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***Dayton, one of the consistent programs in North 2, Group 1, is back in a sectional semifinal and against its nemesis in Ridgefield!

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***Newark Academy did not start out on the winning side of ledger this season but certainly turned it all around with red-hot May. See much more in "Feature Articles"

***Longtime Jersey high school football reporter JR Parachini reflects on the passing of Dennis McCarthy. Check out "The Buzz"

Junior left-hander Evan Dyer has been effective pitcher for Caldwell which now moves into Tuesday's North 2, Group 2 semifinal against Whippany Park with a 19-7 record. (Photo by Gene Nann-nannphoto)

Caldwell Focuses On Strong Fundamentals
While Prepping For North 2, Group 2 Semis
By Steve Tober

WEST CALDWELL- Scott Illiano has seen his teams win their fair share of games during a coaching career that spans more than two decades, including a highly-successful tenure at West Essex where his teams won 316 games in 20 seasons along with two Greater Newark Tournament titles and an overall Group 2 state crown in 2010 when the Knights were the No. 1 team in the state.

Now, as his first season at the helm of Caldwell’s improving baseball fortunes hits the most critical stretch of the 2017 campaign as the fourth-seeded Chiefs (19-7) prepare to host ninth-seeded Whippany Park (12-9) in Tuesday’s North 2, Group 2 semifinals at the Bonnel diamond, the highly-regarded veteran diamond mentor is more interested in approaching what can be a pressure-packed atmosphere come single-elimination, one-and-done tourney baseball as really just another game.

“ I think what's important in any tournament is to try and play it the same way as any regular season game by keeping control over the fundamentals of the game, and the fundamentals of the game are basically the weapons of war,” said Illiano, who was both the Northeast Region and Star-Ledger coach of the year in 2010 when West Essex. “They are the weapons you use to throw strikes, to dominate the average play and get the outs on time, they are the weapons you use to not give teams extra bases, and to discipline yourself offensively in hitting, in bunting, in bat control, and in base-running.

“We've tried to establish a fail free environment where we are winning or we are learning. It's hard because young athletes have been result oriented their entire lives in terms of where the rewards come from. From the time they are young, it's a constant emphasis on how did you do today? Did you win or lose? Did you go 3-4 or 0-4?

“Winning is so far beyond our control that we try to take thoughts of winning out of it but it's not easy. There was a game recently where I felt we played very poorly and won and I explained to our kids that our performance that day was not one in which we could really be proud of. We just want our team to play well realizing like any team, that we could still play well and lose.”

Caldwell hopes to be able to advance past Whippany Park in order to reach Friday’s (June 2) North 2, Group 2 final vs. the survivor of Tuesday’s other sectional semifinal between 7-Hanover Park and 3-Rutherford.

This may not be a vintage Whippany Park team of a decade or more ago when then coach Barry Russomano was annually putting the Wildcats in position to always compete for a potential trip to the group finals in Toms River; however, the Morris County team is still a very solid baseball program.

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