The Montclair baseball team needs just one victory to surpass its output of last season in the state tournament.
The Mounties (13-11-2) will try to do that today (Monday, May 22) when the eighth-seeded Montclair squad hosts ninth-seeded Fair Lawn (12-12) at home at Woodman Field in the North 1 Group 4 state playoff opener.
A win over the Cutters would send the Mounties into the sectional quarterfinals against the winner of top-seeded Passaic Tech-16th-seeded North Bergen tentatively set for Thursday, May 25 at 4 p.m.
In the match against Fair Lawn the proposed starting pitchers are expected to be the Mounties ace, senior Anthony Anzaldi against Cutters ace Zach Taylor.
“Fair Lawn is a very quality team,” said Montclair head coach Ron Gavazzi. “They have an outstanding left-handed pitcher (Taylor) that will be a real tough challenge for us.”
In Anzaldi he has lived up to expectations on the hill that were set on him at the start of the season. As of last week, the senior had a miniscule 0.36 ERA with 69 strikeouts in 39 innings. While getting in a little trouble, Anzaldi pitched well enough to defeat top-seeded Millburn in the Greater Newark Tournament semifinal on May 13, but gave up one earned run in the 2-0 defeat to the Millers.
Offensively, Montclair has shown that they can hit as illustrated by a come-from-behind 9-7 victory over Caldwell in the GNT quarterfinals. But at times the Mounties struggle at the plate especially against top pitchers like against Millburn ace Steven Echavarria in the GNT semis.
Both Montclair and Fair Lawn can move it on the basepaths and getting their top of the lineup including sophomore Benjamin St. Pierre, freshman Patrick Van Note and junior Nate Ullman on base will help the Mounties against the Cutters. And the Cutters have several players up-and-down the lineup that can steal bases led by their top hitter, senior infielder Cameron Schwartz.
“They have great team speed throughout their lineup,” Gavazzi said. “We will have our hands full trying to defend them.”
For Gavazzi and Montclair, they know that seedings really don’t mean anything, especially what they experienced in 2022.
Last season Montclair went into the North 1 Group 4 state playoffs with great expectations as the number one seed.
But unfortunately for the ’22 Montclair baseball team, the foibles a one and done struck again. The Mounties, who were second seed in the 2022 Greater Newark Tournament, had lost in the first round of the GNT to heavy underdog Barringer, the 17th seed.
And then Montclair as the top seed was struck down again by a heavy underdog, falling to 16th-seeded Hackensack in the state playoffs first round. “Our team is excited to play in the state tournament,” said Gavazzi about the 2023 tournament.