Montclair High School baseball goes through a tale of two diamonds in the spring of 2022
It was definitely a season for the Montclair baseball team in which you had to look at the big picture rather than the tournaments.
The Mounties had a quality season with an 18-8 record and a third-place finish in the toughest Essex County division, the American.
But when it came down to the tournaments, Montclair just had one of those days — twice.
First it was the Greater Newark Tournament, where the Mounties lost 2-1 to Barringer on May 9 in extra innings. Montclair was the second seed, and Barringer was the 17th.
The game was canceled a couple of times because of rain, and the third time was not the charm for Montclair. What was even more frustrating was that both teams that reached the GNT finals, Bloomfield and Seton Hall Prep, were teams the Mounties defeated during the season.
And then lightning struck again, as another double-digit seed did in Montclair in the state tournament. The Mounties were the top seed and Hackensack was the 16th in the section first round. And again Montclair lost, and by the same score, 2-1.
"In baseball you can lose to any opponent at any time," said Montclair head coach Ron Gavazzi. "Winning is always very difficult, and tournament baseball is the most challenging. There are many factors that come into play, especially in games where one swing of the bat in either direction can determine the outcome."
But those losses did not take away the 18 victories the Mounties had this spring. "We had a very solid regular season," Gavazzi said. "Earning the second seed in the GNT and the first seed in the state section was done on the field by beating some of the better teams in New Jersey."
The loss to Hackensack was an especially tough pill to swallow since Montclair had its top pitcher, junior Anthony Anzaldi, on the bump.
"Ultimately, we did not play our best games in tournament play," Gavazzi said. "For our returning players, they will have to learn from the experience and use it as motivation to commit that much more this off-season."
Still, it would have been tough to equal the 2021 season, where Montclair went 24-7-1 and was a victory away from winning the Group 4 title to go along with its North 1 Group 4 championship.
Looking back at this spring, Gavazzi remembers the victories over the likes of Livingston, Seton Hall Prep, Millburn, Caldwell and Mountain Lakes, all teams that had 20 or more victories this year.
Three Mounties were placed on the Super Essex Conference American Division first team, senior Nick Levine, Anzaldi and freshman Benjamin St. Pierre.
Levine, who played both the infield and outfield, led the team in hits and runs scored with 34 and 28, respectively, and batted .420.
"Nicky had a strong season," the coach said. "Most importantly, he played well defensively at second base and center field. He did not commit an error, which is very impressive. Also, he was extremely productive batting in the leadoff spot."
Anzaldi was the ace of the pitching staff, with a lower-than-one ERA (0.81), and he struck out 60 batters in 43.1 innings and had four victories.
"Anthony was lights-out this season," Gavazzi said. "His numbers were jaw-dropping. He was outstanding in every performance. He is so valuable to our team. Anthony is an elite pitcher and has such a huge future ahead."
One of the top freshmen, if not the top freshman in the SEC, was St. Pierre, who did it with his bat as well as his arm. St. Pierre had four victories on the mound, also with a lower-than-one ERA (0.76), with 24 strikeouts in 27.1 innings. With the bat he led the Mounties in RBI with 23.
“Benjamin was dynamite this year, on the mound and offensively," Gavazzi said. "The key to Ben is that he’s so coachable and wants to learn and improve every day. He is so committed to his craft. Sky is the limit for him."
On the SEC American second team were senior catcher Ethan Daddabbo and senior shortstop Melvin Matias.
Daddabo slugged for more than .600 and found any way to get on base. He walked 19 times while contributing 22 RBI.
"Ethan drove the ball well this year," the coach said. "He slugged for a high average and was on base all the time."
Having Matias at shortstop was solid for the Montclair pitchers. "Melvin is an awesome infielder," Gavazzi said. "One of the smoothest we have had through the years. Also, he has a rocket for an arm. He was very dependable."
Seniors Jackson Somerstein and Alex Veldran were named to the SEC American honorable mention list.
Somerstein contributed across the board in the offensive categories, while Veldran was solid in the infield and on the mound.
"He worked hard and saw positive results," the coach said about Veldran. "He pitched well and was very solid defensively playing up the middle."