by Andrew Garda
The Montclair High School and Montclair Kimberley Academy baseball teams met for their annual Yogi Berra Cup game Saturday, April 6, at Nishuane Park, with the Mounties edging their crosstown rivals 1-0.
The game was marked by some excellent pitching by both MKA starter Andrew Rosamelia as well as MHS pitchers Ethan Greengrass and Jeremy Sacks, both of whom took the mound for the Mounties.
Rosemelia had a near flawless performance, racking up six strikeouts across six innings, while only allowing two hits. Unfortunately, Rosemelia struggled in the first inning, walking three batters, including one with the bases loaded, sending home what would become the deciding run.
It could have been worse, if not for a brilliant double play executed by freshman shortstop John Testa, who scooped up a sharp ground ball by Greengrass, tossed it to second baseman Sean Stites, who then moved it over to first baseman Rolando Quintana to get the Cougars out of the inning down by only one run.
“He had some early difficulties, and mechanically he sorted it out,” said MKA coach Ralph Pacifico. “He got a lot of first-pitch strikes, which helped us too. And they swung at a lot of them.”
While Rosemelia would settle down—he would go on to get 13 batters in a row out after that first inning and retire 15 of 16—Greengrass got himself into trouble multiple times during his four innings of work.
He loaded the bases in the first and third innings, both times with just one out, but in each case, managed to either force the Cougars into ground ball and pop outs or strike them batters out.
The Cougars stranded a dozen runners on the basepaths during the course of the game, loading them up twice with Greengrass on the mound and once with Sacks there.
“Certainly the key to defense is pitching and defense, and I thought that we both today,” Mounties head coach Ron Gavazzi said. “First play we had a missed play on the soft field, but after that [our fielding] was real solid, our pitchers were aggressive, throwing a bunch of strikes, mixing in offspeed, different locations, inside outside, and we battled. Give MKA a lot of credit, they showed a lot of fight and I thought their starter was really good.”
Each time a couple of solid pitches, or some key fielding, got the Mounties out of a jam.
“I thought both our pitchers did a really good job,” Gavazzi said. “Ethan had a good quality start got himself a bunch of strikeouts, he got tough when he had to. The moment never got too big for him. I thought Jeremy came in, same situation. We had some tough luck there in the fifth, but he got a big strikeout and a double play and it was smooth sailing from there for him.”
For MKA, Rosemelia was not the only bright spot in a losing effort. First baseman Rolando Quintana went 3-for-4 at the plate, something Pacifico said the senior has been doing for them often during this young season.
“He’s got 9 RBI’s and four triples,” Pacifico said. “He’s had a lot more opportunity [at the plate] this year. He’s a good first baseman and he’s very serviceable at the plate.”
Pacifico was proud of the way his kids played on Saturday, and throughout the season.
“You gotta like the moxie of my kids. We came to play today, though we left a lot of runners on base. There hasn’t been a game we haven’t been in this year. I’m proud of them.”
Both teams continued their season on Monday, as MKA faced Cedar Grove for a 6-0 loss, while the Mounties took on Columbia Monday at home, beating them 7-2. MHS will be heading to Nutley Wednesday for an afternoon game, while the Cougars are in Verona for their Wednesday match.