The Montclair High School baseball team wants to show that last season was not a fluke.

The Mounties still have plenty left for 2022 despite losing several seniors to graduation from a team that reached the Group 4 title game.

The squad started out fast at 2-0, after defeating Johnson, 11-3, in an independent contest on Saturday, April 2.

But it was on the day before that Montclair demonstrated it’s going to be a tough out in the Super Essex Conference American Division.

Despite cold, blustery weather, the Mounties and junior pitcher Anthony Anzaldi put it all together at Nutley in a 10-2 victory on April 1.

Anzaldi kept the Raiders at bay by going 5.2 innings of no-hit, no-run ball. “I felt really good and really confident coming in,” the southpaw, who struck out 10, said. 

As it turned out, Anzaldi only needed the three runs that Montclair scored in the first inning to back him up. “I got a little confident, but didn’t want to be over-confident,” he said.

Unfortunately he had to come out after reaching an 86-pitch count despite no-hitting Nutley. Senior Brad Sherman pitched the last 1.1 innings.

Anzaldi understood being pulled, with the goal being the end of the season and not the opening game. “I’ve gotten close, but I don’t worry too much about it,” he said about no-hitters.

Anzaldi was an All-Super Essex Conference American Division first-team player last season and pitched the Group 4 semifinal game where Montclair defeated Ridge, 3-2.

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Montclair junior Anthony Anzaldi kept Nutley at bay by throwing 5⅔ innings of no-hit, no-run ball. (EDWARD KENSIK/STAFF)

Offensively, Montclair received contributions up and down the lineup, with four players — senior second baseman Alex Veldran, senior first baseman Jackson Delgado, senior shortstop Melvin Matias and Anzaldi — registering a pair of RBI each. Matias went 3-for-4 with three runs scored. 

Montclair was able to get to Nutley pitcher Brian Conte right from the start when freshman third baseman Benjamin St. Pierre stroked the first pitch of the game for a double.

Mounties head coach Ron Gavazzi thought coming into the season that the squad would be a work in progress, with a relatively young team in terms of games started compared to last year’s team, which finished at 24-7-1 and lost to
Middletown South, 6-0, in the Group 4 final. 

“We have a few starters returning, but overall we will be a very inexperienced team,” Gavazzi said. “At this point of the season, we are working collectively to form the best version of our team.  As we go through the process, our plan is to improve on all aspects of the game.”

The starters who were in the lineup against Middletown South and returned are senior catcher Ethan Daddabbo, Matias and senior center fielder Nick Levine. Matias was an All-SEC American second-team player last season.

The position that might have been hardest-hit was pitcher, with the graduation of Sean Brown and Jeremy Sacks.

Before the start of the season, Gavazzi said that several players would get a shot at innings, including seniors Noah Dnistrian, Dylan Martling, Sherman, Robert Reifenberg and Sam Rosen, junior Wyatt Fell, sophomore Shea Goel and freshman St. Pierre. 

“The keys to a successful season always begin and end with pitching and defense,” the coach said.

Montclair has one of the top backstops in the Super Essex Conference in Daddabbo, especially defensively. “Ethan is a big, strong catcher,” Gavazzi said. “He provides a great deal to our team.”

Matias headlines the infield at shortstop, with another senior, Veldran, at second base as the double-play combination. Delgado takes over at first base, and the Mounties hope freshman St. Pierre is at the hot corner for all four years.

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Montclair senior Jackson Delgado points to the sky after smashing a triple at Nutley. (EDWARD KENSIK/STAFF)

Levine is the leader in the outfield in center field after being named to the All-SEC American honorable mention list in 2021. “Nicky is a tough competitor,” Gavazzi said. “He plays very hard and can impact the game in a variety of ways.”

Joining Levine in the outfield against Nutley were seniors Ben Davis and Flynn Pennell at left and right fields. Pennell was the designated hitter against the Raiders.

In the victory over Johnson, Dnistrian fired 5.2 innings and allowed only one earned run while striking out eight.

While known for his defense, Daddabbo is showing that he has plenty of strength with his bat. The senior went 3-for-4 against Johnson with two RBI, including a pair of triples. Delgado also went 3-for-4 and two RBI in the victory, while Matias added two RBI.

In terms of the SEC American and the county, both championships will probably have to go through Seton Hall Prep. The Mounties travel to Seton Hall on Monday, April 11. They also host the Pirates on May 9.

Last season Montclair finished a win short of reaching the Greater Newark Tournament finals, falling to eventual champion Millburn in the semifinals. In 2021, the Mounties came in second behind Seton Hall Prep for the SEC American title.