Montclair Kimberley baseball aim to build on strong ’22 with tougher schedule this spring
The Montclair Kimberley baseball team is going to relish having a home field this season after going without one and being on the road all of last year.
The spring athletic teams had to find places to play as MKA did work at the middle school to construct a new sports facility, including a new baseball field.
Despite that, the baseball team won a share of the Super Essex Conference Colonial Division with Barringer and grabbed the Prep B tournament championship.
The team played some of its games — considered home games — at West Orange High School, but the toughest part was using other fields for everyday practices.
"I'm looking forward to getting on it," MKA head coach Ralph Pacifico said about the new field last week from Florida, where the team was practicing and playing scrimmages. "We were asking West Orange and Verona [last season] to practice on their field. They were nice enough to allow us to practice on their fields."
The team had not yet played on its new turf field.
This season Pacifico has a relatively young team, with only five seniors, pitcher/infielder Jack Amirata, outfielder Nic Lembo, infielder Elliot Baratta, pitcher/infielder Max Nussbaum and pitcher/infielder Julien Coviello.
The hope for the next few years is in the sophomores, who excelled as freshmen in 2022, including catcher/pitcher Luca Siegar, outfielder/pitcher Jake Rendino, infielders Quinn Carlesimo and Alessandro Rizio, and infielder/pitcher Brooks Barrett.
"We would like to duplicate the performance of last year," said Pacifico, whose team was 17-7. "I just want these kids to compete and play hard every day while eliminating mistakes… They were thrown into the fire as freshmen."
By grabbing a share of the Colonial title, the Cougars moved up to the Super Essex Conference Liberty Division, which includes Columbia, Verona and West Orange, which had the best records in 2022. Also in the division is Bloomfield, which reached the county tournament finals last spring.
"We're going to play good teams, and we're not afraid of that," Pacifico said. "This will challenge our kids."
For this season Amirata, the lone lefty on the team, moves into the role as ace on the pitching staff after the graduation of John Testa, who was named to the All SEC Colonial first team last season and who also played shortstop.
Amirata had a minute ERA last season at 1.09 and averaged one strikeout an inning. When not pitching, the senior is the starter at first base. With 17 stolen bases and having hit over .400 last year, he will be leading off for the Cougars. He was named to the All Colonial first team.
"He's a very good player and a leader on the team," the coach said about Amirata, who has committed to play baseball at Gettysburg College.
Another returning player is Siegar, who was on the All Colonial first team as a freshman in 2022.
"He is a very good catcher, strong arm and hits to all fields with power," Pacifico said about Siegar, who is also the team's closer on the mound.
"I think it really helped a lot to play catcher as a freshman, and he also plays baseball year-round."
Siegar has made a nonbinding commitment to play for the University of Maine.
The other top sophomore is Carlesimo, who like Siegar was named to the All Colonial first team last season. Carlesimo makes a big move, from second base to shortstop, to replace Testa.
"He hits the ball well to all fields," the coach said. "His range is getting better, and his fielding is outstanding."
With Carlesimo moving to short, the two players vying to take over for him at second are a pair of sophomores, Rizio and Barrett.
Nussbaum and Rendino return after being named to the All SEC Colonial second team.
Nussbaum, who averaged almost a strikeout per inning and had a 3.20 ERA, will not be able to pitch until mid- to late May after having labrum surgery in October. He will be playing baseball at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts.
Rendino will be leading the outfield in center field. "He's just a great fielder, has good range and can cover the gaps in left field and right field," Pacifico said.
Returning to right field is Lembo, who was placed on the All Colonial honorable mention list in 2022. After hitting .370 last season, he is expected to hit in the middle of the order.
Another player who will see a lot of time in the lineup is junior Eli Solomon, who will spend time as the designated hitter along with playing third base and catcher. He could bat fifth in the lineup.
Along with Solomon, junior Nolan Gyves could play at the hot corner this spring. Gyves saw time in the infield and outfield last season.
On the mound after Amirata, the number two starter could be either junior Ben Otner or Rizio. Junior Zachary Goyal and Barrett and Rendino also will see time on the bump.
Montclair Kimberley Baseball schedule
(Games at 4 p.m. unless noted)
April 3 at Bloomfield
April 4 Glen Ridge
April 8 Caldwell, 1 p.m.
April 10 at Verona
April 11 Princeton Day
April 12 West Essex
April 14 at Barringer
April 17 at West Orange
April 19 Bloomfield
April 20 at Boonton
April 21 at Glen Ridge
April 24 Union Catholic
April 26 Verona
April 27 Essex County Tournament, TBA
April 28 at Montclair
April 29 Columbia, 1 p.m.
May 1 at Belleville
May 3 Essex County Tournament, TBD
May 4 Essex County Tournament, TBD
May 8 at West Essex
May 9 Essex County Tournament, TBD
May 13 Pennington School, Noon
May 15 Barringer
May 17 West Orange
May 20 Newark Academy, 10 a.m.