NUTLEY, NJ – The fourth-seeded Nutley High School varsity baseball team dethroned five-time defending champion Seton Hall Prep, 3-2, in the semifinals of the Greater Newark Tournament on Saturday morning, May 12, at Verona HS.
The Raiders will face third-seeded Livingston in the GNT final on Saturday, May 19, at Verona HS. Livingston defeated second-seeded Millburn, 1-0, in the second game of the GNT semifinals doubleheader at Verona.
Seniors Pete Lopez and Wayne Wittmann and junior Josh O[Neill scored the runs for the Raiders, who scored twice in the top of the second inning to break a 1-1 tie.
Sophomore Trevor Santos pitched five scoreless innings of three-hit ball, striking out six, for the win.
Nutley improved to 16-6 this season. SHP fell to 17-4, with two of the losses against Nutley.
The Raiders have reached the GNT final for the 14th time, second all-time in the 86-year history of the tournament. SHP is first with 23 GNT finals.
Since 1973 when the tournament became an all-Essex County tournament, the Raiders have now appeared in the GNT final for the 11th time, also second all-time in that span behind SHP’s 22 appearances.
The Raiders and SHP split their two Super Essex Conference-American Division meetings this season. Nutley lost, 2-1, April 9, at SHP’s home field, Porcello field, in its third game of the season on April 9. Nutley won the second meeting, 6-2, April 27, at the Park Oval.
Nutley is looking for payback against Livingston, who won both division meetings this season. Livingston beat Nutley, 8-5, in the Raiders’ season opener on April 5 at the Park Oval. Livingston won the second meeting, 9-3, April 23.
Livingston improved to 14-3 with its sixth straight win after beating Millburn in the semifinals. In the quarterfinals, Livingston knocked off previously-unbeaten West Essex, 8-0, May 10. West Essex was 15-0 entering the game.
Nutley defeated fifth-seeded Columbia, 8-6, in the quarterfinals on Thursday, May 10, at the Park Oval. Columbia scored three runs in the top of the first inning and one run in the second inning for a 4-0 lead. Nutley rallied with four runs in the bottom of the second to tie it 4-4.
After Nutley scored a run in the bottom of the third for a 5-4 lead, Columbia answered in the tope of the fourth to tie it 5-5. The Raiders broke the tie with a run in the bottom of fourth and two runs in the fifth for an 8-5 lead. Columbia got a run in the top of the sixth, but Nutley held on for the win.
O’Neill went 1-for-3 with a triple and three RBI; junior Marty Higgins went 3-for-4 with a homer and two RBI; and Lopez went 2-for-4 with a triple, two runs scored and an RBI. John Luberto, a junior, also went 1-for-3 with a walk, an RBI and a run scored and Wittmann went 1-for-3 with a walk and two runs scored. Senior Dan Caraballo went 2-for-3 with a double and a hit-by-pitch.
From 1983 in the GNT, Nutley and SHP have played against each other 15 times, with SHP leading in the series, 8-7. The last SHP-Nutley meeting in the GNT was in the 2016 final with SHP winning, 11-1.
Nutley will host Columbia in a division game on Monday, May 14. Nutley beat Columbia, 11-5, April 14, in a division game at Underhill Field in Maplewood.
NHS appearances in the GNT final since 1973:
1984: Millburn 4, Nutley 3
1993: Nutley 10, West Essex 3
2001: Nutley 5, Seton Hall Prep 3
2002: Nutley 6, Seton Hall Prep 2
2003: Seton Hall Prep 3, Nutley 0
2004: Nutley 3, Seton Hall Prep 2
2005: Seton Hall Prep 11, Nutley 0
2009: Livingston 5, Nutley 4
2012: Montclair 2, Nutley 1
2016: Seton Hall Prep 11, Nutley 1
Jeff Goldberg contributed to this article.