by Andrew Garda

RANDOLPH — The Montclair High School baseball team never gave up during their NJSIAA North 1, Group IV quarterfinal against top-seeded. Through nine innings of back and forth lead changes, the Mounties gave the Rams all they could handle and then some, but couldn’t quite pull off the upset, losing 6-5 in extra innings on Saturday, May 27.

“Another outstanding effort in a tournament game,”  co-head coach Ron Gavazzi said after the loss. “We’ve shown great effort and competed very well in every tournament game we’ve played this year.”

If there’s one takeaway from this season for the Mounties, it’s that. Both in the NJSIAA and Greater Newark Tournament tournaments they’ve taken on the top-seeded team in their bracket and made them nervous. MHS took Seton Hall Prep to the wall, losing by a score of 1-0 in the GNT.

This time out they nearly upset Randolph (19-5) in a battle saw four lead changes and every time the Rams got ahead on the scoreboard, the ninth-seeded Mounties (12-13) responded.

“I told the guys I was real proud of them,” Gavazzi said. “Real proud of how hard they competed. The effort they showed [and] the characteristics they showed are what we tried to embed in them. They displayed [them] today.”

Kyle Miller, John Lewis, Dylan Wright and Makhi Booker all hit the ball well, with Wright one of two Mounties with an extra base hit - a big triple during the top of the seventh inning which drove in the tying run and sent the game into extra innings. Evan Chaladoff also drove in a run with a two out double during a three-run fifth inning.

Booker started the game on the mound for MHS and threw the ball well, save for a rough fifth inning that saw Randolph score three runs, including a big two-run home run over the 310 mark in right field by the Rams’ Jack Carroll. He was replaced for one inning by Henry Booker, moving to the outfield to keep his bat in the lineup. Booker would be replaced by McGoey a short time after.

All three pitchers did a good job on the mound for MHS.

While the home run gave Randolph a 5-4 lead, the Mounties didn’t hang their heads and in the seventh inning, a banged up Lewis reached first on an 0-2 pitch.

Lewis had injured his hamstring earlier in the game, but had gutted out for as long as he could. After that hit, with Lewis continuing to be visibly hobbled, Gavazzi needed someone who could run and subbed Tobin Willms for him on the basepaths. Willms promptly stole second and then Wright tripled to score him, tying the game.

Josh Moed would take Lewis’ place at the plate later in the ninth.

“[Lewis] just hurt his hamstring somewhere about the middle of the game when he was stealing a bag,” Gavazzi explained. “He was able to hit but after he got the big hit in the seventh, we had to take him out. He just couldn’t play defense.”

After Wright’s triple, the Mounties only had one out and were threatening to score again, but Wright was caught at home plate on an Evan Chaladoff infield hit.

Both teams went in order in the eighth inning, and then Montclair saw McGoey fly out, while Moed and Wright both grounded out to close down the ninth.

McGoey took the mound again, after sending the Rams down in order during the eighth inning. However, the Rams got a runner on, who then advanced on a wild pitch, eventually ending up on third base with one out.

After a called ball on the first pitch, McGoey tried to pick off the runner at third, but the throw sailed high over a leaping Moed’s glove. With the ball thrown away, the Rams scored and earned the right to advance and face Morristown in the semifinals.

While it was a very tough way to lose a game, the Mounties fought hard, just as they have all season. Randolph is considered a top 20 team in the state, but they couldn’t get rid of Montclair. Every time the Rams took the lead, the Mounties responded.

“We made some mistakes but we had a lot of opportunity to close these out and we just couldn’t do it,” Gavazzi said.”[It was] good baseball. We lost to a real good team.”