by Andrew Garda
RIDGEWOOD — The Montclair Mounties baseball team’s season came to an end on Wednesday afternoon at Veteran’s Park in Ridgewood, as MHS fell to a powerhouse Ridgewood High School squad, 11-1.
“We weren’t able to get [Ridgewood] out consistently throughout the game,” said co-head coach Ron Gavazzi. “Credit to their lineup, they swung the bat great and their pitcher was outstanding. We had a really hard time dealing with him, and we knew coming in he was going to be really good. All credit to their team, their pitcher, their program. There’s a reason why their multi-defending champs of this section.”
Things had to go virtually perfect for Montclair on May 29 — while also going terribly askew for Ridgewood — if they were going to beat the Maroons, but that wasn’t to be as RHS starting pitcher Sam Favieri was nearly flawless on the mound, taking a no-hitter into the middle of the fifth inning until it was broken up by a bunt by A.J. Zaccareo. The hit also broke up a shutout as it scored Ethan Greengrass from third.
While Favieri kept a lid on a normally powerhouse MHS batting order, the Mounties pitchers struggled on the mound, allowing 11 runs on six hits, including a double, a triple and a home run over the left field fence.
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Conor McGrath, Ben Zucker and Kyle Miller just didn’t have their best stuff Wednesday, although they all gutted their way through numerous tough situations and never backed off.
“As a team, as a pitching staff, we struggled to use our breaking ball,” Gavazzi said. “We had a really tough time getting it to hang and constantly mix in the breaking ball for strikes. You really need a good breaking pitch to handle this lineup and today just wasn’t our day.”
All season long, the batting and pitching have balanced each other out, one shoring up the other when it struggled. That wasn’t the case on Wednesday, though, as the pitching couldn’t slow Ridgewood down at the plate, and the hitting couldn’t overcome the pinpoint placement of Favieri.
“We figured this was the final in our eyes, if we could get through this one, we felt we had a good shot, but again, [Ridgewood] was really good today,” said Gavazzi.
While the loss in the NJSIAA North 1, Group IV semifinals was a tough pill to swallow — especially in a mercy-ruled five innings — the Mounties still had an extraordinary season.
Among their accomplishments, Montclair accumulated an 18-10 record — ten more wins than they had in 2018 — and won the Greater Newark Tournament Championship for the first time since 2013. The squad will see several players go off to play baseball in college, including Conor McGrath, Kyle Miller and Kevin Zaccareo.
Greatest team I’ve ever been apart of. Thank you to all of my teammates for making it a great three months and bringing the GNT back homeⓂ️🏆
— Conor McGrath (@cmcgrath1111) May 29, 2019
Meanwhile, the play of Kevin’s brother A.J. got him selected to play as an outfielder in the Diamond Nation Garden State Underclass Games on June 12 as well as the 2019 Northeast East Coast Pro and Area Code Game Tryouts, which showcases players for Major League Baseball scouts as well as college coaches, where he will tryout as a second baseman.
As a team, the Mounties overcame a year when they never played a home game at Woodman Field, though they made Nishaune Park their own anyway.
While Gavazzi was thankful for the efforts of all of his team, one group really stood out to him.
“This senior class has experienced some different things through the years,” he said of his seniors. “When the senior class leads it, it creates a good culture and when they stick to the ‘team first’ you can have years like this. The way they conducted themselves on a daily basis, leading by example, was great for the entire program, especially the younger guys. All credit to them, they were driving it from day one, were real extensions of the coaching staff and I couldn’t be more proud of the senior class.”
You guys really showed the underclassmen and myself what it takes to win at this level and how to lead a team and for that… i say thank you!
— Nick Urquijo (@nickurquijo20) May 29, 2019
Despite their successes, the loss to Ridgewood is likely to sting for a while longer. Gavazzi and the coaching staff is hopeful that in time, the team will be able to gain some perspective.
“I’m real proud of them for what they’ve accomplished this year,” Gavazzi said. “They’ve done amazing things. I think through time we’ll be able to let this one go and then reflect on all of our accomplishments this year. [But] it hurts right now.”