Montclair High School girls softball has a more-than-memorable 2022 season
The Montclair softball team can look back at the 2022 season with some pride, as the Mounties came home with the Super Essex Conference Liberty Division title and won a state tournament game for the first time in several years.
The Mounties also reached the 20-win mark this year, the first time in more than a decade, finishing at 20-7.
"If you told me that we would have had 20 wins, I would have signed up for that," head coach Michael Goldstein said.
In the state tournament, the third-seeded Mounties took care of 14th-seeded and neighborhood rival West Orange, 11-1, on May 17 at home in the first round of the North 1 Group 4 section before falling to sixth-seeded Passaic Tech.
Goldstein pointed out some of the highlights of this spring: He liked how his team came back to defeat rival Glen Ridge twice, 10-1 on April 25 and 16-7 in an Essex County Tournament first-round game on May 4.
The Mounties had lost 14-11 in the second game of the season to Glen Ridge back in April. "I was a little concerned after we lost to them early in the season," Goldstein said.
But coming back to win the next two games against the Ridgers made him feel much better. "I think those games were more indicative of our team," he said.
In addition, he was pleased with how his team played in the 18-9 win over Liberty Division rival Caldwell. "We had not beaten them in three, four years, so it was nice to beat them," he said.
The coach also pointed to the 9-0 loss to Mount St. Dominic in the Essex County Tournament quarterfinals. The Mounties were only down 2-0 after the first four innings before Mount St. Dominic pulled away.
"I thought we played very well," Goldstein said. "They're [Mount St. Dominic] on another level."
Going up against the perennial Essex County top team in Mount St. Dominic, Montclair in the past had a hard time just getting past the 10-run rule for the fifth inning. "I was very proud of the kids, [they] played well defensively and pitched well," the coach said of Alana Flynn and Maya Gerdes in the circle.
Outside a couple of lopsided losses, the Mounties either dominated their opponents or were right with them for most of the 2022 schedule.
It usually came down to either giving up a two-out hit or getting the pivotal two-out hit in an inning.
That trend was most striking in the loss to Passaic Tech, 11-4, in the North 1 Group 4 quarterfinals game in which Montclair would give up a key two-out hit late in the game that led to the lopsided defeat.
"That was sort of who we were, where we had to put up or shut up," Goldstein said, adding that a couple of innings where Passaic Tech scored multiple runs could have easily been prevented. "Softball is about pitching, defense and timely hitting," he said.
With the 20 victories and the Liberty Division crown, Montclair had plenty of honors come its way. Sophomore Hannah Martin, freshman Brooklyn Awad, junior Alana Flynn and senior Brianna Leech were named to the All-Liberty first team.
Sophomore Maya Gerdes and senior Remi Antinoro were pegged for the second team, while freshman Savannah Seawell and sophomore Olivia Carr received honorable mention.
One of the key players this season was third baseman Martin, who hit .596 with 53 hits, 52 runs scored, 56 RBI, six triples, 12 doubles and five home runs. Her coach said she had some of the best offensive statistics in the program’s history.
"She has been a tremendous player," Goldstein said. "She improved on her clutch hitting. She had some huge hits in key situations. If we needed a few runs, you just hoped she was coming up."
Awad lived up to her hype coming in as a freshman outfielder. She hit .440 for the season, with 54 runs scored and 27 stolen bases.
"Usually the fanfare exceeds the reality, but this time that was not the case," the coach said. "She's a tremendous defensive outfielder, and I think it is the tip of the iceberg in terms of her offense."
Leech, at shortstop, contributed offensively across the board, including 31 runs scored and 29 RBI, but it was the intangibles and her defense that received the accolades.
"She was sort of our rock in the infield and a leader on the team," Goldstein said. "She played arguably the most pivotal position in softball."
Along with pitching, Flynn played the outfield. Goldstein said he just wanted Flynn on the field. She had a 4.70 ERA and pitched the bulk of the innings while also contributing with the stick, finishing second on the team in hits and RBI with 37 and 36 respectively.
The coach believes the returning pitching combination of Flynn and Gerdes, who pitched almost 40 percent of the innings, will show improvement. "I think they both will pick it up, at least a little bit that we will be better," he said.
Antinoro volunteered to play in the outfield this season and also saw some time at first base. She was one of the top Mounties in runs, with 38, and RBI, with 31. "She's a great natural athlete," the coach said.
The two players who saw time behind the plate were Carr and Seawell.
Carr also saw time in the outfield and as designated player; her at-bats doubled over her freshman season. "We wanted to get her bat into the lineup," Goldstein said. "She has a classically good softball swing."
Seawell was coaxed to come out by assistant coach Ed Connell, who is also the Montclair girls head basketball coach.
"She was a surprise this season," Goldstein said. "We really didn't know what to expect. Her upside is huge, and she is a great athlete."
Along with Leech and Antinoro, the Mounties will lose Alexus Williams and Ella Baschwitz to graduation.