by Andrew Garda
It’s an opportunity for people to step up.
That’s how Montclair High School head softball coach Michael Goldstein sees it at least, and he hopes his young team feels the same way.
With just two seniors, the Mounties have plenty of room for underclassmen to contribute this season.
That said, Goldstein and his staff expect senior shortstop Francesca Testa to be the engine that drives the team.
“If Frankie is Frankie, I think we have a really talented young team,” Goldstein said during a recent phone call.
Testa’s .554 batting average, five home runs and 32 runs batted in were a huge factor in the Mounties 12-11 record and the Franklin & Marshall College commit is only going to continue to get better.
Beyond Testa however, Goldstein said he has an awful lot of talent to be excited about.
“I love our team. We have lots more options this year than we had last year. I think we have a better team than we had last year,” the coach said.
That starts in the pitcher’s circle, where Aliyah Andrews will be the team’s top pitcher. Andrews has worked tirelessly in the offseason, working hard to improve and be ready to take over.
“We’re very excited about the prospects of our young sophomore pitcher,” Goldstein said.
Andrews will be the focal point of the defense, but she’ll have help.
A solid infield is critical to the success of any pitcher and behind Andrews will be a young, but talented group.
Junior Charlotte Carr will hold down third base on one side of Testa at shortstop, with sophomore Elizabeth Haefeli playing second base, another player Goldstein said improved a ton in the offseason. Next to her at first base will be a freshman, Remi Antinoro.
“She has the physique and the moves of a first baseman,” Goldstein said. “She’s polished. She’s a freshman, so we know there will be a learning curve and there will be mistakes, but there’s a lot of upside. She’s a terrific addition for our team at first base.”
Antinoro isn’t the only freshman who will be on the field for the Mounties this year.
Brianna Leetch is slated to eventually take over for Testa at shortstop, but until then, Goldstein plans to have her in the outfield.
“Definitely going to be an every day, every inning, every game player for us,” Goldstein said. “She’s obviously a really good player, otherwise she wouldn’t be on varsity, but she also has upside.”
With a solid infield behind Andrews, the Mounties will have a good chance to limit the damage opposing batters can do.
Antinoro and Leetch aren’t the only freshmen to make the team. Ella Baschwitz and Julia Magaldi are both backup outfielders who Goldstein intends to season by getting them good experience at the varsity level in 2019. That will help give this year’s Mounties depth, but also pay off next year and beyond.
Along with Andrews and Haefeli, returning sophomores include second pitcher Emily Amirata and starting catcher Madeline Flynn.
“We expect [Flynn] to be dramatically improved from last year when she was thrown into the fire. She’s going to be good for the next couple of years,” Goldstein said while Amirata “tries hard, and we love her attitude.”
Juniors coming back this year include starting center fielder Carli Miller, designated hitter Melani Davis and outfielder Aliyah Taylor.
Looking at the starting squad, it’s striking how young the team is. Testa is the only senior starting, with a junior at third and in two spots out in the outfield, a sophomore at second, catcher and in the pitching circle, and a freshman at first and in the final outfield spot.
Other potential contributors will be sophomore Ally Godsil, who will see time in the outfield on a regular basis, and juniors Luella St Pierre, Maggie Garland and Kate Testa, all of whom are first year varsity players.
With this much talent, it’s hard not to look at a bright future for the team, even if it’s looking to rack up wins this season.
“Whatever we get this year I think it’s also going to flourish next year,” Goldstein said.
With Fortunato Field not quite done, the Mounties will probably kick things off this season at Grove Field when they face Bloomfield High School on April 1. They’ll then face West Orange on the road April 3, come back home to take on Columbia on April 5, and face Glen Ridge at Glenfield Park on Saturday, April 6 before facing crosstown rival Montclair Kimberley Academy at home on April 8.