Essex Softball: West Essex rallies past Livingston as Vardiman, Guerriero, Tornatore and Coia star; Belleville joins the latest Top 10, as Cherylann Nicosia continues to excel

It was another crazy week in Essex County softball. The seedings for the 42nd Essex County Tournament (ECT) were announced last week, and first round games began this week, and into the weekend.

Again, Cedar Grove and Mount St. Dominic are clearly the two best teams in the county and are the odds-on favorites to play at Ivy Hill Park for the championship on May 18. If they do meet, it will mark the first rematch of a county final since Livingston and Mount St. Dominic met in the 2012 and 2013 final.

There were some exciting games this past week. Belleville, the new No. 10 in the FMTC Top 10, defeated Montclair, 3-2, on April 27, in Montclair. The Bucs were undefeated through games of April 30, and while they were a rather low seed for the ECT, head coach Chris Cantarella’s Bucs could be a tough out. They will visit Caldwell in the first round of the counties, this weekend. Those schools last met in the county tournament in 2015, with Caldwell winning an exciting game, 6-3.

Nutley seems to have gotten itself back into gear after wins over Columbia, Caldwell and Kittatinny and were 8-7 heading into a May 1 home game against one of its biggest rivals, in Livingston. The Raiders lost a key player in a game against Columbia last weekend, as Courtney Wilde, a senior centerfielder who will play at Rutgers this fall, broke her leg sliding into third base.

Speaking of Livingston, they were on a roll, with an 11-4 record, before losing to West Essex, 10-6, on April 30. Livingston has a really young team this season, and appear in good shape to win the SEC’s Liberty Division.

West Essex won its fourth straight game on April 30, by defeating Livingston for the ninth straight time, dating back to 2015. Winning pitcher Julia Vardiman had three hits, including a 2-run homer in the first inning. Julia Guerriero also had three hits while Jessica Cola and Julianna Tornatore had two hits each for the Knights.

Columbia’s 9-6 record should put it in good shape for the state tournament. An interesting game is set for May 2, when coach Cliff Smith’s Cougars visit West Essex. Columbia will host a first-round county game with Bloomfield, on May 3.

Cedar Grove and Mount St. Dominic continue to roll, with dominant wins last week. Cedar Grove won an exciting 1-0 game over Pope John at the annual Black & Gold Tournament on April 27.

Here’s the latest Top 10.

1-Cedar Grove (13-2): It’s last 9 wins have all come by shutout, with senior righty Mia Faieta downright dominating. Panthers will be at Mount St. Dominic for a conference game on May 2. A third meeting could happen 16 days after that.

2-Mount St. Dominic (15-3): Lions were supposed to take part in the Wendy’s Classic last weekend, in Ohio, but lousy weather in the Midwest canceled that tourney for the first time in 20 years. Nevertheless, team did get a good win against Matawan and will host Cedar Grove in a big game on May 2.

3-West Essex (7-6): Knights had a 4-game winning streak after rallying past Livingston, 10-6, on April 30. Team trailed, 6-3, before scoring seven runs, six with two outs, in the bottom of the sixth inning. Julia Vardiman hit a 2-run homer in the first inning and was the winning pitcher. (The kid is a stud).

4-Livingston (11-5): Lancers had a really good weekend at the Black & Gold Tournament, in Cedar Grove last weekend, winning twice. This is a really young team which has played well of late. Guilia Wilson had four hits in a win against DePaul while Briana Melucci, Julie Moresco, Hailey Reuter and Chloe Saperstein had two hits each.

Hudson Hassler (left) of Columbia and Livingston’s Chloe Saperstein are key players for teams battling for the SEC Liberty Division title. (Click on photo for larger image) 

5-Columbia (9-6): Cougars played a solid game in blanking Nutley, 3-0, on April 27, as pitcher Sydney Waldon continued her excellent season. Team also defeated Bloomfield, 7-1, and will face Bengals again, this time in the ECT, on May 3.

6-Nutley (8-7): A young team continues to get better, led by a strong freshman battery of catcher Sydney Hess and Fallyn Stoeckel.

Courtney Wilde figures to be running the bases again in a few months, as she’ll prepare for her college career at Rutgers this fall. (Photo by Ingrid DiPasquale. Click on photo for larger image) 

7-Caldwell (9-5): Nicolette Luzzi, Caitlin Cetrulo and Jaci Murphy key the Chiefs, who got back on track by defeating Montclair, 11-0, on April 30.

8-Verona (5-9): Hillbillies gained the seventh seed in the ECT and will host Montclair in the first round.

9-Bloomfield (8-4): Bengals got a tremendous performance from Lexi Corio, against Kearny, with 20 strikeouts, on April 27. Bloomfield’s 6-game winning streak was snapped by Columbia. The teams will meet again on May 3, in the first round of the ECT.

10-Belleville (13-0): Cherylann Nicosia is the catalyst of this team, with superb defense behind the plate and an excellent bat.

Belleville coach Chris Cantarella along with (l to r) pitcher Charlotte Colon, catcher Cherylann Nicosia and shortstop Janelle McCann. (Click on photo for larger image) 


By mike051893

‘J.V.’ can now add ‘HOF’ to her name; Jackie Velardi and her 2004 softball teammates inducted into Caldwell University Hall of Fame, along with coach Dean Johnson

Teammates, friends (and) memories to last a life time. 

That’s how Belleville, NJ native and Caldwell University’s Jackie Velardi described the evening in which she, along with her teammates from that school’s highly successful softball team from 15 years back, were inducted into the Caldwell University Hall of Fame.

The ceremony took place on April 26, with most of the players from the 2004 squad returning for a special night. In addition to the ’04 squad, the team’s head coach Dean Johnson was also inducted, as was the starting catcher, Danielle Guerra.

Jackie Velardi takes in a special moment with members of the 2004 Caldwell University softball team. ‘J.V.’ is pictured front row, third from right. (Photos courtesy of Jackie Velardi. Click on picture for larger image) 

“It was great to reunite with my 2004 championship team,” said Velardi, a 2003 graduate of Belleville High, where she was an All-State player and helped the 2001 team win a state title for coach Carl Corino and the Bucs. “That was a year I will never forget, and a group of people that I will always share this special memory with. It’s been 15 years since we were all together and it felt like yesterday that we were at practice, getting in the red ready to run sprints (with a laugh).

“So many laughs and good times reminiscing of the past. Practices, games, van rides, Florida trips, championships and just good old college life.”

Velardi was recruited to (then) Caldwell College by Johnson. She was immediately a part of a tremendous team, and that’s saying something, considering Johnson has won over 800 games as a head coach at C.U. and it’s not easy to crack the starting lineup as a freshman.

“Being apart of something like this is hard to explain,” said Velardi, who after her playing career has served as an assistant to Johnson for the last 11 years. “The bonds, the friendships, the ups and the downs, the celebrations and the disappointments, the championships and the heartaches. We did it all together, and it’s something that we will share for a lifetime.”

Caldwell U. softball coach Dean Johnson and Jackie at the Hall of Fame celebration on April 26. (Click on photo for larger image) 

As Velardi said, the 2004 season was special. The Cougars were 45-7 and won the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference’s (CACC) regular and post-season championship. From there, the team won an NCAA regional title and advanced to the NCAA, Division 2 World Series, in Florida, for the first, and thus far, only time in program history. 

“We played 52 games together, and only lost seven,” said Velardi. “That’s pretty incredible. We couldn’t be stopped in the conference tournament and we made it look easy in the regionals. We made a run at the World Series, but fell short in the end. We were talking about that last game in the World Series at the dinner the other night. And it still hurts after all these years.”

At the World Series, Caldwell played three games, with all ending in a 1-0 decision. The Cougars were 1-2 in the Series, losing the last game on an absolutely awful call by the umpire. Caldwell’s Anna Dahl appeared to hit a long 2-run homer over the left field fence. Somehow, the opposing left fielder fell over the fence and was credited with a catch that was clearly not made. 

(Trust me, I was at that game in Florida in 2004 and it was a terrible call).

“The ball that was never caught,” said Velardi.  “It still makes me shake my head.”

Jackie has enjoyed her role as an assistant coach at C.U. One of her favorite recruits, of course, would be her sister, Nicole, a 2010 Belleville High grad, who also enjoyed a tremendous playing career on the collegiate level.

Jackie Velardi (right) and her younger sister Nicole flank head coach Dean Johnson. (Click on photo for larger image) 

Nicole Velardi is now the head softball coach at Cedar Grove High School and led the Panthers to a state championship in 2017 and an Essex County Tournament crown last year. Nicole and Jackie’s dad, Pete Velardi is an assistant coach at Cedar Grove.

Two years earlier, Nicole was an assistant at Cedar Grove when that team won the program’s first state title in 36 years.

As far as Johnson’s induction, Velardi was elated.

“Coach Johnson was also inducted on his own,” said J.V. “That was well deserved, and made that part of the night special. Dean works so hard, day in and day out, to make the Caldwell softball program what it is. And to see him get the honor he deserves was amazing. I have been his assistant for 11 years and I don’t know anybody that can put the time and effort in, like he does.

“Sometimes I question if he is human (she laughed). He coaches softball in the fall, coaches basketball in the winter and is back on the softball field in March. In the summer, he’s out recruiting. I don’t know what Caldwell University softball would be without Dean Johnson.”

Jackie and Nicole are both enjoying success as softball coaches. They both went to Belleville High and later, Caldwell University.

“I’m proud of what Nicole is doing at Cedar Grove,” said Jackie. “And I’m really happy with what I’ve been able to accomplish at Caldwell.”

Congrats, J.V. ! Well deserved.

By mike051893

Essex softball: Shortstops excel for Columbia, Nutley, Belleville and Montclair; Belleville remains unbeaten with come-from-behind win over Montclair; Livingston sweeps pair at Black & Gold; Good wishes for Nutley’s Courtney Wilde

There was some tremendous performances by shortstops in Essex County softball on April 27. Let’s start at Nutley, where Columbia came to town for what was supposed to be one game, but ended up as a doubleheader.

Columbia won the first game, 4-0, as junior shortstop Hudson Hassler hit a long double to ignite one rally and made some impressive plays in the field to negate Nutley threats.

Nutley shortstop Melanie Conca was also outstanding in the field. While Nutley and Columbia split two games, there was a bit of a pall on the Nutley side as senior outfielder Courtney Wilde suffered what appeared to be a serious leg injury while sliding into third base in the first game against Columbia.

Courtney Wilde, here celebrating her 1,000th career point with the Nutley High basketball team last winter, injured her leg during a softball game on April 27. 

Wilde, one of the better all-around athletes for the Raiders (she’s a 1,000 point scorer for the basketball team) was taken to the hospital for further evaluation. She will play softball at Rutgers this fall.

Montclair shortstop Francesca (Frankie) Testa extended her thoughts to Wilde.

“Courtney and I are teammates in the summer,” said Testa, who had her usual outstanding game against Belleville. “I hope she’s okay. She’s a really nice person. I’ll have to call her later.”

At the Belleville-Montclair game, the Bucs remained undefeated with a come-from-behind 3-2 win over the Mounties, in Montclair.

Cherylann Nicosia drove in two runs for Belleville (13-0) and made a tremendous defensive play in the seventh inning to help seal the win. Nicosia, a senior catcher who will play at Springfield College, fielded a well-placed bunt in front of home plate, then made a perfect throw to first for the key second out of the inning.

Earlier in the game, Belleville shortstop Janelle McCann made a outstanding catch of a line drive that seemed destined for a double to quell a Montclair rally.

“That was a huge play,” said Belleville coach Chris Cantarella of McCann’s catch. “It helped win the game for us.”

Belleville coach Chris Cantarella along with (l to r) Charlotte Colon, Cherylann Nicosia and Janelle McCann. (Click on photo for larger image) 

Belleville pitcher Charlotte Colon pitched a complete game, striking out six and walking five while giving up four hits and just one earned run. Montclair pitcher Aliyah Andrews also pitched well, allowing four hits while striking out two and walking two.

After the game, Cantarella sought out Testa to congratulate her on a good game.

“She’s just a tremendous player,” said Cantarella of Testa, who will play at Franklin & Marshall this fall.

Livingston won two impressive games at the annual Black & Gold Tournament, in Cedar Grove, defeating Bridgewater Raritan, 7-6, and DePaul, 13-8, to improve to 10-4 on the season.

In the first game, Guilia Wilson was 3-for-4 with two runs scored and an RBI. Chloe Saperstein and Emily Hunter had two hits each for the young Lancers, who continue to get better with each game. Jess Bullion was the winning pitcher, striking out four and scattering nine hits.

Livingston’s Chloe Saperstein (right) and Columbia’s Hudson Hassler are competitors during the high school season and teammates during the summer season. (Photo courtesy of Craig Saperstein) 

In the second game, Livingston took an early 6-0 lead and went on to defeat DePaul, behind an 11-hit attack.




By mike051893

Another from Wayne Hills who will play football in college: Gabe Dellechiaie’s ascent to a top player on a championship football team was the result of perseverance, commitment and toughness; Next stop is Montclair State

It was a warm Saturday morning at Montclair High’s Woodman Field, in August, 2016, and Gabe Dellechiaie, an incoming sophomore at Wayne Hills, had been impressing his coaches with some good play on the defensive line, as the Patriots prepared to scrimmage the Mounties.

Taking the step from freshman to varsity football isn’t easy, but Gabe was clearly establishing himself on the defensive side of the ball. But on that morning in Montclair, Gabe’s season came to a crushing halt when he suffered a season-ending knee injury.

There was never a doubt he’d come back, but the rehab and frustration that goes with a youngster trying to play the game he loves would require patience.

A year later, Dellechiaie was back, but still favoring the leg, somewhat. He played well in 2017, and then had a good wrestling season for the Patriots that winter. But clearly, Gabe’s focus would be on his senior year, when the knee would be completely healthy.

The 2018 season would be a standout for Hills, which won its 10th state sectional crown, as well as the first North Group 4 Rothman Bowl championship, at MetLife Stadium, while finishing 11-2.

May have been the play of the season. Gabe’s huge interception turned the tide in the North Group 4 Rothman Bowl Game, at MetLife Stadium, on Nov. 30. (Photo courtesy of Anthony Sorce)

The senior class was a huge part of that success, and Dellechiaie, a 6’3″, 230 pounder, became the tenth Hills senior to commit to playing college football, as he will attend Montclair State University, starting this fall.

“I had some really great opportunities to play football on the college level,” said Dellechiaie. “But as I narrowed them down, Montclair State really stood out as the best choice for me. I got to visit the campus and facilities and had some great talks with the coaching staff. I think I will fit in well with the team, as a defensive end. I plan to work really hard to prove to them that they made the right choice believing in me.”

Montclair State is led by legendary head coach Rick Giancola. The Red Hawks finished 8-2 last season.

The nephew of Dawn and Peter Dellechiaie, Gabe’s older cousin, Pete, was a standout player for Wayne Hills and helped that team win a state title in 2016, at MetLife Stadium. Pete was graduated in 2018 and is attending Kean University.

Gabe (No. 56) along with coach Wayne Demikoff and Tom Sharkey after a practice last season.

If there’s any question as to Gabe’s value to the program, just ask one of the team’s best players, Jaaron Hayek, who tweeted his praise and happiness for Dellechiaie’s college choice.

“When people say ‘great player but even better person’… this is exactly who comes to mind,” said Jaaron. “Never met a more hardworking and respectful kid. We wouldn’t be wearing our rings if it wasn’t for you. Love you kid, best of luck.”

Dellechiaie’s prowess for being around the ball was never more evident than at MetLife, on Nov. 30, 2018, when he made two huge plays early in the game to set the tone for Hills’ eventual 35-21 victory over Phillipsburg. He also had the game-ending sack which clinched Wayne Hills’ state sectional crown over Old Tappan, on Nov. 16.

Playing tackle and/or end, in a hybrid situation, Gabe had 72 tackles, 12 for loss and six quarterback sacks. Gabe also played on the offensive line, which paved the way for an average of 35 points a game and over 4,800 total yards of offense by the Patriots in 2018.


On Nov. 16, 2018, Wayne Hills clinched its 10th state sectional title, at home, against Old Tappan. Gabe made the game-clinching sack to seal a 20-13 win. (Photo courtesy of Dawn Dellechiaie)

Off the field, Dellechiaie has his career goal in line.

“I have always wanted to be a Physical Education teacher and coach, and you can’t beat Montclair’s Education program,” he said. “I really want to have a career where I can be a positive influence for kids, the way my teachers and coaches have been for me.  It is so important for kids to have great role models they can look up to, and I hope to be that for someone someday.”

Wayne Hills head coach Wayne Demikoff feels Gabe made the right choice for college.

After that final win, Gabe (far left, kneeling) joined his coaches and teammates in an on-field ceremony at MetLife Stadium. 

“Gabe was an impact player for us on both sides of the ball this year,” said Demikoff. “His versatility made him an asset on defense, as he played defensive tackle and defensive end. In the biggest games, Gabe had his best moments. He had the sack that ended the sectional final game (against Old Tappan) and made an incredible interception against Phillipsburg (in the Hills end zone, no less) as well as blocked a punt in that game.

“He played big in big games. Montclair State is getting a great kid, who will make an impact on their program as he had here. We are going to miss him in our program.”

Playing at Hills will represent a big part of his high school memories.

“I dreamed of playing football from the time I was little, but didn’t get to actually play until I moved to Wayne in sixth grade,” said Gabe. “It was everything I hoped for, and I fell even more in love with the sport every time I stepped onto the field.  I have been really lucky to have some of the best teammates too, (guys who are) tremendously dedicated athletes who made me want to work harder and leave everything on the field every game.

“We truly are brothers, and the amount of respect I have for each one them I can’t explain. We have trained together, traveled together, played together and won together over these past four years, and we will still be rooting each other on, wherever we all end up-that’s what brothers do. Wayne Hills has taught me so much about myself, and other than my family, my coaches have been my biggest supporters.

“They truly made me see that I can achieve anything if I just believed in myself.  Being a part of a program like Wayne Hills football has really prepared me for college, and I’m thankful every day for that, and I’m ready to be a Red Hawk.”

Dellechiaie’s decision makes it 10 seniors on the 2018 Patriots roster who will play on the next level.
Lundrim Nasufi and Anthony Puntolillo will play at Delaware Valley University, Adam Abida will attend the University at Albany, Joe Rondi is headed to Syracuse University, Bence Polgar will play at the University of Buffalo, Joseph Mongelli is going to play sprint football at Caldwell University, Jaaron Hayek is going to Villanova University, Charles Njoku will play wide receiver at UCLA and quarterback Tom Sharkey will attend Kutztown University.



By mike051893

White (12 K’s, 3-hitter, 2-run homer), Kochakian (RBI single), Gilchrist, Park, Gyongyosi and Thomas pace IHA past Ramsey, 5-0

Meeting for the first time in nearly six years, the April 25 contest between Bergen County softball powerhouses Ramsey and Immaculate Heart figured to have plenty of intensity.

The game lived up to that billing.

Led by junior Ryleigh White’s brilliant pitching and clutch hitting, IHA (11-0) remained unbeaten with a 5-0 win, in Washington Township. White pitched another complete-game shutout, striking out 12 and walking one while giving up 3 hits.

“We really wanted this game,” said White afterward. “Ramsey has a good team and we knew it would be a tough game. I thought we were focused throughout.”

White worked out of a second inning jam, thanks, in part, to a tremendous defensive play by shortstop Cara Kochakian. Ramsey had runners on first and second, with no outs. A hard hit ball went Kochakian’s way and the freshman made a nice play to her right, then threw to third for a key force out.

White would then work out of the inning with some key pitches.

“That was a big play, no doubt,” said IHA head coach Diana Fasano of Kochakian’s gem. “Cara not only made the play, but then knew to go to third and needed a good throw to get the out.”

Dubbed ‘C.K.’, Kochakian also got the job done on offense. With Cat Thomas and Gabby Park on base, with two outs, Kochakian lined a 2-strike pitch to right field, scoring a run, and when the ball was misplayed, a second run crossed and Kochakian ended up at third base, with a fired up Fasano waiting for her at the bag.

“I was really happy for Cara,” said Fasano, who’s usually pretty low-keyed while coaching in third base box. “For a freshman to come through, in a big moment like that, was good to see.”

RY AND C.K.: Junior pitcher Ryleigh White (right) and freshman shortstop Cara Kochakian after an IHA victory, at home, on April 25, against Ramsey. (Click on photo for larger image)

IHA added its final run in the sixth. Lindsay Gilchrist laced a hard single to start the frame and came around to score on a double by Park, another freshman who reached base three straight times in the game.

IHA and Ramsey last met on the softball diamond on May 18, 2013, in a county tournament game. Steph Thomas, the state’s all-time winningest pitcher and a junior that year, threw a shutout. Steph, the older sister to Cat Thomas, was at the game today.

“I remember that game,” said Steph of the 2013 game. “We rarely played Ramsey back then. I remember we used to scrimmage them right before the start of the season, and we usually lost, which, of course would drive (the late head coach) Anthony (LaRezza) crazy, and he’d really get on us afterward.”

Ramsey, which fell to 10-3, has won the previous two Bergen County championships and should get a high seed in its bid for a three-peat this year. There’s a good chance that IHA and Ramsey could play each other in about a month, this time for a county title.



By mike051893

Cedar Grove’s Gianna Kubu, a junior outfielder, doing the job at the plate, in the field, as well as becoming a key leader for Panthers

Cedar Grove softball coach Nicole Velardi has been very impressed with the play of junior outfielder Gianna Kubu.

“She’s doing a great job for us,” said Velardi. “Gianna has a great attitude, overall, works hard and leads by example. It’s been great to see her taking a leadership role for us this year.”

Kubu had three hits in as many at-bats in Cedar Grove’s 10-0 win, in 6 innings, against Nutley, on April 24. She also had seven hits in her last 13 at-bats, heading into the Black and Gold Tournament, which Cedar Grove will host on April 27.

Gianna takes a swing during recent game. (Click on photos for larger image)

Here’s more on the tournament.

Kubu has been playing right field, which in Cedar Grove’s defensive alignment, is key.

“We have a tremendous pitcher in Mia Faieta, and teams, especially with right-handed hitters, do not pull the ball much against her,” said Velardi. “That makes right field that much more important, and having Gianna out there solidifies our outfield. For that matter, she’s very versatile and can play anywhere in the outfield.

Kubu also scored twice and drove in a pair of runs against a good Nutley team. Brittney Taylor and Ryan Cannataro had two hits each for the Panthers and Taylor and Chloe Weinstein scored two runs a piece. Junior catcher Jules Cicala continues to do a tremendous job on defense.

Cedar Grove will take on Pope John at the Black and Gold Tournament, at 3 p.m., before going back to work in Super Essex Conference play. The Panthers will host Verona on April 29 and have a big game at Mount St. Dominic, on May 2. The team also has an out-of-conference contest on May 1, at home against Wayne Valley, in a 6 p.m. start.

Cedar Grove is the top seed for the Essex County Tournament, as the Panthers will seek to repeat as the champions. The last time time Cedar Grove won back-to-back county titles was in 1979 and 1980.

By mike051893

If history is any indicator, the annual Black and Gold Softball Tournament, at Cedar Grove on April 27, will feature some exciting games, great food and a lot of fun

Cedar Grove has done a tremendous job in hosting the annual Black and Gold Softball Tournament, and this year’s tourney, set for Saturday, April 27, should provide more of the same.

A strong group of teams will be on hand, with games starting at 9 a.m. The schedule appears below.

Generally, the final game of the day is usually a highlighter. Last year, Immaculate Heart Academy and Cedar Grove played an epic game, with IHA winning in extra innings, 2-0.

In last year’s highlight game at the Black and Gold Tournament, Cedar Grove’s Mia Faieta (right) and Ryleigh White of IHA put on a tremendous pitcher’s duel, with IHA prevailing in 10 innings. White and Faieta are teammates in club softball during the summer and fall. (Click on photo for larger image)

Two years ago, IHA and West Essex played a tremendous game, with IHA again finding a way to win, in 8 innings, 2-1

This year’s finale will once again feature IHA, which will take on Lenape Valley.

Here are the list of games for Saturday.


Field A – Panther Park Field (Turf)

Game 1 9:00 am Johnson Regional vs. Immaculate Conception 

Game 2 11:00 am Immaculate Conception vs. Bridgewater-Raritan

Game 3 1:00 pm DePaul  vs. Johnson Regional 

Game 4 3:00 pm Pope John vs. Cedar Grove

Game 5 5:00 pm IHA vs Lenape Valley

Field B 

Game 3 1:00 pm Bridgewater-Raritan vs. Livingston 

Game 4 3:00 pm Livingston vs. DePaul 


By mike051893

IHA (10-0) defeats Paramus Catholic, as Thomas (3-run homer), White (another no-no), Gyongyosi and Stirone star; Hail Columbia! Cougars edge Hanover Park, as Hassler, Waldon and Rednik lead way; Nutley rallies back to defeat stubborn MKA, 7-6

Ryleigh White continued her dominance by spinning another no-hitter as Immaculate Heart Academy blanked Paramus Catholic, 11-0, on April 23, in Paramus.

White, a junior righty, fanned 13 and walked one. She’s struck out 85 in the last 36 innings and was credited with her fifth no-hitter in the last six starts.


IHA junior Cat Thomas hit a 3-run homer in a win over Paramus Catholic. 

At the plate, Cat Thomas, a junior first baseman, launched a 3-run homer in the sixth inning as IHA (10-0) broke the game open. Thomas had two hits in the game.

Emily Gyongyosi, a senior second baseman, got IHA on the board in the third. With two outs and runners in scoring position, Gyongyosi hit a grounder to third and beat an errant throw to first, with both runners scoring. Gyongyosi also walked, singled and had an RBI.

Gianna Stirone had two RBI for the Eagles. IHA has a big game on April 25, at home, against Ramsey.

Columbia won a huge out-of-conference game, edging a good Hanover Park team, 7-6, in South Orange. Hudson Hassler, a junior shortstop, had three hits, including a double, scored three times and drove in two runs while Sydney Rednik had three hits and drove in a run for the Cougars (6-5).

Columbia junior team captain Hudson Hassler. (Click on photo for larger image)

Winning pitcher Sydney Waldon spun a 2-hitter, striking out seven and walking four.

Columbia coach Cliff Smith knew it was a good win, over a defending state sectional champion.

“Hanover Park is always a good team and very well coached,” said Smith.

Columbia head coach Cliff Smith. 

Nutley improved to 5-5 with a come-from-behind 7-6 win over Montclair Kimberley Academy, in Nutley. The Raiders trailed, 6-2, heading into the bottom of the seventh before scoring five times to win it.

Lorianne O’Connor, Courtney Wilde, Jamelle Quiles and winning pitcher Fallyn Stoeckel had two hits each for Nutley. Montclair Kimberley (3-7) was led by Emily Talkow, was was 4-for-4 with two doubles and three runs scored and Amanda Mack, who was 2-for-2, with a double and homer, four RBI and two runs scored.

Nutley coach Luann Zullo and SS/1B Melanie Conca. (Click on photo for larger image)



By mike051893

Essex Softball: With 42nd Essex County Tournament nearing, which team will make a surprise run?

Livingston, 1985.

West Orange, 2010.

Newark Academy, 2012.

Cedar Grove, 2014.

Montclair, 2016.

Newark Academy, 2018.

Those are six high school softball teams which made deep runs in the Essex County Tournament, when it wasn’t really expected. And as the 2019 tournament is to be seeded sometime this week, the question is, can a team this year have that kind of success?

No question that defending champion Cedar Grove and Mount St. Dominic will be the top two seeds. That’s a lock. But what happens with the next 10 teams? That will be interesting.

If you ever saw that famous racehorse photo of the 1973 Belmont, Secretariat is so far ahead of the competition that jockey, Ron Turcotte. had to take a peak as the horse rambled home, just to see if anyone was within shouting distance.

That’s what the top two teams in the ECT could be doing this year, but knowing the respective coaches at Cedar Grove and the Mount, nothing will be taken for granted.

Mount St. Dominic’s Lorenzo Sozio is in his 24th season as that team’s head coach. In his first year, he led the Lions to its first-ever championship. Sozio would wait seven years until the next title, and six more before the first of back-to-back championships. Three more, in a 4-year span, followed that.

All tolled, the Lions softball program has been to 15 finals, 14 under Sozio, with seven titles.

Cedar Grove has won five crowns in eight tries, including 2018 under third-year head coach Nicole Velardi. Ray VanderMay (1979, 1980 and 1984) and Rob Stern (2010) also won titles for the Panthers.

Here’s the latest FMTC Top 10.

1-Cedar Grove (10-2): They get the edge because of an early-season win against Mount St. Dominic this season. An experienced Panthers team is eager to win a second straight county title, which would be the first time that happened for the Black and Gold in 39 years.

2-Mount St. Dominic (12-3): The Lions head to a big time tournament this weekend, in Ohio. They could have the toughest lineup, 1-9, in the county.

3-Nutley (4-5): Pitching is always a key, and the young Raiders have a legitimate threat in freshman Fallyn Stoeckel.

4-Caldwell (7-3): Head coaches Mike Teshkoyan and Mark Teshkoyan have a lot of county title hardware in the Chiefs trophy case. Caldwell has won a record 10 titles, eight under the Teshkoyans, which is another record.

Caldwell’s Nicolette Luzzi (right) and Caitlin Cetrulo. (Click on photo for larger image) 

5-West Essex (3-6): With Julia Vardiman in the lineup, this team is always tough.

6-Livingston (7-3): Lancers are in good shape to win the Super Essex Conference’s Liberty Division and are vying for its first county final appearance in 6 years.

7-Verona (4-6) : Hillbillies pitching is in good hands with Christina Colon. Could be an interesting team to watch in the tournament.

8-Columbia (5-5): Head coach Cliff Smith has a young team which came close to a few big wins. Nevertheless, this team will compete aggressively in the counties.

9-Bloomfield  (6-3): Bengals coach Bob Mayer has guided the Bengals to six county finals and all three of its championships. This year’s team is starting to come around after a slow start.

Bloomfield coach Bob Mayer, here congratulating Mia Lopez, has a long record of success in the county tournament. (Click on photo for larger image) 

10-Montclair (6-3): Very interesting team. Mounties won a big game last week, defeating Nutley, 10-8, after trailing, 5-0, and also have a huge victory over Columbia, rallying from 11-3 down in the sixth inning, along with two losses to Bloomfield. One thing about Montclair, they swing the bats, in every game. Team averages eight runs a game.

Another interesting game will be later this week, when the Mounties face undefeated Belleville.

The 2019 Mounties. (Click on photo for larger image)

By mike051893

A Challenge and Reminder: The Kathleen Walsh Softball Field represents the legacy of a young woman with a zest for life

No amount of rain was going to deter a memorable afternoon at DePaul Catholic.

Not with Kathleen Walsh’s legacy shining so brightly.

And thus, it will be a “challenge and a reminder.”

Kathleen, during her playing days at DePaul. Her smile was perpetual. 

On April 20, the DePaul High softball field was officially re-named the Kathleen Walsh Softball Field, in honor and memory of Kathleen, a former Spartans softball player and 2002 graduate, who died suddenly, on Dec. 17, 2003, following a surgical procedure.

The original plan to re-name the field included a pair of games at what’s been an annual event, for the past 13 years, the Kathleen Walsh Classic. This year, the itinerary was changed to make the event a four-team tourney, entitled the Greater Wayne Kathleen Walsh Classic, with all four Wayne High schools competing.

But the heavy rain all night, April 12, and into the following morning, made that impossible.

The softball field at DePaul has a new and enduring title. (Click on photo for larger image) 

“There was no way we weren’t going to dedicate the field,” said DePaul head coach Sue Parler, who coached Walsh in 2001 and 2002. “Everyone worked hard to get the field ready so that we could have our annual Alumni and Friends game. There was a tremendous turnout of people, over 300, at the dedication. It was tremendous.”

Among those in attendance where Kathleen’s parents, Darlene and Kevin, as well as her siblings, older brother Kenny and youngest sister, Kelly. Both Kevin and Kelly are also DePaul graduates. The family resides in Totowa.

At the dedication, Msgr. Eugene R. Sylva performed a blessing on the field. Msgr. Sylva was president of DePaul when Kathleen was a student there.

A plaque was dedicated at the field, and there’s now a sign, at the top of the fence, behind home plate, which reads, The Kathleen Walsh Softball Field.

Parler read the inscription on the plaque.

DePaul head coach Sue Parler read the plaque, which will be affixed to the backstop at DePaul. (Click on photo for larger image) 

“It was tough getting through that,” Parler said. “If you knew Kathleen, then you remember a vibrant young girl, who had a zest for life, with happiness and laughter. She was a very special girl. Our coaches knew it when she first came here and started playing. It wasn’t just softball talent, it was everything about her. Kathleen was a great kid, from a wonderful family.”

The plaque read: The Kathleen Walsh Softball Field. Our softball angel, Kathleen Walsh, from the Class of 2002, was a scholar, athlete and leader; a true friend to all fortunate enough to know her. May her passion for life continue to inspire all those who enter this field. Dedicated April 20, 2019.

Parler called the plaque and dedication of the field a challenge and reminder of what Kathleen stood for.

“The challenge is to live life to the fullest and the reminder will be the person she was,” said Parler.

Despite the bad weather, the event went very well.

“It was like clockwork,” said Parler. “The kids on this team are something else. We’ve been struggling this year, with our pitching, and everyone has volunteered to try and pitch, and do anything to help this team. The parents of the kids are simply amazing, too, which is no surprise.

“Since we had to make changes to the day, the parents and kids were here early in the morning, and the later in the day, to help make things go so smoothly. Obviously, our players didn’t know Kathleen, and most of the parents didn’t, either, but they understood what Kathleen represented. And they knew what an honor it was today, to be a part of this day.

“Kathleen’s brother threw out the first pitch, her sister caught the ball, and so many of her friends and teammates were here, as well. That’s what the day stood for.”

Parler also shared a story about Kathleen’s enthusiasm for her school.

“We had a real good swimmer at DePaul, Kristin Clegg,” said Parler, of Clegg, who went on to a marvelous collegiate swimming career at William Paterson. “In order for Kristin to swim at the state championships, she needed a team. So Kathleen joins the swim team and recruits three others to be on the team, just so DePaul would have a team and Kristin could swim at the states.

“Kristin was at the dedication today. Again, that’s what this day was all about.”


By mike051893