The Montclair High School softball team showed some grit this season in facing some of the toughest competition in the state.
“I would say that I’m not happy with the record, but we were in the deep end of Essex County,” Montclair head softball coach Mike Goldstein said. “I would say that we are in the toughest division in the state.”
The Mounties finished with a 12-15 record but were 10-2 outside of the Super Essex Conference American Division, which included Mount St. Dominic, Livingston, Cedar Grove and Columbia, four of the top-rated high school softball teams in New Jersey.
A crucial element in softball is pitching. Montclair had good pitchers, but not great strikeout pitchers. Both Mounties hurlers, senior Alana Flynn and freshman Marley Kim, were good, but combined for 108 strikeouts. In comparison, Cedar Grove, an American Division rival and the Essex County champion, had a pitcher, sophomore Cayce Kavakich who struck out 329 batters.
Flynn was named to the All-SEC American honorable mention list for her pitching and for her hitting. She had a .372 batting average, one of the top numbers on the team, with 23 RBI, the second highest total on the team.
Flynn “played one of the most demanding positions in sports,” Goldstein said.
The Montclair head coach believes that Kim has a lot of potential for the next few years. She showed some of that potential in one of her best pitched games and one of the best for the team.
The game came on May 10 in a regular-season contest at Cedar Grove, where the Mounties lost 3-2. Montclair had a 2-1 lead over the Panthers before Cedar Grove scored two runs to squash the Mounties’ upset bid.
Kim “pitched a beautiful game and had great control,” Goldstein said. “We were two outs away from the biggest upset of the season in Essex County.”
In addition to the near upset over Cedar Grove, Goldstein points to the other highlight game of the season, a 6-0 victory at Caldwell. Kim pitched a four-hit shutout in that game.
“We always have a hard time winning at their place,” Goldstein said. “It was the first time we have won at their place in my six years.”
Another effect of being in the toughest division in the state was in the honors.
One of the top players on the team was junior Hannah Martin, who was named to the All-SEC American Division second team. The four top teams in the division took 13 of the 14 spots in the American Division first team.
On the American Division second team was one of the top sophomores in the county in Brooklyn Awad. Along with Flynn on the American honorable mention list was junior Maya Gerdes.
Goldstein believes that Martin improved as a junior despite her numbers decreasing. Martin had 53 hits as a sophomore in 2022, compared with this season’s 35 hits that led the team. But the Montclair head coach points to the level of competition.
“She wound up going up into a better class of pitching and still had 35 hits,” Goldstein said. “She played a really good third base and I expect her to be even better next season.”
As for Awad, she is developing into the entire package.
“I think her defense is second to none and the best outfielder in the county,” Goldstein said. “I think her offense improved and she is the consummate player and a great outfielder.”
Another top junior on the Mounties was Gerdes, one of the best fielding shortstops in the county. She hit .343 for the season.
“I had the Mount St. Dominic coach come up to me and say that Maya ‘is smooth as peanut butter,'” Goldstein said of Gerdes’ quality fielding in one of the toughest positions on the diamond.