by Andrew Garda
The Montclair High School softball team showed tremendous heart and determination during its 13-11 opening day loss to Bloomfield High School Monday afternoon, April 1.
Trailing 9-2 heading into the bottom half of the fifth inning, it looked like the Mounties were too far behind to catch the Bengals.
Then freshman Ella Baschwitz bunter found her way on base. Her fellow freshman Brianna Leech then moved Baschwitz to second with her own single, and then senior Francesca Testa filled the bases, reaching first on her own hit.
Junior Charlotte Carr sent Baschwitz and Leech home with a double, and suddenly it was 9-4 with no outs.
Then sophomore Elizabeth Haefeli was walked, setting up junior Aliyah Taylor to drive home two more runs with the second double of the inning making the score 9-6.
Bloomfield pitcher Lexi Corio was clearly rattled and walked junior DH Milani Davis on four straight pitches before getting freshman Remi Antinoro to ground out for the first out of the inning.
Sophomore catcher Madeline Flynn came up next with runners on second and third. On a 2-1 count, Corio threw a wild pitch her catcher was unable to contain, allowing another Mountie run to cross home plate bringing the score to 9-7.
Two pitches later, Flynn crushed a double to score another run, bringing the score to 9-8, which brought Baschwitz up again. With her second bunt of the inning, the centerfielder sent a run home and tied the game at 9 a piece.
Another run on a wild pitch to Leech gave the Mounties their first lead of the game, which they added to when Testa sent a ball deep into the outfield for a sacrifice to score a run and make it 11-9.
All told the Mounties scored nine runs on eight hits and three walks.
Unfortunately, the Mounties were unable to hold on for the win. Bloomfield scored three runs in the sixth to regain the lead, and then added another run to finish the 13-11 win.
Still, it was an effort head coach Michael Goldstein was proud of.
“I kept using the word ‘compete’ after the game,” he said. “And that’s what they did. They competed, which is what sports is all about. We had a couple of really bad innings, but otherwise I think we did OK.”
Especially when you consider that freshman Alexi Williams was thrust onto the mound due to starter Aliyah Andrews’ injury. While Williams struggled at times throughout the game, she also showed tremendous poise on the mound and for every rough inning she had. Williams shook them off and performed well the next time out.
“I gave her the game ball after the game,” Goldstein said. “And I told them I didn’t think I’d ever given a game ball to a pitcher after we lost 13-11. But I said, ‘Alexis, you were courageous and gutsy out there today. Even though it didn’t go well at the very start, you kept battling. Your mom should be very proud of you and I know we’re very proud of you.’ She kept trying, and that’s all you can ask.”
Which is the point for a very young team. The Mounties have nine players who are sophomores or freshmen, many of which are starters or playing significant time. As they get more seasoned and experienced, mistakes will happen less and less.
For them to rally back from a large deficit and nearly take home a win is a great sign that they may be further along than expected. Testa and the experienced juniors on the squad will produce, but the difference could be the younger athletes.
And Monday they showed that they can, indeed, produce.
The Mounties had another chance to show they can do just that, taking on West Orange on the road Wednesday. Results came after press time