So far, the 2019 high school softball season has been a 2-horse race, as Cedar Grove and Mount St. Dominic, last year’s Essex County finalists, have established themselves as the best teams.
And it’s not even a question.
But a lot can change, too. The Essex County Tournament (ECT) should be seeded in the next few weeks, and it will be interesting to see who is seeded 3-9, for example.
But let’s not forget that over the years, surprise teams have made serious runs in the county tournament. In 2012, Newark Academy rode in from the play-in game to earn a berth in the semifinals. Along the way, coach Sergio Rodriguez’s team defeated a defending county champion.
Four years later, Phil Delgado’s Montclair squad, which started the season 3-13 and were eliminated from the NJSIAA Tournament, made a late-season surge, which included an appearance in the ECT final and an upset win over a 2-time defending county champ in the quarterfinals.
Right now, it’s difficult to find one of those teams in 2019, but that’s what makes this fun. There are a number of good squads who could get on a roll, and if that’s the case, then this season could be interesting.
For now, the Top 10 is hard to pick, past the top 2. Here’s my look at it.
1-Cedar Grove (10-1): Panthers have recorded five straight shutouts behind the pitching of senior righty Mia Faieta. They’ve allowed two runs, all season, against NJ-based opponents. A second meeting against Mount St. Dominic is set for April 22, in Caldwell. A third meeting could occur in the county final, for the second straight year.
Columbia and Cedar Grove met in a good SEC cross-over game. Afterwards, club teammates gathered from the teams for a photo. (Thanks to Suzanne Hassler. Click on photo for larger image)
2-Mount St. Dominic (11-2): Lions continue to hit the ball well and won two big games in its annual tournament last weekend.
3-Nutley (3-3): Raiders will start getting busier with games this week, including a doubleheader on April 18. Good pitching will keep this young team in close games. Nutley avenged an early-season loss on April 17, defeating Verona, 3-0.
4-Caldwell (6-3): The Chiefs have a good top of the lineup and effective pitching, which will keep them in games in a tough conference.
Caldwell’s Nicolette Luzzi (right) and Caitlin Cetrulo. (Click on photo for larger image)
5-West Essex (3-6): Knights hit a tough patch last week, but hope to get back on track behind the pitching of Julia Vardiman.
Might be one of the best names in high school softball.
6-Verona (4-6): Hillbillies can be a dangerous team down the stretch, with good pitching and solid defense.
7-Livingston (7-3): Lancers have lost to three good teams in Mount St. Dominic, IHA and Hunterdon Central. A tough schedule should help this team when it comes to county and state tournament action.
8-Columbia (5-3): Cougars will battle in each game. It faces a big test against Mount St. Dominic on April 18 and then travels to Livingston on April 22 for a must-win game if it hopes to compete for a conference title.
9-Bloomfield (5-3): After a slow start, Bengals have begun to play well, with three straight wins, through April 17. Team has a big contest at Ivy Hill Park on April 20, against Indian Hills.
10-Montclair (5-3): Feisty Mounties are never out of a game, with aggressive hitting.
Belleville improved to 8-0 with a win on April 17. The Bucs also hosted a wonderful tournament, on April 13. to honor the late Dina DeAquino, a legendary pitcher for the team from 1981-1984.
There’s more on ‘A Day for Dina’ by clicking on the link below.