NUTLEY, NJ — The Nutley High School softball team has enjoyed a tremendous amount of success over the years under head coach Luann Zullo, who has been at the helm since 1999.
This season, Nutley once again has proved to be one of the best teams in the area.
Nutley, the No. 3 seed, advanced to the Essex County Tournament championship game against top-seeded and fellow Super Essex Conference–American Division foe Mount St. Dominic Academy on Saturday, May 21, at Seton Hall University’s Mike Sheppard Sr. Field in South Orange.
It’s a rematch of last year’s ECT final, won by Mount St. Dominic, 3-2. This season, Mount St. Dominic beat Nutley, 7-0, in Nutley on April 11 in a divisional game.
Nutley reached this year’s ECT final after upsetting No. 2 seed Livingston, 3-2, in the semifinals on Sunday, May 15, also at Mike Sheppard Sr. Field. The game had been postponed twice, on May 13 and May 14, due to inclement weather.
Senior center fielder Lia DeMaio went 2-for-4 with a triple, an RBI, and a run; senior Fallyn Stoeckel and freshman shortstop Gabriella Mariano each went 2-for-3; and senior catcher Sydney Hess had two hits in the semifinal victory. Stoeckel also was the winning pitcher, as she scattered seven hits with no walks.
Livingston was ranked No. 12 in the state by NJ.com and fell to 14-6. Nutley avenged two previous meetings with Livingston this season. Nutley lost to Livingston, 4-3, at home in the season opener on April 1 and 8-1 on April 20 in Super Essex Conference–American Division play.
Nutley, which has reached the ECT final for the fifth time, last won the ECT title in 2011, when it defeated Mount St. Dominic Academy, 3-0. Nutley has won two ECT titles. Its other ECT title was in 1993, when the team beat Belleville, 2-1. The ECT began in 1978.
After beating Livingston in the ECT semifinals, second-seeded Nutley defeated 15th-seeded Mendham 4-0, in the first round of the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association’s North Jersey, Section 2, Group 3, tournament on Tuesday, May 17. Stoeckel fired a two-hit, seven-inning shutout, with 13 strikeouts and no walks. Mariano went 3-for-3 with three singles and two RBIs, and junior second baseman Mia DiPiano had two singles and two RBIs.
Nutley defeated Verona, 3-0, in a divisional road game on Wednesday, May 18. It was Nutley’s sixth straight win and 12th win in the past 13 games, improving the team’s record to 18-4 on the season. DeMaio went 3-for-4, and Fallyn Stoeckel had 16 strikeouts.
Nutley was scheduled to host No. 10 seed Summit in the quarterfinals on Friday, May 20. The top seed is Cranford.
Other key players for Nutley are junior left fielder Robin Niland, junior right fielder Gianna Lembo, senior first baseman Nikki Cicchetti and freshman third baseman Skye Stoeckel, Fallyn’s sister.
Photos by Steve Ellmore