The Montclair baseball team knew that they had a narrow margin to win their Greater Newark Tournament battle against Millburn at Seton Hall Prep.
The Mounties (12-9-1) could not put it all together in the GNT semifinals in falling 2-0 to the Millers on Saturday, May 13.
The best-case scenario for Montclair to reach another GNT final would have been for the fourth-seeded Mounties to get a flawless pitching performance from senior ace Anthony Anzaldi and some timely hits against top-seeded Millburn and their ace, Steven Echavarria.
But the Montclair offense left runners four times at second base and could not get those timely hits to get the runners in.
Despite getting into some jams against Millburn, Anzaldi pitched well enough for Montclair to win by allowing only two runs, one of which was earned.
Montclair baseball head coach Ron Gavazzi liked how his young team competed in the GNT and against the No. 1 seed, Millburn.
“We got a great group of kids,” Gavazzi said. “They’re very program oriented and work very hard for each other.”
The Mounties coach complimented the Millers coaches and players. “Millburn has a great program,” Gavazzi said.
The contest marked the second time that the Montclair batters went up against Echavarria. The Millers’ senior ace went only four innings the first time against the Mounties, who registered only two hits and struck out seven times as Montclair fell 9-0 on April 12.
“This is the second time that we faced him and he’s a great pitcher,” the Montclair coach said of Echavarria.
Taking on teams like Millburn will only help the Mounties when the state tournament begins later this month, Gavazzi said.
The last time the Mounties reached the GNT semifinals was in 2021 when Montclair dropped a 5-3 verdict to the same Millburn team.
Montclair was looking to get to its first GNT finals since 2019 when the Mounties defeated Seton Hall Prep, 12-1, to win the GNT championship.
In this year’s GNT semifinals, Anzaldi went six innings while scattering seven hits, striking out six and allowing one earned run.
But Echavarria topped Anzaldi’s performance as Montclair could only muster three hits and a walk while striking out 14 times.
Junior Derek Lacey, sophomore Sam Dorian and freshman Patrick Van Note smacked base hits for the Mounties. Junior Nate Ullman coaxed a walk.
But none of the Montclair batters who got on base made it past second.
Gavazzi thought that the outcome might be different if his squad had put a run across in the first couple of innings. “I think if we score early it takes the pressure off the team,” he said.
But instead of Montclair getting on the board first, Millburn took advantage of the lone Mounties error in the game as Millers’ Ethan Axelrod scored from second base on a sacrifice bunt and a Montclair throwing error.
Anzaldi gave up his only earned run in the fourth inning on a sacrifice fly as Millburn loaded the bases. But the Montclair senior ace was able to shut the Millers down the rest of the way.
With the defeat in the GNT in their rear-view mirror, Montclair rebounded nicely as the Mounties defeated Columbia, 4-2, at Woodman Field on May 15.
Montclair starting pitcher Wyatt Fell went 4.1 innings, allowing only one earned run, scattering three hits, and striking out nine.