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)