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North Arlington baseball: Focus on youth

Photo by Jim Hague The North Arlington baseball team will count on a young pitching staff. From l. are Mark Cunningham, Christian Castro, Joel Silva, head coach Paul Marcantuono, Brian Costello, Tim Ford and Ryan McKenna.

Photo by Jim Hague
The North Arlington baseball team will count on a young pitching staff. From l. are Mark Cunningham, Christian Castro, Joel Silva, head coach Paul Marcantuono, Brian Costello, Tim Ford and Ryan McKenna.

 

The North Arlington High School baseball team suffered through some tough times a year ago, posting a 9-15 record.

As head coach Paul Marcantuono begins his seventh season with the Vikings, he knows where the future of his program lies.

“We’re starting six sophomores,” Marcantuono said. “I like being young. Young doesn’t necessarily mean bad. The kids have some talent. They’re challenging me and retaining so much that it’s making me teach new concepts. They also get along with each other so well.”

Marcantuono also has five players who saw significant playing time a year ago, so he has a good mix of talented youngsters with experienced veterans.

“I think this team will only continue to get better and better,” Marcantuono said.

There’s only been one obstacle – finding a place to play and practice. Since construction to overhaul Rip Collins Field has begun, it has forced the Vikings to be a little bit of a vagabond bunch.

“We’ve been all over the place to practice and play,” Marcantuono said. “We’ve been practicing at Matera Field (in Lyndhurst) at night in freezing temperatures. But that’s okay. It’s making them very strong.”

Leading the pitching staff is sophomore righthander Joel Silva.

“He’s gained a little more confidence since last year,” Marcantuono said. “He has good location with his pitches. He moves the ball in and out. He has a lot of poise on the mound. He also has a nice change-up. He has that ‘go get ‘em’ mentality and I like that. It’s only going to help him.”

Fellow sophomore Tim Ford is another key member of the pitching staff.

“He’s showed us a lot so far,” Marcantuono said. “We put him in some tough situations and he’s handled them well. He has three or four pitches he can throw for strikes.”

Sophomore Brian Costello is the lone left-hander among the pitching staff.

“He’s a little bigger and stronger than he was last year,” Marcantuono said. “I expect him to improve this year.”

Brian McKenna, who is one of the team’s lone seniors, is another right-hander who will see time on the mound.

“He throws hard,” Marcantuono said. “He can give us a few innings.”

Christian Castro is another pitcher, but he is also the team’s primary catcher, so it’s tough to get him on the mound.

Freshman Charles Kearney is another pitcher who has shown some promise in the preseason.

“He got people out in our scrimmages,” Marcantuono said. “He has a nice changeup and a nice curveball.”

Castro will be behind the plate, but when he takes the mound, promising sophomore Chris Giaquinto gets the nod.

“Giaquinto is working hard and is more like a work in progress,” Marcantuono said.

Sophomore Stephen Carey is a solid defensive catcher who will also see time behind the plate.

The first base duties will be shared by Costello and freshman Mike Rotondo.

Junior Anthony Rotondo, the older brother of Mike, is the team’s second baseman. Rotondo is one of the Viking captains.

“He has good hands and we’re going to rely on him a lot this year,” Marcantuono said. “He’s also a very smart kid.” Sophomore Manny Mora is the Vikings’ starting shortstop.

“He’s doing a wonderful job in the preseason,” Marcantuono said. “We gave him a few innings on the varsity last year and he handled that well. He makes every play. He may experience some bumps and bruises learning to play every day, but I expect him to do a solid job.”

McKenna is a three-year starter at third base who hit .450 last year.

“He led the team in extrabase hits and RBI,” Marcantuono said. “He’s our cleanup hitter. We need him to produce.”

Ford and sophomore Elias Aguilar are battling for time in left field. Silva is the centerfielder when he’s not on the mound. Giaquinto and Kearney are sharing time in right field.

Senior infielder Danny Yero and senior outfielder Endy Sanchez are key members of the Vikings’ bench.

“I think when you have a young team, you just have to get them on the field and see what happens,” Marcantuono said. “Some of these kids are going to suffer through some ups and downs and that’s expected. But we’re not going to use a designated hitter. We’re going to let the pitchers hit.” So Marcantuono will just wait and watch his young team mature.

“I spoke to my coaching staff about it,” Marcantuono said. “We have a bunch of sophomores and we have to take it in stride. We have to watch them become better. We have to be patient. We have to be positive, so we have to be able to pick them up when they get down. We’re also going to do our best job teaching these kids.”

The Vikings open their season this week against Paterson Charter at Breslin Field in Lyndhurst, which has also received an upgrade with artificial FieldTurf.

The Vikings will also play some night games at Matera Field in Lyndhurst and some in Riverside County Park.

The Vikings will know a lot about themselves after the first week, after facing Becton Regional, Saddle Brook and neighboring rival Lyndhurst at the Lyndhurst Recreation facility Saturday at noon.

“They’re getting better every day and I’m proud of them,” Marcantuono said.

Pride and patience – sounds like the making of a brilliant novel.

Back from Florida scrimmages, Nutley softball squad looks strong

Photo by Jim Hague The Nutley softball team will look to its leaders to carry the load this season. From l. are Carly Anderson, head coach Luann Zullo, Morgan Gualtieri and Brittany Currie.

Photo by Jim Hague
The Nutley softball team will look to its leaders to carry the load this season. From l. are Carly Anderson, head coach Luann Zullo, Morgan Gualtieri and Brittany Currie.

 

By Jim Hague

Observer Sports Writer

While other teams were struggling to get on any local field to prepare for the 2014 season, the Nutley High School softball team was able to play 11 scrimmages.

That’s because for the 15th straight year, the Maroon Raiders went to the Disney World of Sports in Orlando and played those 11 games, most of which were against fellow New Jersey schools.

“The beauty of being there is that softball is your entire focus,” said veteran Nutley head coach Luann Zullo. “For five days, we were focusing on softball and got a lot of work in there. We had practice for two hours, then played two games. The next day, we had practice in the morning and played three games. It’s a great experience all around. It also helps the team to bond.”

There was an added bonus. Because it was the 15th year at Disney, Nutley was welcomed on the field before an Atlanta Braves preseason game against the Mets. They were right in the batting cages, watching stars like Freddie Freeman and Jason Heyward take their swings.

“The Braves were right there,” Zullo said. “It was a big thrill for everyone.”

The Maroon Raiders also went 9-2 in those 11 games in Florida. They lost to Indian Hills and Ramsey early in the week, then came back to knock the two Jersey foes off in a rematch.

Needless to say, the week in Florida gave the Maroon Raiders a leg up on their local competition.

The Maroon Raiders were 22-7 last year, reaching the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group III semifinals and the quarterfinals in the Essex County Tournament.

A year ago, the Maroon Raiders were unsure of who their pitcher was going to be. That uncertainty is now gone, ever since junior Carly Anderson stepped forward and cemented her place as one of the premier pitchers in the entire state.

“She still doesn’t claim to be a pitcher,” Zullo said of Anderson. “She believes she’s more comfortable as a shortstop. But pitching is so much of the game. She’s such an accomplished athlete. She now knows that she has the ball. She finished in the top 10 in strikeouts in the state. I asked her, `Are you a pitcher now?’ She knows she can pitch.” Anderson will get the ball for the majority of Maroon Raiders games this season, but Zullo, looking toward the future, got sophomores Breanna DeMaio and Emily Holden and freshman Samantha Echevarria to pitch some in Florida.

“If we have to get the opportunity to give Carly a break, we know where we can go,” Zullo said. “But with our schedule and our league, we have to bring our ‘A’ game every day.”

Sophomore Danielle Pomponio moves from third base to catcher this season.

“She did a phenomenal job at third base last year, so we were a little hesitant to move her,” Zullo said. “But she’s clearly our best catcher. She came in as a catcher and is a good catcher. She stepped behind the plate and it was like she played there every day.

She’s such a student of the game and she keeps getting better every day.” Sophomore Emily Holden is the first baseman. Holden got some playing time last year, first as a designated player, then got the opportunity to play first base late in the season and handled it well. However, Holden suffered a gruesome hamstring injury that required surgery.

“She’s worked real hard rehabbing that injury and is gradually returning to play,” Zullo said. “She’s doing a nice job.” Junior Jenna Saporito is the starting second baseman once again.

“She’s a good hitter and solid at second base,” Zullo said.

Echevarria, the freshman, along with DeMaio and fellow sophomore Stefanie Ziemer are all battling to play shortstop and third base.

“We had Samantha all over the place in Florida,” Zullo said. “We’ll see where she’s most comfortable.”

DeMaio and sophomore Alanis Concepcion are currently sharing time in left field.

Senior Brittany Currie, the standout in soccer, is the team’s starter in centerfield. Currie is a three-year starter who has played a multitude of positions for the Maroon Raiders over the years.

Senior Morgan Gualtieri has been with the Maroon Raiders’ varsity for four seasons. She plays right field. Gualtieri is a standout in volleyball in the fall.

“It’s good to have good athletes in the outfield,” Zullo said.

Zullo likes the potential of the Maroon Raiders. While they are young, with only two seniors, the Maroon Raiders are talented with several of the sophomores already having varsity experience.

“We have a great group of girls,” Zullo said. “One thing about last year’s team was that they had great fight;, even if they fell behind, they kept fighting. They were never out of anything. We had a great year last year and we have a large group of those kids back. If they still have that fight that they had last year, then I’m very excited.”

Zullo knows where the importance lies.

“It all starts with Carly,” Zullo said. “She is the same kid she was last year. We also have seven sophomores that are going to play together for a while. If they just keep getting better, we’ll be fine.”

Count on the Maroon Raiders being just fine come Memorial Day and maybe beyond.

Obituaries

Vincent F. Carchidi

Mr. Vincent F. Carchidi, of Kearny, died on Saturday, March 29. He was 81 and a longtime Kearny resident.

The funeral Mass will be offered on Wednesday, April 2, at 10:30 a.m. at St. Stephen’s Church, Kearny, followed by the interment in Holy Cross Cemetery. Relatives and friends may call at the Condon Funeral Home (condonfuneralhome.com) 684 Kearny Ave., Kearny, on Tuesday, April 1, from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m.

Vince was a fixture working the polls in Kearny during municipal and school board elections. He was also a member of the Watchung Amateur Ski Club for 52 years and enjoyed spending time at his home in the Catskills.

He was employed as a general manager and advertising specialist with the Kearny Observer for over 25 years until retiring.

He was a proud Army veteran of the Korean War.

Mr. Carchidi is survived by his sister, Rose Carchidi; his nieces and nephews Roseanne and Craig Stewart, John and Sharon Carchidi and Christine and Daniel McShane. Also surviving are his great-nieces and nephews Christopher McShane, Daniel and Linette McShane, Jackie and John McNally and Alex McShane. He was predeceased by his siblings Clara A. and Joseph (Jackie) Carchidi.

In lieu of flowers, kindly consider donations to Pathways for Independence, 60 Kingsland Ave., Kearny, N.J. 07032.

Hubert Churchman

Hubert “Frank” Churchman, 92, passed away on March 23 at Newton Medical Center.

Born and raised in Kearny to the late Percy James and Mary (Billingham) Churchman, he lived in Flanders before moving to Sussex County in 2005. Along with his wife, Therese, Mr. Churchman summered in Stuart, Fla., from 1993 to 2004.

He served in the United States Army in the 347th Infantry during World War II and received a Bronze Star and was a member of the American Legion Post 213 in Wantage. He was an assistant coach for Thistle FC of Kearny.

Mr. Churchman was employed as a truck driver and dispatcher for Chasta Motor Transportation in Kearny, retiring in 1987.

He was predeceased by his wife of 61 years, Therese, on February 16, 2009; his son, Francis “Frank” Churchman on September 10, 2009; and his daughter-in-law, JoAnne Churchman on December 18, 2008. He is survived by his three sons, Brian of Wantage, Mark of Wharton, and James of Wantage; his daughter, Nancy Mary Shaffer and her husband Harry of Lake Ariel, Pa.; and his five grandchildren.

Arrangements were by the Pinkel Funeral Home, 31 Bank St., Sussex. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that memorial donations may be made to the Wantage First Aid Squad, P.O. Box 721, Wantage, N.J. 07461. Online condolences may be offered to the family at www.pinkelfuneralhome.com.

Charles E. Ferruggio

Charles E. Ferruggio, 66, died March 24 at the Maple Glen Center in Fair Lawn.

Born in New York, N.Y., he lived in North Arlington before moving to Oakland 12 years ago. He served in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War.

He was an operating engineer with Local 825 in Springfield for 35 years before retiring five years ago.

He was the cherished companion of 22 years of Marietta Galdi, the adored father of Jason C. Ferruggio, the loving brother of Sam Ferruggio and the dear uncle of Andrea Ferruggio.

The funeral was from the Parow Funeral Home, 185 Ridge Rd., North Arlington, on Friday, March 28, with a funeral Mass at Queen of Peace Church, North Arlington, followed by interment in Holy Cross Cemetery, North Arlington.

Joann L. Gorba

Joann L. Gorba died March 12 at home. She was 48.

Born in Kearny, she was a lifelong resident.

A memorial service was held at the Armitage and Wiggins Funeral Home. To leave online condolences, please visit www.armitagewiggins.com.

Joann is survived by her daughter Ashley and her sisters and brother Julie Kammerer, Sherri MacLeod and James Gorba. She is also the beloved aunt of Julie, Sean and Kristen Clark.

Theresa Kosciuch

Theresa Kosciuch (nee Paschenko) died March 27. She was 86.

Born in Harrison, she lived in Kearny the past 64 years.

Private arrangements are by the Armitage and Wiggins Funeral Home in Kearny. To leave online condolences, please visit www.armitagewiggins.com.

Theresa is survived by her husband William and her children and their spouses John and Molly Kosciuch and Elaine and William Lombardi. Also surviving are her grandchildren Liza, Sara, Nicole and Michele and her great grandchildren Noah and Dean.

In lieu of flowers, kindly consider a donation to The Alzheimers Foundation.

Patrick Francis Murtagh

Patrick Francis Murtagh, 82, entered into eternal rest on March 27.

The funeral will be conducted from the Mulligan Funeral Home, 331 Cleveland Ave., Harrison, on Tuesday, April 1, at 10:15 a.m. A funeral Mass will follow at St. Aloysius Church, Newark, at 11 a.m. Interment will be in Holy Cross Cemetery, North Arlington. Friends may call on Tuesday, starting at 9:30 a.m. For information or directions, please visit www.mulliganfuneralhome.org.

Born in French Parp, Ireland, he was a lifelong resident of Newark. He worked as a machine operator for PFAFF and Kendall in Newark for 30 years, retiring in 1994. Prior to Kendall, he worked for Commercial Can in Newark. He was a member of Roscommon Club in New York City, and he was an avid Mets fan and enjoyed playing the lottery.

Patrick is survived by his sister Anna Thompson and his brother Joseph Murtagh, his cousins Margaret ”Jeannie” Brynes, Helen Brennen and Mary Vaughn and many friends.

He was predeceased by his parents Thomas and Margaret (Byron) Murtagh and his uncle, John Murtagh.

Eleanor M. Nauen

Eleanor M. Nauen died March 23. She was 84.

Born in Paterson, she lived in Florida for many years before moving to Kearny.

Arrangements were by the Armitage and Wiggins Funeral Home, 596 Belgrove Dr., Kearny. A funeral Mass was held at St. Stephen’s Church and burial followed in Maryrest Cemetery in Mahwah.

Eleanor is survived by her sister Henrietta Mawhinney, four nieces, one nephew and their families.

Expect new firefighters on duty by Independence Day

BELLEVILLE –

Seven newly hired Belleville firefighters began training at the Essex County Fire Academy in Cedar Grove two weeks ago.

Those who successfully complete the eight-week program will then undertake up to six weeks of training as emergency medical technicians, to qualify as first responders, said Belleville Fire Chief Robert Caruso.

“We should have them ready for duty after July 4th,” Caruso said. “They’ll be dispersed across all four shifts.”

The additions will bring the department’s total strength to 68, according to the chief. The BFD peaked at 74 back in 2009-2010, he said.

Most recent prior hirings came in September 2013 when three new firefighters came aboard and, before that, nine were put on in September 2011.

Belleville positioned itself to appoint the new firefighters by applying for – and getting — $1.18 million in a federal SAFER (Staffing for Adequate and Fire Emergency Response) grant that pays salaries and benefits for two years.

After the two years, the township is obliged to take over full payment obligations.

It marked the first score for Belleville in several previous application efforts, Caruso said.

While they’re at the academy, the firefighters- in-training will earn $30,000. When they begin as full-fledged firefighters, they’ll advance to first-year pay of $39,000.

The benefit package’s value can range from $20,000 to $35,000 depending on the option chosen by the firefighter, Caruso said.

The new recruits, hired from a state Civil Service appointment list, certified Dec. 9, 2013, are: Andres E. Idrovo, Manuel Antonio, Nicholas Giangrande, Christopher Gammaro, Michael R. Corino, Anthony N. Malanga and Dennis J. Herrmann.

Meanwhile, on the equipment front, Caruso said the department was expecting delivery of a new ladder truck from the Florida manufacturer E-One within a month, replacing a 1991 truck which the chief described as “kind of worn out.”

“A new ambulance should also be coming at around the same time,” Caruso said. That will replace a 2007 vehicle. “We answer close to 4,000 calls a year,” he said. The new vehicle will be equipped with a heavier chassis which should make it more durable, he added.

The township previously authorized a capital bond ordinance to provide financing to acquire the ladder truck, for about $900,000, and the ambulance, for about $225,000.

– Ron Leir

Evidence registered with cops

Matthew James

Matthew James

By Karen Zautyk
Observer Correspondent

KEARNY–

From the Department of You Can’t Make This Stuff Up: A suspect in the robbery of a Kearny store has been linked to an earlier heist in Belleville thanks to a cash register drawer he left in plain view on the back seat of his car, authorities reported.

The alleged bandit was identified as Matthew James, 28, of Monroe Township, formerly of Belleville.

The suspect apparently also has a penchant for lime green T-shirts and lime green/orange gloves, which police said helped in identifying him. Last Wednesday, March 19, Kearny police said, a ski-masked individual entered a liquor store/deli on Davis Ave. at 4:15 p.m. and asked for a pack of cigarettes. He then reportedly ran behind the counter and grabbed a fistful of bills from the register. A short struggle ensued with the proprietor, who was pushed and punched, but who managed to pull up the mask, partially revealing the man’s face, police said. The culprit then fled on foot. Read more »

Tragic death of beloved waitress

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By Ron Leir
Observer Correspondent

NORTH ARLINGTON –

It was her day off – Tuesday –and Barbara Gangi kept to her set routine.

Shortly before 6:30 a.m., Gangi dropped off her wash in front of the Riverside Laundry and started walking across River Road to the Arlington Diner, her home away from home, for a light breakfast.

This particular Tuesday, March 18, however, she never got to the diner because she was fatally struck by a car. Read more »

Meadows mulch ignites again

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By Karen Zautyk
Observer Correspondent

KEARNY–

The pesky mulch pile in the meadows that kept the Kearny Fire Department busy last year has been slumbering all winter, kept quiet, pehaps, by blankets of snow and ice.

But last week, it appeared to be welcoming spring — in a rebirth of its annoying tendency to spontaneously combust.

On March 16, the mulch at Nature’s Choice Corp., 631 Belleville Turnpike – scene of several 2013 fires – was again aflame. A passing motorist reported the fire and the KFD answered the alarm at 12:37 p.m.

Fire Chief Steve Dyl said all Kearny units, along with North Arlington firefighters, responded to the two -alarm blaze, which was declared under control at 4:15 p.m. Dyl said the fire was prevented from spreading outside the mulch, but about an acre of mulch piles burned. Read more »

Zoners’ youth center OK nixed

zoners1

By Ron Leir
Observer Correspondent

BELLEVILLE –

It took nearly a year for St. Mary & St. Mercurius Coptic Orthodox Church to get local approvals to build a dome-shaped youth center and parking garage on Academy St.

But neighbors went to court to block the project and, last month, they got a judge to do what they wanted by overturning the Belleville Zoning Board of Adjustment’s decision favoring the project.

And now, the church has to start all over again to make its case.

Still, the church’s attorney Frank J. Cozzarelli is optimistic that the church will ultimately succeed because he’ll be presenting a revised plan aimed at appeasing some of the neighbors’ concerns. Read more »

IRS warns of massive scam

IRS-logo

By Karen Zautyk
Observer Correspondent

Recent police blotters from various towns have included reports of people who received phone calls from a person or persons claiming to be from the Internal Revenue Service and demanding immediate payment of fines or back taxes.

In our March 19 edition, for example, Nutley police noted that a township resident had been warned by a caller that the IRS would freeze his bank accounts, credit cards and passport unless he forked over more than $3,600 in “money due.”

He was instructed to purchase eight Green Point money pack cards adding up to the total, scratch off the cards, return the call to the “IRS” at a number provided and read the account numbers over the phone.

He complied. Read more »

Japan was topic for this history lesson

Japanese_web1

By Ron Leir
Observer Correspondent

BELLEVILLE –

The “Land of the Rising Sun” got a rise out of some 60 ninth-graders at Belleville High School last Tuesday.

Two representatives of the Japanese Consulate General’s office – public relations specialist Jesse Taylor and Goro Watanabe of the Ministry of Education – wearing traditional Japanese garb – visited a World History class.

They’d responded to an invitation extended by social studies teacher Gary Klotzkin to bring their “School Caravan” program to schools in the metro region to share information about Japan and its culture in engaging ways.

They showed the students videos about Japan, highlighting traditional music festivals, like the four-day Awa Odori event held in Tokushima Prefecture, typically featuring 100,000 dancers and attended by four million spectators. Read more »