by Andrew Garda
Following a lost season in 2020 due to COVID-19, the Montclair High School softball team is back on the field and making up for lost time.
The Mounties stand at 4-1 (3-1 SEC) after Monday’s 15-1 romp over a Belleville team that has stumbled out of the gate and a 10-0 win over Millburn on Tuesday.
Montclair kicked things off in grand fashion in its first two at-bats on Monday, which saw back-to-back home runs by freshman Hannah Martin and junior Remi Antinoro during a nine-run first inning. Aliyah Andrews got the win from the circle, pitching three innings and allowing just one run on one hit while notching four strikeouts. The game was called after five innings due to Mercy Rules.
The game against Millburn took a little longer to get going, as the Mounties had to go a whole inning before they broke out with two runs in the second, followed by six runs across the third and fourth innings.
Alana Flynn and Martin each were responsible for three RBIs with pitcher Aliyah Andrews driving in one on a single. The remaining runs were unearned, coming off of errors.
Montclair’s only loss so far was a 17-9 pummeling by Caldwell.
But it doesn’t matter whom they play, according to head coach Mike Goldstein, they’ll always take the opposition seriously.
“We have a nice young team,” Goldstein said. “There’s a good nucleus of young players with some good upside on a full season.”
And a full season is what awaits the Mounties, as they have a full schedule of 25 games and a postseason tournament.
One of the people they will lean on heavily is senior pitcher Andrews, who kicked off the season with an 8-0 shutout of Bloomfield where she racked up six strikeouts and allowed just two hits over the course of seven innings.
“She threw a really good game against Bloomfield,” Goldstein said. “I would consider Bloomfield one of our rivals in softball. They’re always a thorn in our side. So that was a really nice way to start the season.”
Andrews is one of the Mounties’ captains as well, along with catcher Maddie Flynn, Emily Amirata and Elizabeth Haefeli. All four seniors will be important to Montclair’s success this season, but they aren’t the only ones Goldstein needs to step up.
The juniors on the team missed their sophomore year, so they are taking a leap from playing as freshmen to being starters as juniors, without a transition year.
So far, that hasn’t been an issue.
Brianna Leech has stepped into the shortstop position this season, and the junior has amassed five hits, four runs and one RBI, including a home run.
“She’s an outstanding player, and she will play pretty much every inning at shortstop,” Goldstein said. “That’s somewhere in the top of the lineup, and she has a chance to play college softball, and I know that’s important to her.”
Meanwhile, first baseman Antinoro has been tearing it up at the plate, with eight hits, seven runs, one RBI and a stolen base over the course of 15 at-bats.
“She had a really big freshman year, and she’s a kid that’s going to play 95 percent of innings at first base and also bat somewhere at the top of the middle of the lineup. She’s got a great potential bat. We rely heavily on her.”
Goldstein will also look to some freshmen for support. Maya Gerdes, Olivia Carr and third baseman Martin will all have big roles on the team. Goldstein has especially high hopes for Martin.
“Terrific player, just someone that you need to come watch, because you’re gonna say ‘Wow!’” Goldstein said. “I nicknamed her Little Frankie because she reminds me of Frankie Testa.”
Testa, who now plays college ball for Franklin & Marshall, was a mainstay for the Mounties during the 2018 and 2019 seasons and had an especially potent junior year, when she stole an eye-popping 21 bases, drove in 32 runs and hit five home runs.
It’s a giant piece of praise for Goldstein to drop on a freshman, but with ten hits, seven runs and six RBIs in 16 at-bats, Martin looks like the real deal.
If Carr’s last name seems familiar, by the way, it’s because her older sister, Charlotte, would have been a senior captain last year. Having watched her older sister put in the work for the Mounties, younger sister Olivia knows what it takes to succeed, and so far she has stepped up, with three hits on six trips to the plate, including a triple, a home run, three runs and three RBIs, including going three-for-three in a 14-3 drubbing of Linden on Friday, April 23.
After Monday’s game against Belleville, MHS hosts Ceder Grove at home on Thursday, April 29, before taking on crosstown rival Montclair Kimberley Academy at MKA Middle School on Friday, April 30.