By EDWARD KENSIK
For Montclair Local
Depending on whom you ask, the Montclair High School — Montclair Kimberley Academy rivalry is slightly heated or nonexistent.
MHS softball is one up on bragging rights after defeating the Cougars, 22-7, on April 30 in a game that lasted only five innings. The two teams are next expected to meet on May 20, at Woodman Field.
While the mercy rule ended the April 30 game, it was actually closer than the score indicated. MKA (1-4) led 7-5 after three innings and was only down 9-7 after four innings before Montclair (5-2) plated 13 runs in the fifth inning.
For one of Montclair’s senior co-captains, Emily Amirata, the win was sweet, especially since she knows a couple of the Montclair Kimberley players.
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“Everybody was happy with the scoreboard,” Amirata said.
The rivalry doesn’t get to the trash-talking level, she said, but “there still is tension there.”
Before the game, Montclair Kimberley head coach Jessica Sarfati was just happy to get onto the field.
“Montclair and MKA have always had great games together,” Sarfati, who played at Montclair, said. “We are looking forward to a great game and some competitive softball. I know that we will have a great game together, and the girls will be excited to get out there.”
Montclair head coach Michael Goldstein said he doesn’t see a rivalry between the two schools.
“I love Jess Sarfati, so there is no rivalry in my mind,” Goldstein said. “She is a wonderful person and a great coach. I know her players love her and are lucky to have such a great role model.”
For the contest, Montclair Kimberley senior pitcher Leah Wohl, who is a co-captain, filled in for ace Jackie Tsai — and Wohl kept the powerful Montclair bats at bay for the first four innings. She usually plays third base.
On the other side, sophomore Alana Flynn was the fill-in starter in the circle and kept Montclair in the game before the Mounties pulled away in the fifth inning. Flynn went three innings and the usual starter, senior Aliyah Andrews, threw the final two. Andrews did not start because she had her coronavirus vaccine shot the day before, but after the game she felt fine.
At the plate, Mounties junior first baseman Remi Antinoro went a perfect 5-for-5, with two home runs, four RBI and five runs scored. Junior Brianna Leech was 3-for-4, with three RBI and three runs scored.
MKA was led by sophomore Alex Berra, who was 2-for-3, with two RBI and a run scored.
Montclair Kimberley grabbed the lead in the third inning as it sent 10 batters to the plate. Cougars first baseman Annie Turvey, a co-captain, stroked a two-RBI base hit. MKA also received RBI from Lara Pramanik, Berra, Hailey Fouche and Ellie LoPiccolo.
But the Montclair offense came alive in the top of the fifth inning as it sent 16 batters to the plate.
No matter win or lose for these teams, it has just been good to get on the field after the 2020 spring softball season was canceled.
“Not having a season last year is making this year that much more fun,” Goldstein said. “Even some of the bad weather doesn’t seem as bad because we’re just happy to be on the field.”
Without a season in 2020, it has taken teams like Montclair and MKA some time to jell.
“It’s been rough from the first practice and getting used to each other,” MHS pitcher Andrews said about the effects of not playing together in the spring of 2020.
Andrews said it took until the 8-0 win over Bloomfield on April 1 — which was good timing, since that was the season opener.
The two programs are at different stages this season. With six seniors who graduated and were expected to start last season, MKA will go through growing pains.
“We are in a rebuilding year like so many other teams are,” Sarfati said.
Meanwhile, Montclair is looking to win a division title as well as make a lot of noise in the upcoming Essex County Tournament.
“We have a solid team, and I think we’re going to shock a lot of people,” said Amirata, who added about Andrews: “She is our rock.”