April 12 A motor vehicle stop at a Franklin Ave. location, at 1:54 a.m., resulted in the arrest of Sergio Landeros, 26, of Garfield, who was issued summonses charging him with DWI and careless driving and released pending a court […]
NEWARK – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced last Friday, April 11, that it plans to undertake the most costly public waterway cleanup in its 43-year history. At a press conference held at Newark Riverfront Park, EPA Regional […]
By Ron Leir Observer Correspondent KEARNY – For more than two decades, it sat – carefully preserved – in a Pennsylvania residence. Next month, however, the Purple Heart medal awarded posthumously to a long-dead Kearny serviceman will be returned […]
Two neighboring West Hudson communities have been shut out in their bids to snag federal funding to hire more firefighters. Kearny Fire Dept. and Harrison Fire Dept. each applied for a share of SAFER (Staffing for Adequate Fire & Emergency […]
By Ron Leir Observer Correspondent KEARNY – Fred Kuhrt died doing what he loved best – giving of himself to others. His former employer, the Kearny Board of Education, is honoring the automotive technology instructor’s selflessness by establishing the […]
By Ron Leir Observer Correspondent NORTH ARLINGTON – Saturday’s opening ceremony for the North Arlington Recreation Girls’ Softball season took on a political twist. Mayor Peter Massa, a Democrat, complained that he was snubbed by League President Mike Tetto […]
By Karen Zautyk
Kearny police reported last week that they have closed two cases dating to 2012, “one crime solved through DNA, the other, the old-fashioned way,” said KPD Chief John Dowie.
The latter involved the Sept. 30, 2012, armed hold-up of a liquor store at Seeley and Kearny Aves. At about 8 p.m. on that date, a lone bandit, wielding an automatic handgun, robbed the shop and then fled on foot, running east on Seeley.
The investigating officer, Det. Scott Traynor, reviewed surveillance tapes, noting the type of weapon used and the gunman’s clothing — a dark-colored, hooded sweatshirt and a black ski mask — and later linked these details to a similar crime in Bayonne, Dowie said. Traynor kept up with the case, working with police in that city and developing information from his street sources. He subsequently identified a possible suspect — 25-year-old Bayonne resident Jonathan Jeffery.
Last month, after evidence was presented to the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office, warrants were issued for Jeffery’s arrest on weapons and armed robbery charges in Kearny.
The alleged perp, already lodged in the Hudson County Jail in connection with his Bayonne arrest, was brought to KPD headquarters on April 4 for formal processing and was then returned to his secure habitat.
The second case concerned the Nov. 1, 2012, burglary of a gas station at Belgrove Drive and Passaic Ave. The culprit, Dowie noted, had taken advantage of the fact that the station had no electrical power in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, broke in through a garage window and absconded with cigarettes, lottery tickets and cash.
Responding to the scene were Det. Michael Gonzalez and Det. Stephen Podolski, who recovered probable DNA evidence. This was sent to the State Police lab for processing, and last month a probable suspect was ID’d, Dowie said.
That suspect, Brian Kinney, 30, of Kearny, had also been linked to a series of robberies at Payless shoe stores in Kearny and Newark, police said, and was incarcerated at the Essex County Jail. On April 4, he was processed there on the additional Kearny charges of burglary and theft.
By Anthony J. Machcinski
Music lovers looking to cherish the oldies will have their opportunity on April 25 when the band Park Avenue plays at the brand new Riva Blue in Lyndhurst.
Park Avenue was created three years ago and consists of keyboard player John Lepore, drummer Mark Sole, bassist Mike Cardinale, guitarist Orlando Sanzari and singers Bob D’Angelo, George Kistner, Joe Caporella and Mike Fede.
While the band itself is green in terms of experience playing as a group, the individuals who make up the band all benefit from decades of performing throughout the area. Members of the group have played with such bands as Sidewalk Symphony, Jersey Sound, and the Russ Marlow Show Band.
“We perform music from the ’40s through the ’70s,” said D’Angelo, adding that the group features songs from bands such as The Duprees, The Four Seasons and even some Motown hits.
D’Angelo fell in love with music at a young age, carrying on his dad’s passion.
“My father played the guitar, and he used to come to my school and play,” D’Angelo said. “I played the guitar in Natural High (the younger D’Angelo’s first band) and I used to sing on the corner when I was young.”
D’Angelo became a singer after listening to much of the music of the ’60s and ’70s.
“I said to myself, ‘I want to learn these harmony parts,’” D’Angelo said. “I used to sing the harmony parts in the record. I’ve always heard music since I was a tot. It was just in the blood.”
D’Angelo’s career continued to grow and by 1974, he had started his first band, Natural High, and began singing at several local venues including the Jetty and Big Joe’s Pub, both in Bloomfield.
“I just love singing and I love music,” D’Angelo said. “I just love entertaining.”
The band has played at many of the area’s best locations, including the Whiskey Café in Lyndhurst, The Chandelier in Belleville and will open Riva Blue.
“You really have to hear us to appreciate (our harmonies),” D’Angelo said. “People come up to us after shows and thank us and tell us that we were really great.”
The band’s harmonies have the power to send lovers of the oldies back in time on a musical adventure.
On the band’s cover of Mel Carter’s “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me,” D’Angelo, Fede and Kistner all harmonize behind the vocals of Caporella, creating the soothing, romantic croon that Carter intended the song to hold.
The band also thrills on Jackie Wilson’s ’50s classic “Lonely Teardrops.”
During Park Avenue’s cover, D’Angelo takes the lead while Fede, Kistner and Caporella harmonize behind him. Even with the passing of decades since Wilson released “Lonely Teardrops,” Park Avenue helps breathe life into a song that may have fallen by the wayside over time.
For D’Angelo, getting out and performing in front of large crowds is the ultimate pleasure.
“There’s nothing like getting yourself out there,” D’Angelo explained. “We prefer the larger crowds, naturally, but we just like being out there singing.”
D’Angelo said the band has several tour dates already booked throughout the summer and will continue to perform songs from their most recent CD, “Back in the Day.”
D’Angelo hopes that the band will continue to expand its horizons and perform at new venues, including some outside the state.
“We’re working on trying to get up to the Poconos,” D’Angelo said. “They just opened up a few new places up there. Atlantic City is always another possibility.”
Park Avenue will play Riva Blue in Lyndhurst on Friday, April 25, at 9 p.m., and will follow that up with several performances at The Whiskey Café in Lyndhurst and The Essex Bar & Grill in Bloomfield.
Riva Blue is located at 525 Riverside Ave. in Lyndhurst above King’s Court. For more information on Park Avenue, including its CD “Back in the Day,” visit the band’s website at www.parkavenj.com.
On April 4, at 6 p.m., pursuant to an ongoing narcotics investigation and armed with a search warrant from the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office, Kearny vice detectives paid a visit to an apartment on the 300 block of Kearny Ave.
When the occupants refused to open the door, the officers employed a battering ram (a/k/a “knock, knock tool”) to gain entrance. Police said a search of the premises produced 96 grams of marijuana, a batch of marijuana cookies, a half-dozen psilocybin (psychedelic) mushrooms, 17 Xanax tablets, numerous empty plastic bags, a digital scale and $638 in cash.
Arrested were Christopher Reyes, 36, and Randy Valverde, 25, both of whom were charged with possession of more than 50 grams of pot, possession with intent to distribute, intent to distribute within 1,000 feet of a school (Kearny High) and 500 feet of a public library, possession of the mushrooms and prescription drug with intent to distribute and possession of drug paraphernalia.
In addition, police said, Valverde had outstanding warrants from East Newark, Belleville and West Caldwell. His bail was set at $10,000; Reyes’, at $5,000.
Other recent reports from the KPD blotter included the following:
Officer Ben Wuelfing, on patrol at 4 a.m., saw a Jeep make an illegal turn at Kearny and Bergen Aves. and stopped the vehicle at Halstead St. Police said the driver, Max Salazar, 41, of Kearny, was found to have a suspended license. He was also reportedly found to have a strong odor of alcohol about his person and to be unsteady on his feet. While Wuelfing was conducting field sobriety tests, back-up Officer Chris Medina observed an open bottle of beer in the Jeep, police said.
When Salazar “violently resisted arrest,” Wuelfing employed OC spray, to no effect, police said. Salazar then allegedly elbowed Medina in the chest, threw the bottle at him and kicked Wuelfing. When the cops had to wrestle the belligerent man to the ground, which was covered in shattered beer-bottle glass, Medina suffered lacerations to his hand, police said.
Salazar, who reportedly refused to take an Alcotest, was charged with two counts of aggravated assault on a police officer, resisting arrest, DWI, driving while suspended, possession of a weapon (the bottle) and having an open container of alcohol in a motor vehicle.
Officers Jordenson Jean and John Fabula, patrolling on the 200 block of Brighton Ave. at 3:15 p.m., observed Ruthann Hatfield, 48, whom they knew to be wanted and confirmed she had outstanding warrants from Cinnaminson and Moorestown. She was taken to headquarters for processing and the other jurisdictions were notified.
At 5 p.m., vice detectives saw Nestor Carr, 25, of Kearny operating a motor vehicle at Wilson and Highland Aves., confirmed that he had a suspended license and also learned he was the subject of a North Arlington warrant, police said. Carr was accompanied by Stacey Perez, 22, of Kearny, who reportedly had a warrant out of Kearny. Both were taken into custody.
By Anthony J. Machcinski
Tim and Scott Bixler may not have been alive when their great-grandfather helped develop Kearny’s Manor section in 1926, but the twin brothers and co-owners of The Bixler Group have taken up the family real estate business.
Originally born in Kearny, the brothers joined their great uncle at The Bixler Group in 2002 after graduating from St. Lawrence University.
“At the time, there weren’t many corporate jobs and it was an opportunity for (my brother and I) to work together,” said Scott Bixler. “So after college, my brother and I decided to talk to my great uncle about coming back to Kearny.”
The Bixler Group, besides being a family business, was a great spot for the brothers to settle. With Scott’s background in real estate and Tim’s insurance background, the pair could work in their field under the same roof.
“It has always been real estate and insurance,” Scott said. “My brother tends to do about 90% of the insurance and I handle about the same amount of real estate.”
Scott said the real estate market was something that always intrigued him, but the chance to help someone achieve his or her dreams keeps him motivated.
“I love working with people within the community,” Scott explained. “It’s great to walk away from a closing table, but even better to know you just fulfilled someone’s dream.”
With 115 years of service to Hudson and Bergen County over five generations, Scott believes that the family’s history separates them from other realtors in the area.
“Within the community, we’ve been around so long that people knew my dad and my uncle,” Scott said. “There’s just a lot of history with us in town.”
Scott explained that families have bought their homes from the twins’ father or grandfather, then sold them later in life through them.
“My grandfather sold a customer a house and we have those files still in the basement,” Scott said. “I can walk in the basement and put our hands on a file from the 1940s.”
Scott believes that having the extensive history of the home on file is not only an advantage, but also an important piece to show to prospective home buyers.
“We can take (the file) to a listing and show them what the house looked like in the 1940s,” Scott said. “It’s a niche that we have.”
Scott believes that The Bixler Group’s success stems from its long history and hands-on ownership.
“I think a lot of it has to do with that we’re a familyowned business that’s been around a long time,” Scott said. “We’re a smaller mom and pop where we, as the owners, are constantly hands on.”
He continued, “My great uncle sold someone a house in the ‘60s and now they’re looking to sell it and they came to us because they remember the service he gave them.”
However, things weren’t always easy for the twins.
“When the market crashed in 2008, it was a struggle,” Scott said. “It made us work harder. We figured that if we could make it through that, we could make it through anything and we’ve built it back up since then. We’ve brought our name back to the strength it always was.”
As for the future of The Bixler Group, Scott hopes to continue to strengthen the family business.
“We’re trying to stay small, but surround ourselves with other good agents,” Scott said. “We’d like to get a few more strong agents and not make it huge, but keep it small and strong.”
The Bixler Group is located at 758 Kearny Ave. in Kearny. For more information, including area listings, visit their website at www.bixlerest1891.com or call their office at 201- 991-0032.
Photos by Ron Leir
A NJ Transit bus emerging from the company’s Washington Ave. terminal at Hancox Ave. in Nutley and turning south was in collision with a southbound passenger car. Emergency responders extracted
a 28-year-old Belleville woman from the vehicle and a Nutley ambulance took her to Clara Maass Medical Center for observation.. No summonses were issued, police said.
Belleville Public Library and Information Center, 221 Washington Ave., holds a Teddy Bear Tea Party for children on Saturday, May 3, at 2 p.m. Registration closes April 28.
Belleville Irish American Association sponsors a trip to Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, Boston and Mohegan Sun Casino, June 2-6. Cost is $485. For an itinerary or more information, call Pat at 973-751-5308 or email email@example.com.
Belleville Elks Lodge 1123, 254 Washington Ave.. hosts a blood drive on Saturday, April 19, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Donors must be at least age 17, weigh at least 120 pounds, bring a signed form of ID and know their social security number. For more information, call the New Jersey Blood Center at 973-676-4700.
Bloomfield Public Library, 90 Broad St., announces:
• Egg Hunt for kids ages 18 months to 5 only on April 16 at 11 a.m.
• Book Club on Monday, May 5, from 6:45 to 7:45 p.m., to discuss Ha Jin’s novel “Waiting.” For more information or for help in locating a copy of the book club selection, call the Reference Desk at 973-566- 6200, ext 502.
Oakeside Bloomfield Cultural Center, 240 Belleville Ave., hosts a Tricky Tray fundraiser on Friday, May 9, at 6:30 p.m. Tickets, available only in advance, are $25. To purchase tickets, call 973-429-0960.
The Peruvians United of Harrison will conduct a food drive on April 20 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. in front of Harrison Town Hall. All of the food will be donated to Holy Cross Church.
Kearny Public Library, 318 Kearny Ave., announces:
• Uncle John’s Puppets performance will be held Thursday, April 17, from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m.
• There’ll be a screening of a Disney Double Feature of “The Jungle Book” at 1 p.m. and “The Jungle Book 2” at 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday, April 16. Registration is not required for these programs, but seating is limited.
• A book sale continues through Thursday, April 17, during normal library hours. Patrons will find a huge selection of donated and discarded hardcover and paperback books. Books are a quarter each or five for $1.
Kearny High School’s Project Graduation sponsors a Volleyball Tournament on Friday, April 25, in the school’s gymnasium, 336 Devon St. Contact Melissa Dyl for information at 201-978-8257. There will be a 50/50 raffle Friday, June 20, after graduation ceremonies. The winner need not be present. Tickets are $10. To purchase or sell tickets, contact Sandy Hyde at 551-265-8969.
Kearny UNICO sponsors a fundraising bus trip to the Showboat Casino in Atlantic City on Sunday, April 27, leaving from the parking lot of Kearny Federal Savings Bank at 8:30 a.m. Tickets are $30 and can be obtained by calling Lou Pandolfi at 201-368-2409.
The Humane Society of Bergen County, 221-223 Stuyvesant Ave., meets April 22 at 7 p.m. to elect officers.The public is invited to see the shelter and meet the board of directors. For more information, call 201- 896-9300.
The New Jersey Meadowlands Commission will hold a free Earth Day concert, featuring Spook Handy, Tuesday, April 22, at 7:30 p.m. at the Meadowlands Environment Center, 2 DeKorte Park Plaza. Doors open at 6:45 p.m. To register, contact Don Torino of the BCAS at greatauk4@aol. com or 201-230-4983.
Learn how the N.J. Invasive Strike Team is working to address the spread of non-native species that threaten the environment and natural resources on Wednesday, April 23, from 7 to 9 p.m., at the MEC. It’s open to all ages. Admission is $5; $4 for MEC members. Registration is recommended and appreciated. To register, visit www.njmeadowlands.gov/ec.
Registration is required for a Ladybug craft program for grades 1 to 4 at Lyndhurst Public Library, 355 Valley Brook Ave., on Monday, April 28, 3:30 to 4:15 p.m. Call the library at 201-804-2478 to register.
Lyndhurst Health Department, 601 Riverside Avenue, Suite 1, hosts a free Women’s Health Clinic, in partnership with Clara Maass Medical Center, on April 25, at 9 a.m. The clinic will provide education on breast self-examination and a pap smear. This event is open to female township residents age 18 and older. For appointments, call 201-804- 2500.
Dr. John Favetta will conduct free eye screening Wednesday, May 7, at 10 a.m., at the Health Dept. He will test for vision acuity, visual field and glaucoma. Call for an appointment.
Polish American Citizens Club, 730 New Jersey Ave., presents a Polka Mass dinner dance on Saturday, April 26, from 6 to 11:30 p.m. Tickets are $35. For tickets, call Alice at 201-935-3830 or Loretta at 201- 438-3513.
Lyndhurst Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3549, 527 Valley Brook Ave., hosts a Karaoke party on Friday, April 25, at 7 p.m. The VFW hall is available to rent for all occasions. For more information, call the post at 201-939-3080.
North Arlington Public Library, 210 Ridge Road, offers:
• ESL Group Class on Tuesdays starts April 22. Visit or call for more information. • Historical Fact and Fiction Club meets Thursday, April 24, at 10 a.m.
• Saturday Afternoon Poets celebrate National Poetry Month April 26 from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. with a poetry reading and music performance. All ages are welcome.
• YA Movie Day for grades 6 and up will be held Friday, April 25, at 3 p.m.
• Comics Club for grades 6 and up meets Wednesday, April 30, at 3:30 p.m.
• Origami for grades 4 and up is held Monday, April 28, at 3:30 p.m.
• Woman’s Club Craft is available for grades K to 5 Tuesday, April 22, at 6 p.m. Registration is required. Call 201-955-5640, ext. 126. To register, just leave a message.
Senior Harmony Club announces the following trips:
• Sands Casino, Thursday, April 24. For reservations or information, call Florence at 201-991-3173.
• Westchester Broadway Theater to see the musical “Ragtime,” Thursday, May 1. Reservations must be made ASAP. Call Anna at 201-939- 2960.
Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, 120 Prospect St., hosts a Home-made Pasta Dinner Saturday, May 3, at 6 p.m. Tickets are $10 for adults, and $6 for children ages 12 and younger. Visit the rectory to purchase tickets. All proceeds benefit the church’s CCD program.
Registration is open for the Nutley Parks and Recreation Department’s “Let’s Get Moving,” for ages 3 to 5, to refine motor skills and increase balance. Classes begin April 22. Two sessions are available: Tuesdays at 1 p.m. or Thursdays at 9:15 a.m. Online registration is available at nutleynj.my.gov-i.com/recreation or at the Recreation Department, 44 Park Ave, reachable at 973-284-4966.
Nutley Police Department holds its next Neighborhood Watch meeting April 24 at 7 p.m. at the Municipal Building on the third floor. This meeting will focus on identity theft and learning about common scams.
Nutley Public Library, 93 Booth Drive, announces:
• Earth Day Story Time, Monday, April 21, at 7 p.m.
• Friends of the Library book sale, April 24 to 26, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day. Stock up on hardcover books, paperbacks, CDs and DVDs. Donations will be collected April 21 to 23.
Scott Bixler, broker of record, is happy to announce that Maggy Oti is now with The Bixler Group.
Maggy Oti provides the highest level of knowledge, expertise, discretion and integrity in the specialized art of client representation and negotiation in real estate, Bixler said.
Oti has been a licensed New Jersey realtor since 1999. “Joining The Bixler Group in 2014 as a full-time professional immediately provided Maggy with a network of real estate professionals. Along the way Maggy has received many awards; however, her biggest accomplishment is the delight of her clients. It is her priority to take care of them in such a way that they are excited to refer their friends, family and business colleagues. Maggy’s prior teaching and business experience in customer service and marketing is a major benefit to her clients. By listening to their needs and focusing on their priorities, she helps her clients invest in their future while developing lasting relationships. Maggy’s fair yet firm negotiating style and her commitment to excellence has gained her respect with colleagues and clients alike. Whether it’s patiently guiding first time buyers through this exciting process, or following through with clients’ needs long after the transaction is over, Maggy’s warm, caring yet efficient business style will turn you, too, into a client for life,” Bixler said.
Oti grew up in Hudson County and moved to Kearny in 1992 after graduating from Montclair State University and began her life. She has guided families through the home buying process as lead listing agent, sales. She earned the Century 21 Prestige Ruby Award and was given Top Overall Producer of the year 2005.
Maggy also believes in giving back to her community. Throughout her real estate career she has been an integral member of New Jersey MLS, Garden State MLS and The Meadowlands Board of Realtors.
By Jim Hague
Observer Sports Writer
For the last 40 years or so, George Steel has heard all the jokes about his name. And no, he’s not the famous professional wrestler.
“I’ve heard it all the time,” said Steel, a lifetime Kearny resident. “I have to explain that I’m not a Yale professor like he is. Everyone calls me ‘The Animal’ because of him. We have a lot of fun with the name.”
Steel is also a coaching lifer. For years, Steel helped to run the Kearny Generals youth football program. He was also an assistant football coach at Queen of Peace under several regimes, including the state championship team coached by Andy Cerco.
“I’ve been back and forth at Queen of Peace,” said Steel, who also served as an assistant under head coaches Tom Ferriero and Ed Stinson.
For the last few years, Steel has been an assistant football coach at Morris Catholic in Denville.
This spring, Steel took on a different challenge – becoming the head softball coach at Queen of Peace
. “I think this year’s team can be a little more productive than last year’s team,” said Steel, who was an assistant softball coach at QP last year under Mike Flynn. “To be honest, we had only one scrimmage game (in the preseason) because of the weather. We used the first couple of games as practice for the rest of the season.”
With that in mind, Steel isn’t too concerned about the team’s 2-3 start. The Golden Griffins defeated Dwight-Englewood and Harrison, before falling to Secaucus and Lyndhurst last week.
“We scored six runs in the seventh inning to beat Dwight- Englewood,” Steel said. “We hit the ball real well.”
Steel feels that better times are ahead.
“I think when the girls can get on a little bit of a roll,” Steel said, “I think we can compete with anybody. We’re going to do better. I knew the last part of the schedule was going to be tough. I knew we would have a slow start. But we’re now to the point in our schedule where we’ll get some wins.”
Leading the way is senior pitcher Gabby Lombardozzi, a three-year veteran on the mound for the Golden Griffins.
“She’s not overpowering, but she has good control,” Steel said. “She does what I ask her to do. She throws strikes. If she can stay ahead in the count, she’s good. But if she pitches from behind, she gets in trouble.”
The catcher is freshman Ashley Ruivo, who is a rarity behind the dish being left-handed.
“She’s one of the few girls who was willing to go behind the plate,” Steel said. “Gabby picked her. Gabby wanted Ashley to be the catcher. If she gets time behind the plate, she could be a good one. She also has good speed. She’s one of our faster players.”
The first base duties are being shared by a pair of seniors. Senior captain Melissa Gallo has been a hot bat in the early going, batting almost .500.
“She’s hitting the ball well,” Steel said. “She has improved tremendously. She put a lot of time in during the offseason to get better and it’s showed.”
The other senior first baseman is Samantha Martinez, who has been solid offensively.
“She just needs to improve defensively,” Steel said.
Senior Sarah Lopez is the team’s second baseman. Lopez, who is also a part of the famed QP cheerleading squad, is a newcomer to softball.
“She hasn’t played a lot, so she needs a little work,” Steel said of Lopez.
Senior Adrianna Giangregorio and freshman Jane Amadeo are also seeing time at second base. Amadeo has a bright future as a pitcher.
“She’s a good all-around player,” Steel said of Amadeo.
The shortstop is senior veteran Nikki Sammartino, who has been a mainstay there since she was a freshman. Sammartino was an Observer Athlete of the Week last season.
“She’s hitting the ball well, batting better than .600,” Steel said.
Sammartino is headed to Rutgers-Newark in the fall.
Senior Kristen Vitale, another first-year player, is the third baseman.
“She’s doing a good job defensively,” Steel said.
Junior Jamie Nemeth is the Golden Griffins’ left fielder and the team’s fastest player.
“She’s our leadoff hitter and one of the fastest kids I’ve ever seen,” Steel said.
Senior Raychel Piserchia is another captain, along with Sammartino, Gallo and Lombardozzi, and the starter in centerfield.
“She’s one of the best hitters on the team,” Steel said. “She’s also very good defensively.”
A pair of seniors, Tori Fortunato and Kyra Gil, is splitting time in right field.
Senior Dana DeAnni will get a chance to pitch, spelling Lombardozzi, from time to time.
Steel said that he ran into a small obstacle recently, when there weren’t enough capable players to field a competitive junior varsity squad.
“We did a little search in the school and a couple girls came out,” Steel said. “We needed to get more people involved to keep the program moving. We don’t have a feeder program like some of the public schools. Some come to us never having played softball before, so it’s a little bit of a hindrance.”
But the Golden Griffins have survived the tough times and should thrive as the season moves forward.
“The girls are talented,” Steel said. “They’re trying hard and they want to play. As a coach, that’s all you can ask for. You want girls who want to play.”
The Golden Griffins are scheduled to face some of the area’s top competition, like North Arlington and Kearny, in the weeks to come. Steel wants to get his team to the NJSIAA Non- Public B North state playoffs. They will need a few more wins before they can even consider such a lofty perch.
By Jim Hague
Observer Sports Observer
At 28 years old, Jairo Mendez is not far removed from his playing days, when he was an excellent pitcher, first at Kearny High School and later on, Montclair State.
But Mendez feels he’s ready for the challenge of being a high school baseball head coach. Thus the reason why he took over the Harrison High School program this season, after Sean Dolaghan stepped down for family obligations.
Mendez, who had been an assistant coach with the Blue Tide for the past four years with Dolaghan, had an inkling that the program would be his toward the end of last season.
“He told me that he was going to step down because of his family,” Mendez said. “Sean recommended me for the job and spoke highly of me. I think that helped put me in a good spot. I felt like I was ready. The challenge is always exciting.”
Mendez said that he didn’t get that much grief from his closest friends in Kearny, taking over as head coach at the neighboring rival school.
“Maybe I heard things when I first started, but not now,” Mendez said. “In fact, my friends were all congratulating me and wishing me luck more than anything.”
Mendez was asked about the transition, going from assistant coach to head coach.
“It really has been pretty easy,” Mendez said. “My assistant coaches (Jimmy Morais, Charles Comprelli, Paul Herbster, Jose Morillo, Alex Delgado and Joe Wroblewski) have all helped me out a lot. It’s been okay. I’m not there to make friends. I’m there to teach them about baseball and teach them life skills. It’s almost like being the boss of a company.”
The Blue Tide has enjoyed a good start to Mendez’s first season as head coach, winning five of their first seven games.
Leading the way is senior right-handed pitcher Tommy Dolaghan, the former coach’s nephew, who has done everything and anything leading the Blue Tide.
Dolaghan has won his first two decisions, including a 10-2 win over Dickinson of Jersey City last weekend. Dolaghan allowed only one earned run, striking out eight and surrendering just five hits. He also had two hits and two RBI in the win.
“He has the most experience of anyone on our staff,” Mendez said of the former Observer Athlete of the Week. “He’s been battling since Day One. He throws all of his pitches for strikes and mixes up his pitches well. He changes speed well and hits his spots.”
Senior Sebastian Sanchez is another top returning hurler. The right-hander has a lot of confidence in his pitches.
“He’s not overpowering but he keeps it low and gets a lot of support from his teammates,” Mendez said of Sanchez.
Sophomore Markise Valentin is another solid pitcher.
“He comes from all different angles,” Mendez said. “He comes from the side, over the top, anywhere. And he has a lot of movement on his pitches.”
Junior Josh Williams is the team’s lone left-handed pitcher.
“He reminds me of Cliff Lee,” Mendez said of Williams, referring to the Philadelphia Phillies’ ace. “He challenges hitters and changes speeds. He has very good location and he’s going to be a good one.”
Senior Moises Roque is another solid pitcher, as well as seniors Kishan Patel and football star Adam Huseinovic.
“I think Adam is going to be a key pitcher for us,” Mendez said. “He has the ability to shut the door.”
Look for Huseinovic to be the Blue Tide’s closer this season.
The catcher is junior Miguel Zorrilla, who is an excellent defensive backstop.
“He is handling the pitchers well,” Mendez said. “He works hard and is a student of the game.”
Seniors Ricky DeSilveira and Danny Gerris are sharing the first base duties. Gerris is a transfer from St. Peter’s Prep.
“Ricky is very good defensively,” Mendez said. “Danny hits the ball well and hits it all over the field.”
Valentin is the returning starter at second base. When Valentine is on the mound, junior Jordan Villalta steps in.
Valentin was clutch Saturday against Dickinson, delivering two RBI.
Dolaghan and Roque share duties at shortstop, alternating depending upon who is pitching. Roque had three hits and three runs scored against Dickinson.
Third base duties belong to Sanchez. When Sanchez is on the mound, sophomore Craig Ruff takes the mound.
Left field responsibilities fall on the shoulders of Williams and when the lefty is pitching, then senior Brian Carr is out there.
Huseinovic is a fixture in centerfield. He might be known as a football player, but Mendez likes what Huseinovic brings to the diamond.
“He’s a good all-around baseball player,” Mendez said. “He has good power and could be our cleanup hitter.”
Huseinovic had two RBI in the win over Dickinson.
The right field duties are being shared by senior J.P. Ferriero and Patel and sophomore Felix Calderon.
The Blue Tide survived a tough early season schedule in fine fashion. The 5-2 record comes as no surprise.
“I’m very excited about this team,” Mendez said. “It’s a pleasure to be with the kids. I know we will be competitive.”
The Blue Tide, under the guidance of Mendez, has already proven the coach’s prediction to be true.
By Jim Hague
Observer Sports Writer
When Emily Ringen took over the Lyndhurst High School softball program earlier this year, she wondered who would become the Golden Bears’ top pitcher, ever since Casey Zdanek graduated and took her immense talents to Drew University.
However, Ringen had a good idea which way she would lean to give the ball to, namely junior Jenn Tellefsen.
“I knew Jenn’s travel (team) coaches and I spoke with (former Lyndhurst coach) Elaine (Catanese),” Ringen said. “I had 100%confidence that Jenn would be our No. 1. I knew that she was predominately an infielder, but that she was a pitcher first. I knew that she was capable of stepping right in and doing well for us.”
Tellefsen was already preparing to take over the key position.
“Since freshman year, I was placed at shortstop, but I’m not really an infielder,” Tellefsen said. “I just had to wait until Casey graduated. She was older, better and more experienced. I just had to wait my turn. But since I was young, I was always a pitcher. I was just hoping that I could do as well as well as what Casey did. She was amazing over her four years.”
Ringen knew that Tellefsen was the real deal.
“She has a lot of power and speed in her pitches,” Ringen said. “She has the mindset of a softball player. She’s a very powerful force out there and takes care of business.”
Tellefsen said that she worked hard during the offseason to prepare for the challenge.
“I practiced my pitches every day,” Tellefsen said. “I don’t play another sport, so I can concentrate on softball.”
Tellefsen has been honing her craft since she was younger.
“I’ve been going to pitching lessons since I was in fifth grade,” Tellefsen said. “I work with Jen Barnes in Closter.”
Over the off-season, Tellefsen said she learned a few new pitches.
“I learned a rise and a drop,” Tellefsen said.
However, before the Golden Bears’ season opener, Tellefsen was suffering from a bit of the jitters.
“I was really nervous before my first game,” Tellefsen said. “I wanted to prove to myself and to everyone that I could pitch, but it was a little nerve wracking.”
Those jitters are a part of ancient history, because Tellefsen has been downright dominant since she entered the circle for the first time.
Tellefsen has pitched to a 7-2 record, with an astounding 95 strikeouts compared to just five walks. That is impeccable control.
After striking out 16 batters in a win over Kearny earlier this season, Tellefsen enjoyed a great week last week.
She struck out 15 in a win over Leonia, a game that Tellefsen won on her own with a late three-run homer. She had 10 strikeouts in four innings in a win over Queen of Peace, a game where she slugged another round tripper.
She had 10 strikeouts in a 2-0 loss to Kittatinny, but rebounded with nine strikeouts in four innings in a blowout win of Collingswood Saturday.
For the season, Tellefsen is batting .400 with three homers and 14 RBI.
For her efforts, Tellefsen has been selected as The Observer Athlete of the Week for the past week.
“She really has been great,” Ringen said. “She has tremendous speed in her pitches. Batters are simply not getting around on her. The momentum she has had has been great. She keeps the ball inside and outside. She has a good pace of the game. She gets the ball and fires it in.”
“Ever since I was younger, I was taught to control my speeds,” Tellefsen said. “I don’t even begin to learn a new pitch until I can control it. I think that throwing hard doesn’t matter unless you have control. I concentrate on throwing strikes more than anything else. I concentrate on finishing my pitches and that’s helped with my control.”
But 95 punch outs compared to just five walks? That’s impeccable control.
“I’m very surprised I have that,” Tellefsen said. “I’ve worked on all my pitches, but I never expected this.”
While it’s easy to focus on what Tellefsen does on the mound, she’s also a ferocious hitter as well, evidenced by the clutch homer against Leonia.
“She bailed us out in the Leonia game big time,” Ringen said. “She hit an absolute shot and like that, we were up three.”
Tellefsen said that she was just trying to make solid contact.
“Alyssa Pipon got hit by a pitch right before I got up,” Tellefsen said. “She said, ‘It’s your turn to hit the ball.’ I just hit the ball and ran. I was so relieved it was a home run, because I was able to drive my teammates in.”
Ringen said that Tellefsen is a dangerous hitter as well.
“She’s up there to hit,” Ringen said. “Her power is unbelievable. She’s an elite softball player, both as a pitcher and a hitter. You don’t get to see a lot of girls who play softball all year. But that’s what Jenny does. She plays 10 months a year. She’s taken a good control of this team and helping out the other pitchers and catchers. I’m very impressed.”
“I like to think of myself as being a pitcher who can hit,” Tellefsen said.
Ringen can’t sing Tellefsen’s praises enough.
“She’s doing all the right things right now, on the mound, in the batter’s box,” Ringen said. “She’s also a very good student.”
It means that Tellefsen would be someone that the colleges would want to look at.
“I’d love to play softball in college,” Tellefsen said. “I am trying to go either Division II or possibly Division I. I have a lot of confidence in myself right now. I also think we can go pretty far this season.”
When the season ends at Lyndhurst, Tellefsen will play for the New Jersey Pride, a quality travel program based in Fairfield.
“But I love playing with my Lyndhurst teammates,” Tellefsen said. “We all get along great.”
“She’s a funny kid,” Ringen said. “She has a lot of one-liners that make everyone laugh. She jumps right in with everyone. She’s very friendly and very respectful. She’s matured nicely on the field and in the classroom.”
As long as Tellefsen keeps pitching and hitting the way she has been thus far, the Lyndhurst softball team can go a long way.