by Andrew Garda
The Montclair High School baseball team batted around en route to a seven-run fourth inning that propelled the Mounties to a 14-4 victory over the Montclair Kimberley Academy in the annual Yogi Berra Cup game Tuesday at the MKA Middle School.
Both teams were coming off losses both in the Greater Newark Tournament and their regular season schedule and were itching to turn things around. At the end of the day, it was the Mounties who had done so, scoring in five straight innings.
Co-head coach Ron Gavazzi, who shares skipper duties with Anthony Genchi, credited solid at bats from earlier in the game with the massive fourth inning and subsequent success at the plate. For the Mounties, hits like Tobin Willms’ massive blast for a triple — setting up the Mounties first run of the day — in the third inning paved the way for their success in the fourth inning and beyond.
“I think the guys were having good at bats early on in the game,” Gavazzi said. “As the game went on, they put some good swings on it, found some holes, ran the bags hard. Sped the game up a little bit, We created some big innings. Credit our players, they hung in there, did what they had to do on the offensive end.”
While the Mounties were finding the gaps in the field and putting the ball in play, the Cougars seemed they just couldn’t get out of their own way.
“We had seven errors, three throwing errors,” head coach Ron Pacifico said after the game. “Montclair doesn’t have a team that will knock your socks off, but they played better today.”
Things had been looking pretty good for the Cougars prior to the fourth inning.
After three innings of play, MKA led the Mounties 2-1 and had been hitting MHS starting pitcher Kyle Miller pretty well. While they weren’t driving home a ton of runs, they had put runners in scoring position four times. They may have only plated two, but it felt very much like they were figuring Miller out and it was only a matter of time before the dam broke.
The dam broke in the fourth, but the resulting flood didn’t bury the Mounties — it buried the Cougars.
It began with short stop Danny Banks reaching first on an error, then stealing both second and third base. Designated hitter Conor McGrath and right fielder Evan Chaladoff then walked, loading the bases.
MKA pitcher John Sweetwood got Evan Grengrass to hit a short ground ball, which allowed the Cougars to get the forced out at home, but then surrendered a long base hit into the outfield by Kenny Nedzi, which scored a pair of runs.
Catcher Clyde Hunter grounded out, but the Mounties still had runners in scoring position on second and third. Sweetwood was then careful in pitching to Willms, trying to avoid allowing another triple, but sent him to first on a walk when the batter wouldn’t bite on some pitches close to the strike zone.
Things continued to go off the rails as Joe Fischer was walked, sending a run home, and then Miller came up and sent two more runners home with another long single.
Then Banks and McGrath drove in two more runs before Sweetwood finally got the last out of the inning by getting Chaladoff to ground out.
The Mounties ended the fourth up 8-2, after scoring seven runs — five of which were accumulated with two outs.
Gavazzi and Genchi didn’t let off the gas the rest of the game, as they wanted to leave no chance for MKA to get back in the game.
According to Gavazzi, you never know when those seeing-eye singles will suddenly go away, or start falling in the other team’s favor.
“Offensive baseball can be tricky sometimes on the hitting side of it,” he said. “You can put a good swing on the ball, but the ball gets hit right at a guy, you hit into a double play. Those things happen.”
While the Mounties were hitting, Miller was getting his feet under him on the mound. While he allowed one run in the bottom of the fourth, that would be the only time the Cougars found home plate again with him on the mound. In the fifth he allowed just a ground-rule double before getting the next three batters to either ground out or fly out, and then the first two batters out in the sixth inning before he gave way to reliever Kevin Zaccareo, who struck out the last batter in that inning.
“I thought Kyle was real good today,” Gavazzi said. “He had a good breaking ball going, his change up at times was real good. He was able to spot his two-seam fastball on both sides of the plate….[He] was throwing strikes, which was critical, and it’s starting to get later in the year. The weather’s warm, he was pretty loose. But it got to a point where his pitch count went up and we went to Kevin, who I thought threw some really effective pitches there.”
Zaccareo would finish out the game, allowing one more run in the seventh before striking out Brendan Powell with a nasty fastball and forcing Andrew Rosamilia to ground out to first baseman Greengrass.
The Mounties now look to finish their season over the next two weeks by building off this win. With opponents like Newark Academy this Saturday, Millburn next Tuesday, before finishing with Madison, Dickenson, West Orange, Hudson Catholic and Seton Hall Prep over the next two weeks.