all photos for a larger image).

LaRezza often enjoyed talking about the Chicken and the Pig, and sacrifice needed by players to form a great team.

When Stef Thomas (third from left) won her 113th career game, which set a state record, back in 2014, Anthony was there, at IHA, leading the post-game celebration.

Stef, with her sisters, after winning a state-record 113th career game in 2014. At right is youngest sister Cat, who is now a freshman at IHA.

Of course, no IHA tourney was complete without a visit from Nestor Chylak.

And for years, we’d constantly kid about Nestor and get a few laughs.

In 2010, after his team lost to Livingston, 1-0, in the tournament, an obviously annoyed LaRezza gave what he and I later called “The Memorial Day Speech.” Anthony was talking to a close friend, behind the backstop while another tournament game was going on. He proceeded to say to his friend, “We’re not any good this year. These kids don’t care. They’ll go 22-6, and their season will be done around Memorial Day. Good, go down the shore, enjoy. Memorial Day weekend is just seven weeks away.”

The emotions obviously ran high last year, when the tournament was played without Anthony. Newark Academy coach Sergio Rodriguez, a dear friend of Anthony’s, gave a good speech to the IHA players after the tournament concluded in 2016. It seemed to help the team focus on the season, and IHA went on to win a state title.

He said it while a few key IHA players, who were sitting nearby, would get the point. And he kept repeating the same line, about Memorial Day.

You had to see it to believe it, and it was hard to keep a straight face, as he’d glance over once in a while to see if I was hearing him. Great stuff.

So, this year, the IHA community will come together to remember a great guy, while seeing two days of good softball. The snack stand alone makes it worthwhile, trust me.

Here’s the schedule. It will be good to see some Essex County schools there, including West Essex, Cedar Grove and Newark Academy.



                9:00 AM: IHA VS. MONTGOMERY

                                  11:00 AM: WEST ESSEX VS. ROBBINSVILLE

                                          1:00 PM: ROBBINSVILLE VS. WEST MILFORD

                                  3:00 PM: SADDLE BROOK VS. CRANFORD


  SUNDAY, April 9

                                    9:00 AM: IHA VS. JOHNSON REGIONAL

                                                11:00 AM: ST. JOHN VIANNEY VS. CEDAR GROVE

                                           1:00 PM: CEDAR GROVE VS. ST JOSEPH (CT)

                                                3:00 PM: NEWARK ACADEMY VS. JEFFERSON





By mike051893

Huetter dominant, as West Essex defeats Livingston on Lily James’ birthday; Caldwell’s Guarino attains 100-hit milestone, as Chiefs edge Millburn; Montclair stops Nutley in extra innings

Sami Huetter had just finished a marvelous afternoon, both in the circle and at the plate. And as usual, the senior righty preferred to acknowledge a teammate and couldn’t stop talking about her new puppy.

Batting fifth in the lineup, Huetter was 3-for-4 at the plate, with a double, two runs scored and a pair of RBI. She was equally dominant as a pitcher, hurling a complete game 3-hitter, with seven strikeouts, as West Essex defeated Livingston, 10-1, at Panther Park, in Cedar Grove, in a home game for the Knights.

Sami Huetter, here kidding with batterymate Alexa Vardiman after a win last season, had another solid game for the Knights in a win over Livingston.  (Click on photo for larger image).

West Essex improved to 3-0 this season while Livingston fell to 1-1. Afterward, Huetter was eager to talk about another good game for her teammate, Lily James, a junior third baseman.

“I just love her,” said Huetter of James, whose bat has really perked up in 2017, including a 2-for-4 game with an RBI and run scored against Livingston. “And it’s Lily’s birthday today, too, which makes it even better.”

The number 5 through 9 batters in the West Essex lineup finished a combined 11-for-19, as Amanda Schwartz and Amanda Garofalo, the eighth and ninth batters in the lineup, each had two hits and drove in a run.

Alexa Vardiman had a big three-run double in the fifth inning when West Essex opened a 9-0 lead.

“No lead is safe against Livingston,” said West Essex coach Andrea Mondadori-Llauget. “(Livingston head coach) Jason (Daily) is an incredible coach and his teams are always prepared. It was good to see so many of our kids swing the bats well today.”

Livingston’s Emma Cooney had two hits, including an RBI double in the sixth inning, which plated Ashley Reuter, who had also doubled.  On defense, Jill Gibbon made a tremendous catch in centerfield for the Lancers.

“We have a way to go,” said Daily afterward. “We’ve got new kids who are still learning the kind of game we play well, and it will take some time. But these kids work hard, and we’ll correct our mistakes.”

Christina Guarino collected her 100th career hit on April 5, as Caldwell edged Millburn, 6-5, in a Super Essex Conference Liberty Division matchup.

Christina Guarino celebrates her 100th hit with her teammates on April 5. (Click on photo for larger image).

Guarino, a senior catcher has put together a tremendous career for the Chiefs, who are off to a 2-0 start. Guarino plans to play softball at Rowan University this fall, as well.








By mike051893

James’ defense stands out in West Essex win at Newark Academy; PCT coach Boorman looks to this week’s game at IHA, remembers LaRezza’s love of the game; The Big Green Machine rides again, as Gorman spins a shutout; Faieta fans 17, but MSDA rallies to win and Nutley gets a big road victory

As if West Essex doesn’t have enough talent, the play of third baseman Lily James, as well as an increasingly productive bat makes the Knights look even stronger.

West Essex downed Newark Academy on April 3, as Sami Huetter spun a shutout for the Knights. James, who drove in two runs in a season opening win on April 1, was effective at the plate again, versus Newark Academy. She also made a tremendous catch at third base and turned it into a double play late in the game.

Lily James (right) and Sami Huetter were key to a good win over Newark Academy. West Essex is off to a 2-0 start. (Click on photo for larger image)

Former Montclair coach Phil Delgado had said last year that James is an underrated defensive player, but it’s becoming more evident that the junior will be a key to her team’s success in 2017.

Talking to Passaic Tech coach Mike Boorman, as his team prepares for an April 6 game at Immaculate Heart Academy, Boorman recalled his team’s solid effort against the Eagles last year, as IHA won, 3-2.

“You know that (IHA head coach) Diana (Fasano) will have her team fired up,” said Boorman. “They’re obviously a great team, but our kids enjoy playing. It makes us better, too.”

Remembering the late Anthony LaRezza, Boorman lauded one of the real decent coaches in high school softball.

Anthony LaRezza (right) here with Phil Delgado a few years back, was remembered fondly by PCT coach Mike Boorman. (Click on photo for larger image)

“Anthony just had a way of treating teams with respect,” recalled Boorman. “He would never want to embarrass another team. He’d complement our kids after a game, and did it against any team, even though his teams were so much better, for the most part. Anthony was a special man.”

Livingston and Nutley, a pair of teams with a lot of new players this spring in the Super Essex Conference’s ultra American Division, each won their season openers on April 3. The Lancers downed Montclair, 8-0, behind a nice pitching effort from junior Jess Gorman.

The Big Green Machine rides again, in Livingston.

Nutley scored six runs in the top of the seventh to win an out-of-conference game at Kittatinny High, 6-1.

It was a good ride home for Nutley after winning at Kittatinny. (Photo courtesy of Nutley softball Twitter page)

Cedar Grove pitcher Mia Faieta fanned 17 in a game against powerful Mount St. Dominic, but the resilient Lions rallied to win, 4-2, in the seventh inning on April 3.

Mia Faieta, a sophomore, pitched a good game against a tremendous Mount St. Dominic team, striking out 17.

“It was a good game,” said Cedar Grove coach Nicole Velardi. “Mia is looking good for us.”

KEY ESSEX GAMES COMING UP: Nutley and Livingston will face each other on April 7, in Nutley. The two schools have put together a nice rivalry over the last seven years. Another good game is scheduled for April 5, when Livingston travels to West Essex, depending on whether the field in North Caldwell is playable.

A really big contest is set for April 11, when West Essex travels to Caldwell to play Mount St. Dominic. The teams tied for the SEC American Division title last year, and split two games in 2016.

Cedar Grove will play a pair of games at the second annual Anthony Larezza Invitational Softball Tournament, at IHA, on April 9. The Panthers have an 11 a.m. game against St. John Vianney, then come back at 1 p.m. to play St. Joseph High School.

The annual Black and Gold Tournament will be held at Cedar Grove on April 23. Plenty more to come on that tournament in the next week, or so.






By mike051893

James, Huetter pace West Essex rally; It’s ‘Liv and Let Liv’, as Sprofera spins a beauty while Thomas and Dudek deliver key RBI hits; Bernards’ shortstop Baratta the real deal

West Essex and Immaculate Heart figure to play its best softball later in the season, but there’s always something special about winning on opening day, and that’s what both teams did on April 1.

West Essex spotted a good Bernards team a 3-0 first inning lead, then rallied back behind some clutch hitting and good pitching by Sami Huetter, (Canonero II) to win a 10-4 decision, in a game played on Verona High School’s beautiful new softball diamond.

Bernards set the tone when its leadoff batter reached safely in the first inning by diving into the first base bag. The Somerset County school played aggressively in opening a 3-0 lead.

West Essex chipped away, scoring twice in the third inning thanks to a clutch two-run, two-out double by Lily James, which scored Alexa Vardiman and Madison Gemma, both of whom had walked. James’ hit was actually West Essex’s first of the game.

Lily James (right), with teammate Sami Huetter, is a solid defensive player for West Essex, and is becoming a big threat at the plate, too.

West Essex took the lead in the fourth with four runs, as Julia Vardiman hit an RBI double, Alexa Vardiman drove in a run on a ground out and Gemma and Huetter both lined run-scoring singles. The Knights added three more unearned runs in the sixth to put the game away.

West Essex seniors on a chilly Opening Day at Verona’s beautiful new facility. (Click on photo for larger image)

Huetter later added a long homer for the Knights, to complete a 2-for-4 game and Gemma scored two runs.

For Bernards, shortstop Caroline Baratta was outstanding at the plate, and in the field. Baratta broke a school record with a first inning single, for her 134th career hit. Baratta, who will play on the collegiate level at Marist this fall, is an outstanding defensive player, as well. (Stud tags, on the way, for sure !)

Caroline Baratta

Following the West Essex game, a 30 minute drive north was in plenty of time for Immaculate Heart Academy’s season opener, at home, against Paramus Catholic.

A good-sized crowd saw a nice pitching duel between IHA’s Olivia Sprofera and Katie Kudlacik.

IHA won, 3-0, as freshman Cat Thomas made quite a debut, with a hard-earned, RBI single in the second inning. Thomas fouled off seven pitches with a 2-strike count, before driving in Sonia Sharma.

In the fifth inning, IHA added two more runs as Sunday Silence, Reese Guevarra, singled and stole second. Later in the frame, Ally Dudek came through in the clutch, hitting a two-run single that plated Guevarra and Danica Yatko to make it 3-0.

Sprofera, a senior lefty with ‘Citation‘ stud credentials, spun a five hit shutout and was her usual unflappable self.

“Both pitchers were outstanding,” said IHA coach Diana Fasano. “I thought Katie threw the ball very well and I hope she has a great season. As far as Olivia, her consistency is incredible.”

IHA will play Passaic Tech and Indian Hills later this week, before preparing for its annual tournament, which is set for April 8 and 9. This will be the second year the tourney has been played in memory of coach Anthony LaRezza.

IHA seniors were all smiles after a season opening win on April 1. (Click on photo for larger image)

By mike051893