Nutley East captures District 8 Little League crown

Chris Lamond vividly recalls the days when he was a Little League baseball player in his hometown of Nutley.

“I played for Nutley Central back then,” Lamond said. “We weren’t very good.”

But things have changed in his native Nutley now, as the current Nutley East Little League has become a dominant force in the District 8 Little League All-Star tournament.

“Things have turned around in this area,” said Lamond, the manager of the Nutley East 12-year-old All-Star team that captured the District 8 crown last week and moved on to the Section 2 tournament, where they fell in the final round to Rutherford.

“Our teams have been doing very good,” said Lamond, whose team captured top honors in the District 8 tourney for the fourth time in the last five years. “We have a great group of kids this year. Every one of them is a ball player. The kids had a strong desire to be district champions.”

Lamond was asked what the strength of his team was _ and the manager had a tough time answering, but when pushed, he said it had to be the team’s pitching.

“It’s hard to say,” Lamond said. “The pitching has been doing fine. We have about nine or 10 kids who can pitch if we need them. We only have two kids who cannot pitch. It’s an absolute rarity to see a team like that with so much pitching depth. Sometimes it makes it harder to see who pitches, but I’m not hesitant to use any of them.”

In the Section 2 tourney, Lamond used four pitchers to gain a win against eventual sectional champ Rutherford.

“They all did a fantastic job,” said Lamond, who strategically used his pitchers against the Little League rule of once a pitcher reaches 75 pitches, he has to come out of the game.

“They all understood their roles,” Lamond said.

Handling the deep pitching staff was starting catcher Cooper Fojas, who was also used as a pitcher.

“Cooper turned out to be a great catcher for us,” Lamond said. “He didn’t play catcher all year until the All-Stars and did a great job. He has a good baseball mind who knows what he’s doing back there.”

Fojas is the team’s No. 9 hitter in the lineup.

“He’s hitting the ball well,” Lamond said. “They’re all hitting well. Out  hitting has really come around in the tournament.”

Christopher Lamond, the manager’s son, is the team’s first baseman. The younger Lamond is also one of the team’s top pitchers.

“He’s been crushing the ball,” said Lamond of his son, who hit three home runs during the tournament. “He’s our No. 2 hitter in the lineup. It has been a lot of fun coaching my son.”

The younger Lamond hit a homer in the tournament win over Rutherford, a game where Nutley East overcame deficits of 4-0 and 10-4 to win 16-10.

In all, Nutley East powered six round trippers in the win over Rutherford.

The second baseman is Matt Harbison, who is the son of Nutley High School head baseball and basketball coach Bob Harbison.

“He can also play shortstop,” Lamond said of the younger Harbison. “He has good knowledge of the game. I think it helps having a father who is a high school coach.”

Matt Harbison is another Nutley East player who could pitch.

The starting shortstop is Evan Cirone, who amassed six homers during the district and sectional tournaments.

“Evan can play anywhere,” said Lamond, who also uses Cirone on the mound. “He’s just a great athlete.”

Nick Polewka is the third baseman.

“He’s been hitting the ball real well,” Lamond said.

The left fielder is Joe Senatore, who is also one of the team’s top pitchers. Senatore won two games on the mound and hit a homer in the win over Rutherford.

The centerfielder is leadoff hitter Max Malanga, who has hit an incredible eight homers in the postseason. Malanga hit two homers in the huge comeback win over Rutherford.

“He’s also one of our main pitchers,” Lamond said.

The right fielder is Chris Cugliari, who has also cleared the fence a few times as well. Cugliari is another pitcher at Lamond’s call.

The Nutley East team also features Roger Dierterle, who was the team’s utility player. Dieterle played centerfield, second base and catcher during the tournament.

Ben Wuebben is a left fielder/catcher, Alex Sanchez plays all outfield positions and Jonathan Velez plays left field, shortstop and pitches.

“It’s a huge advantage to have so many pitchers,” Lamond said. “We had them ready when we needed them.”

All in all, Nutley East might have fallen just one win short of going to the state tournament, but there’s no reason for these kids to hang their heads. They did themselves _ and Nutley _ very proud.

“It was a great experience,” Lamond said. “We played well. We kept our fingers crossed that we could keep going. It was all about the kids.”
Lamond thanked his assistant coaches, namely Greg Latino, who is better known as “Tiny” and has spent the last 40 years volunteering his service as a Little League coach in Nutley, as well as Wayne Umbach, who has been coaching for 30 years.

“We had a great staff,” Lamond said. “I was very lucky to have them. We have great minds that work well together.”

It was a great run, a memorable one, for Nutley East, the District 8 champs.

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Jim Hague | Observer Sports Writer

Sports Writer Jim Hague was with The Observer for 20+ years — and his name is one of the most recognizable in all of sports journalism. The St. Peter’s Prep and Marquette alum kicked off his journalism career post Marquette at the Daily Record, where he remained until 1985. Following shorts stints at two other newspapers, in September 1986, he joined the now-closed Hudson Dispatch, where he remained until 1991, when its doors were finally shut.

It was during his tenure at The Dispatch that Hague’s name and reputation as one of country’s hardest-working sports reporters grew. He won several New Jersey Press Association and North Jersey Press Club Awards in that timeframe.

In 1991, he became a columnist for The Hudson Reporter chain of newspapers — and he remains with them to this day.

In addition to his work at The Observer and The Hudson Reporter, Hague is also an Associated Press stringer, where he covers Seton Hall University men’s basketball, New York Red Bulls soccer and occasionally, New Jersey Devils hockey.

He’s also doing work at The Morristown Daily Record, the very newspaper where his journalism career began.

During his career, he also worked for Dorf Feature Services, which provided material for the Star-Ledger. While there, he covered the New York Knicks and the New Jersey Nets.

Hague is also known for his announcing work — and he’s done PA work for Rutgers Newark and NJIT.

Hague is the author of the book “Braddock: The Rise of the Cinderella Man.”