The second season begins for local baseball, softball teams

Photo by Jim Hague/ Kearny right-hander Dave Bush will lead the Kardinals into action in the state playoffs. The Kardinals will face Roxbury in the opening round of the NJSIAA North 1, Group IV playoffs.


By Jim Hague

The local high school baseball and softball regular seasons are just about over. Believe it or not, the spring athletic season has dwindled down to a few precious games, events, days. The spring season seems to be the one that flies by the fastest. You just get settled into the nice weather and the string of games and it’s over in a flash.

It means that the NJSIAA state playoffs are set to begin and a handful of local teams have begun what is truly called the “second season.”

When the state playoffs begin, the slate is wiped clean and even the teams that might have struggled a bit in the regular season have hope to make amends during the states.

Among the local baseball teams, Nutley will hope to bounce back from the heartbreaking 2-1 loss to Montclair in the Greater Newark Tournament championship game Sunday night and refocus on the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group III playoffs, where the Maroon Raiders are the fifth seed.

Nutley is slated to face a young Morristown squad, a rematch of their state playoff showdown of two years ago. Morristown has played much better of late and looms as a formidable foe for the Raiders at the famed Nutley Oval.

Since Michael Garcia pitched the GNT title game for the Maroon Raiders, look for Joe Feraco to pitch the first round state playoff game. If the Raiders win, then Garcia will be ready for the winner of South Plainfield-Warren Hills in the second round Friday.

Lyndhurst also received a No. 5 seed in its section, the North 2, Group II bracket. The Golden Bears have been getting stellar pitching of late from Max Hart, who tossed a no-hitter against North Arlington and a onehitter against Secaucus.

But veteran coach Butch Servideo will counter with either right-hander Rob Nichirico or lefty Joey Catena, both of whom have been pitching lights out all season. Nichirico owns a nifty 1.74 earned run average, while Catena, battling back from off-season illness, has a 2.14 ERA. That 1-2 pitching punch could go a long way in the state playoffs, like it did in 2008, when Lyndhurst won the overall Group I state title.

If the Golden Bears win their opener in the states, they take on the winner of Fort Lee- Newark Tech, so their first two playoff games are extremely winnable.

The Blue Tide of Harrison makes a return trip to the North 2, Group I playoffs, earning the No. 9 seed and facing University Charter of Jersey City in the opening round. While coach Sean Dolaghan’s squad should be able to handle the opener, especially with Anthony Ferriero on the mound, the Blue Tide will have to topseeded Dunellen. Felipe Flores, who has had a few games this season with 10-plus strikeouts, might get the call in either state playoff game.

Kearny returns to the state playoffs and it is head coach Frank Bifulco’s first venture to the state playoffs as a head coach. Bifulco knows all about the state playoffs, because as a player, he helped to lead the Kardinals to the overall Group IV title game in 2002.

The Kards received the No. 12 seed in the North 1, Group IV bracket and will travel to face Roxbury in the opening round. Bifulco will more than likely give the ball to right-hander Dave Bush, who has enjoyed some moments of brilliance this season, including firing a one-hitter against perennial local power St. Peter’s Prep.

The last local team making a trip to the state baseball playoffs is Queen of Peace, which earned the No. 11 seed in the Non-Public B North bracket. The Golden Griffins don’t have to worry about playing their first round game until Friday when they face Eastern Christian of North Haledon, with the winner getting a tough Newark Academy team.

In softball, the top local seed belongs to Lyndhurst, which secured the No. 4 seed in the North 2, Group II bracket. Pitcher Casey Zdanek will lead the Golden Bears to action against Parsippany. If the Golden Bears win, they will face the winner of Madison- Hackettstown later this week.

Kearny received the No. 9 seed in North 1, Group IV and the Kards will face Bergen Tech in the opening round. Do-everything slugger Sarah O’Neill has been swinging a hot bat for the Kardinals, who will get to see top-seeded Livingston if they can get by the first round.

Nutley, which has a history of doing well in the state playoffs, can shock some people in North 2, Group III, where coach Luann Zullo’s squad got the No. 9 seed. It hasn’t been a traditionally strong season for the Maroon Raiders, but slugger Eileen Purcell can maybe post some post-season magic.

Nutley faces Rahway in the opening round and the winner gets top-seeded Newark East Side. The Maroon Raiders have two very winnable games and like they’ve proven in the past, anything is possible in the state playoffs. They made it all the way to the Group III finals in Toms River two years ago, when no one believed they could.

The Golden Griffins of Queen of Peace have earned a berth in the Non-Public B North playoffs, earning the 13th seed. They will face Eastern Christian in the opening round on Thursday.

What are the odds that both the QP baseball and softball teams would face the same school in the states? That’s what has happened: a QPEastern Christian showdown on successive days.

The final local team to play in the states is Harrison. The Blue Tide managed to secure the 15th seed in the North 2, Group I bracket and will face University High of Newark in the opening round. It hasn’t been a great season for coach Dave Nankivell and the Blue Tide, but maybe a win in the state playoffs could give the girls something to hang their hats on.

So the second season is set for the locals. It should be interesting to see what will transpire over the final few weeks of the spring season. Maybe there is a little bit of magic in the air. Stay tuned.

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