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. https://mikelamberti.wordpress.com/2019/04/24/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/?fbclid=IwAR0jTjnd5JRcIQihx8Y1mzPjw8lK8t9WoczfgxwwpOtWdN1ozWL0E1yGm44

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

Off to Delaware Valley U., Wayne Hills’ Lundrim Nasufi, the team’s leading tackler, becomes ninth Patriot this year to commit to playing college football

He was a part of two state championship football teams at Wayne Hills. And now, Lundrim Nasufi will get the chance to pursue a dream by playing football on the collegiate level, starting this fall.

Nasufi will play at Delaware Valley University this fall and join Hills teammate Anthony Puntolillo at the Doylestown, Pa-based school. Nasufi is the ninth senior on the 2018 Wayne Hills roster to commit to playing football on the collegiate level.

The son of Dee Nasufi, Lundrim played a huge role in Wayne Hills’ 2018 season, as the Patriots won the program’s 10th state sectional championship, as well as the first North Group 4 Rothman Bowl game, at MetLife Stadium, when Hills defeated Phillipsburg, 35-21. Wayne Hills finished 11-2 last fall.

Nasufi, a linebacker, led Wayne Hills in tackles last season, with 99, including 16 hits for losses. He also had seven tackles and two passes knocked down. For his career, Lundrim recorded 135 tackles.

“I’m really excited about this opportunity,” said Nasufi, a 6’1″, 200 pounder. “Coach (Delaware Valley co-defensive coordinator, Mark) DeLuccia was great to work with, and he made me feel like this will be the place to continue playing football.”

Having played at Hills for four years, Nasufi feels he’s ready to play at the next level.

“Coach Dem (Wayne Hills head coach Wayne Demikoff) and the staff worked us hard for four years,” said Nasufi. “I learned a lot and the preparation and time we put into being good football players here has me ready to play in college.”

Demikoff is excited about Nasufi’s decision.

“Lundrim was a key for us this year on defense,” said Demikoff. “His ability to rush the quarterback, and play run defense, allowed us to be productive as a defense. He was disruptive in every game, often times chasing plays down from the backside and drawing double teams on passing downs. He is a very aggressive player and will continue his growth at the next level. He’s another kid who has a high ceiling moving forward.”

Nasufi will continue to work on strength and speed, as he prepares for the upcoming season.

“They’re considering me for defensive end, or linebacker,” said Nasufi. “And I’m looking forward to playing with Anthony in college.”

Wayne Hills has had a long success rate with sending football players to college and this year is a good example.

While Nasufi and Puntolillo will play at Delaware Valley, Adam Abida will attend the University at Albany, Joe Rondi is headed to Syracuse, 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, Charles Njoku will play wide receiver at UCLA and quarterback Tom Sharkey will attend Kutztown University.


By mike051893

Feisty Montclair does it again, rallying from 5-0 down to stun Nutley; Stoeckel spins a gem against Lenape Valley; Lexi and Sam share a somewhat historic moment; IHA with another shutout, as White fans 10 and Corra homers and drives in 3

Montclair had turned a few heads when it rallied from 11-3 down, in the sixth inning, on April 9, to surprise Columbia, 15-12, in a game that head coach Mike Goldstein called one of the most bizarre games he had ever seen.

Nine days later, the Mounties won what Goldstein called the best game he’s coached in, when Montclair rallied from an early 5-0 deficit to stun Nutley, 10-8, in a game at Nutley which was actually Montclair’s home game.

Montclair improved to 6-3 as the young team continued to swing an aggressive bat.

“That’s what we have to do,” said Goldstein. “We’ve got some good kids here, but we’re young and making our share of mistakes. We had lost a tough game to Bloomfield (6-3, on April 17), and I was a little down, especially coming to Nutley, which has a tremendous team. This was a big win for us, the biggest since I’ve been here.”

Goldstein is in his second year as the team’s head coach. He was an assistant in 2017 and also served as an assistant coach to Dan Roberts, who held the head coaching job from 2013-2014.

Nutley (4-4) was actually playing its second game of the day. The Raiders had edged Lenape Valley, 3-2, in 9 innings, on its home field, as freshman pitcher Fallyn Stoeckel spun a complete-game, 5-hitter and scored the game-winning run.

“She is the real deal,” said Goldstein of Stoeckel. “She hits the ball well, is a tremendous pitcher, and can do anything out there. She reminds me of (former Nutley star) Carly Anderson, and with Fallyn being a lefty, she adds another dimension to her game.”

Remi Antinoro, a freshman, had two hits and two RBI, while Francesca Testa scored twice, Charlotte Carr had three hits and drove in a pair and Milani Davis had two hits for Montclair.

Aliyah Andrews overcame a shaky first inning to pitch a complete game for the Mounties, giving up just one run over the final five innings.

History in softball do go hand-in-hand, as do friendships between opposing players, many of whom are club teammates in the summer.

Bloomfield’s Katie Bretz slides into second as Sam Burggraf awaits the throw for Newark Academy. (Photo by The Great Jerry Simon. Click on photo for larger image)

Such is the case between Newark Academy’s Sam Burggraf and Bloomfield’s Lexi Corio. In a 2016 game at Clark’s Pond, in Bloomfield, Burggraf, then a freshman, hit what appeared to be a homer, only to see Sam Corio, Lexi’s older sister, make THE CATCH, reaching over the centerfield fence to deny Burggraf a homer.

Lexi (right) and Sam, good friends off the field and competitors, on it. (Click on photo for larger image) 

Nearly three years later, Lexi, a junior pitcher, faced Burggraf, at The Pond, and this time it was Burggraf who did hit a homer. Corio would also play a good game for the Bengals, as Bloomfield won, 18-12, to improve to 6-3, after a slow start to the 2019 season.

Afterward, Burggraf and Corio, who play club ball in the summer, were all smiles, looking back at some good memories and thinking ahead to another meeting between Bloomfield and Newark Academy this season, and what should be some good times this summer, when they both wear the same uniform.

Ryleigh White pitched a 2-hitter with 10 strikeouts and Ashlynn Corra was 2-for-3 with a homer, three RBI and two runs scored as Immaculate Heart Academy improved to 9-0 with a 10-0 win over Ridgewood, in 6 innings, at IHA.

Emily Gyongyosi scored three runs for IHA, who will be back in action on April 20, playing Mount Olive, in Saddle Brook, at noon.









By mike051893

Essex Softball: Newark Academy’s Sam Burggraf collects her 100th career hit; Senior will attend Babson College and play softball, starting this fall

Newark Academy had a chance to celebrate one of its best players when senior Sam Burggraf collected her 100th career hit, in a game against Montclair, at home, on April 16.

The articulate and reflective Burggraf had a chance to look back at what got her to the century mark, as well as a bright future, which includes her college selection of Babson College, in Wellesley, Massachusetts, beginning this fall, where she’ll continue to play softball.

The unassuming Burggraf joined a nice club on April 16. (Click on photo for larger image. Thanks to Andrea Burggraf for the photo) 

“My 100th hit was truly meaningful to me, because of what it symbolized,” said Burggraf. “Softball entails a lot of ups and downs, and playing with such great teammates ensures that you have a great support group to cheer you on and pick you up, no matter what.

“My teammates made the 100th hit celebration really great, and the past four years equally special. The hit also brought a lot of memories to mind, such as winning the Prep Tournament my sophomore year, and our appearances in state final games. More than that, I remember lots of laughs, adrenaline filled seventh inning comebacks, and the excitement of being able to play against my club teammates during the season.”

Burggraf has been Newark Academy’s third baseman since her freshman year. She’s been one of the team’s best power hitters since 2016.

In addition to being a good hitter, Sam has been a reliable defensive player for Newark Academy. (Click on photo for larger image) 

One of the first people to congratulate Burggraf on social media was Samantha Corio, a good friend of Sam’s, who played for Bloomfield High. In 2016, Corio, then a senior, made a catch for the ages, when she cleared the centerfield fence to deny a homer. The ball was hit by Burggraf.

And, ironically, Corio collected her 100th career hit in that same game.

Burggraf was denied a hit, and a homer, in this 2016 game by her good friend, Samantha Corio. (Click on photo for larger image)

The daughter of Andrea and Gary Burggraf and granddaughter of Rich Badishkanian, who never misses a game, Sam is very appreciative of her family’s support.

“I cannot quite put into words how supportive and encouraging my family has been through every step of the softball process,” she said. “But I am extremely grateful for everything they have done for me. My 100th hit epitomized the incredible impact softball has had on my life, and I hope to continue all of the lessons and memories as I begin my college career at Babson College this upcoming September.”



By mike051893

Essex Softball: FMTC Top 10? After the top 2, it’s hard to tell; Will there be a Newark Academy, or Montclair in this year’s Essex County Tournament?

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.



By mike051893