by Andrew Garda
The Montclair Kimberley Academy softball team advanced to the Prep B semifinals on Thursday, May 10 with a dominating 12-2 win over Princeton Day, finishing the game in just five innings.
The Cougars had two big innings, led by a home run from sophomore Amanda Mack in the first as well as a triple by sophomore Emily Talkow in the fourth. Talkow scored on a throwing error at third on the same hit.
“We had a great practice yesterday. I felt like the girls were really prepared,” head coach Jessica Sarfati said after the game. “They had great energy as a team and I knew they were going to come out strong today.”
Sophomore pitcher Geena Pacifico came out strong, allowing just two runs on three hits and four walks, as well as three strikeouts.
“You have to keep yourself at a high level of play and expectation is high to do everything we need to do,” Sarfati said. “Each inning, we’re setting a goal for ourselves, For Geena whether it’s first pitch strikes, or first outs. She was pretty successful with that today.”
Offensively, the Cougars were aggressive from the outset, stealing bases and constantly moving runners. Sarfati said it’s important for that to happen to set the tone, even if sometimes they get caught.
“I always say, if we try early and we get out, that’s OK but we have to show the other team that we’re offensive and that we’re willing to do that,” Sarfati said. “With a more experienced team, obviously it’s not always going to go your way but you have to take the chances early in the game and I was happy we could get on the board early.”
The Cougars were very effective at moving their runners though, and it was a catalyst for the big first inning.
Talkow led off with a solid base hit, then stole second and third base. She was caught coming home, but while she was distracting the Princeton Day fielders, Jena DeSalvo took second. Mack then came up and drove a ball deep to center-right field. Princeton Day struggled to wrangle the ball, allowing Mack to run the bases for a two-run homer.
Grace Turvey would drive in a run three batters later before Pacifico helped her own cause with a RBI single.
All the while, the Cougars stayed aggressive on the basepaths, which certainly seemed to put pressure on the opposing pitcher.
“I knew the pitcher we faced today wasn’t the same pitcher we faced last time,” Sarfati said. “We needed to take her a little bit deeper into the count and see if we could push her.”
Stolen bases weren’t as big a factor in the five-run fourth inning, Jackie Kemly took second after walking to start the inning. She was driven home by Talkow, who crushed a triple into left center field, and then scored when Princeton Day overthrew the third baseman.
The Cougars batted around that inning, ending when Talkow was out on a sharp liner to the pitcher.
Talkow, a new player to the team, has more than proven herself this year according to Sarfati.
“Emily is fabulous. She’s a great short stop, she’s a great second baseman, she’s played third base for me,” Sarfati said. “The kid is a workhorse.”
One of the things which has really impressed Sarfati is how hard Talkow works off the field, something that enhances her natural feel for the game.
“She is always watching game footage, she’s always trying to get better. I always tell her, she’s great at thinking about what’s going to happen next. Like during the double play she made [to end the third], she’s constantly in the game and she just wants to always learn more. Jena [DeSalvo], as well. I just have a lot of really smart players. I can’t say enough about them. We’re a great team this year.”
The Cougars’ Prep B run did come to an end Tuesday afternoon with a 7-3 defeat to Doane Academy in Burlington. However, they’ll get a chance to continue playoff softball though, as they will face St. Dominic in the NJSIAA North, Non-Public B tournament on May 24.
It will be a tough matchup, but Sarfati isn’t worried about who they face for any game, though. She’s confident her players will step up.
“I really feel like we have a good shot at this. If we come to play, and I think the girls are ready, we’ll be good.”