by Andrew Garda
The softball teams for Montclair High School and Montclair Kimberley Academy met for the second time Monday, April 29, with the Mounties (8-6, 6-4) trying to stop a losing streak. While the Cougars (5-9, 2-5) were trying to string two wins together for the first time since they beat Glen ridge and West Orange in mid-April.
It was the Mounties who got what they wanted with an 8-0 win, snapping a three-game losing streak.
For head coach Mike Goldstein, it was a huge relief.
“I felt like this losing streak was never going to end. I really did,” he said after the game. “Once you start losing, I felt like it was never going to end, and in the fifth inning I was convinced we were going to lose because that’s my personality.”
Instead, as they have often this season, Montclair’s hitters found their groove in the middle innings, in this case resulting in a five-run fifth inning.
“I feel like I can eat my dinner tonight and have a glass of wine and relax,” Goldstein said.
The big fifth inning began with Elizabeth Haefeli and Carli Miller getting on base with back-to-back singles. Both runners advanced on a sacrifice bunt, and then the bases were loaded up when MKA pitcher Geena Pacifico walked Brianna Leech.
Freshman Remi Antinoro then drove in the first two runs of the game with a double. Senior shortstop Francesca Testa followed up with a double of her own to score Leech and Antinoro, making the score 4-0. Testa moved to third on a base hit by Charlotte Carr, then stole home when Carr stole second and the Cougars tried to catch her.
Pacifico was able to prevent the Mounties from adding any more runs, but the damage was done.
Why the team keeps breaking through in the middle innings is because by then they’ve gotten a feel for the pitcher in the circle, said Goldstein.
“After seeing the kid a couple times, it helps a little bit,” he said. “I felt like we should have more success against this pitcher, but we only beat her 3-2 the first time, and she had us off balance really for the first four innings.”
For MKA head coach Jess Sarfati, it was just a day where not everything was working for the Cougars.
“I think Geena knew her screwball wasn’t working, so we had to go to a different pitch,” Sarfati said postgame. “And the screw was what kind of kept them off last game.”
Sarfati did try to change things up in the sixth by putting Lucy Jacobowitz in the circle, but that didn’t work for very long either.
“[She] has been doing really well and has a very good drop ball,” Sarfati explained. “She was able to stay with that for a little while and then they caught up again. So, it just didn’t go our way today.”
Both teams played tight defenses. Both shortstops—MHS’ Testa and MKA’s Emily Talkow—made some nice plays and showed off strong arms gunning the ball to first, and Cougars center fielder Leah Wohl made two tremendous catches, including one diving grab, during the game.
Wohl, who had never played softball before and who Sarfati discovered on the girls tennis team, has been a big help up the middle this season.
“Leah’s phenomenal. This is her first year playing, in general,” Sarfati said. “I said ‘you need to be in center field.’ She’s done a phenomenal job. She’s got a cannon for an arm, tracks the ball really well, so I was very pleased with that.”
Montclair High School has their own great discoveries as well, with several freshmen on the team, including Antinoro. They’ve also been getting tremendous work from pitcher Aliyah Andrews.
“She’s coming around,” an enthusiastic Goldstein said. “That’s why I keep saying next year is our year. We’re going to have her a year better , and the whole game is pitching. I’m excited about what Aliyah is going to do next year, as well as the remainder of this year with what we have coming up.”
What’s next is the Essex County Tournament for both teams.
MHS , which is the No. 10-seeded team, will face No. 7 seeded Verona on Friday May 3, after facing Caldwell on the road Tuesday afternoon, and Union City at home on Thursday.
Meanwhile, the No. 11-seeded Cougars will be practicing until they meet 22-seeded University at home on Thursday for a preliminary tournament game. If they win, they face No. 6 seeded West Essex on Saturday.