The Montclair Kimberley Academy baseball team will be mixing it up with experience and youth this season; the hope is that the end result will be plenty of victories when June comes around.

The 2022 Cougars have experience returning with senior shortstop John Testa and junior pitcher/outfielder Jack Amirata and junior infielder/pitcher Max Nussbaum, all of whom were named to the All-Super Essex Conference Colonial Division teams last season.

Then add eight freshmen to the program, including many who will see time on the varsity.  MKA head coach Ralph Pacifico said this freshman group might be the best in his long baseball coaching career.

Catcher Luca Siegar, infielder/pitcher Brooks Barrett, infielder Quinn Carlesimo, outfielder/pitcher Jake Rendino and infielder/pitcher Alessandro Rizio, all freshmen, will see innings.

Pacifico said that what his team needs to do this season is to at least top last season’s 10-12 record.

“I think it is important to play good defense and limit the walks,” he said. “I don’t think [our pitchers] will throw by people, but I do think we have good command.”

MKA got off on the right foot by defeating Barringer on the road, 6-1, on April 1. The Cougars scored two runs in the top of the first as Testa smashed a double that scored Siegar and Amirata.

MKA never looked back, as Amirata went four innings to pick up the victory as he kept Barringer off the scoreboard.

For Pacifico it was a mixed bag for Amirata, who threw 71 pitches. “He threw too many pitches for my liking, but the weather was cold,” the coach said. “He told me he felt good and had command of his pitches, and he kept the ball down.”

Nussbaum and Rizio came on  in relief to close out the victory.

In terms of starting pitchers, Amirata, Nussbaum and Testa will be the first to get on the mound for the Cougars. “We have three pretty good pitchers, so we don’t label any of them as a number one,” said Pacifico, who added that Testa is coming off Tommy John surgery.

Offensively, Carlesimo, who is the nephew of former Seton Hall basketball coach and NBA head coach P.J. Carlesimo, had three hits and two RBI. Testa added two RBI.

It was a great start for the Cougars, who know that it is just the beginning of the season. “I told them it’s only one game and to not get ahead of yourselves if you had a big game and not get down if you had a bad day,” the coach said he told the team after the win.

The road will be like home for Montclair Kimberley, which will be playing all of its games away. The school is expected to start construction, possibly this week, to convert its middle school fields from grass to synthetic turf. 

While the work is being done, the baseball team will be practicing at West Orange High School.

The youth of the team was illustrated in the opening day lineup against Barringer, with three freshmen in the order. It started at leadoff with Rendino, while Siegar was batting second. “He’s very fast out of the box,” Pacifico said about Rendino.

attachment-Montclair Kimberley scrimmage testa at Verona 3-31-22 DSC_0504
Montclair Kimberley senior John Testa dives to reach home plate during a scrimmage at Verona; he was called out. The Cougars opened the 2022 season with a 6-1 victory at Barringer on April 1. (EDWARD KENSIK/STAFF)

Carlesimo batting seventh was the other freshman.

Following the two freshmen at the top of the lineup were Amirata and Testa at third and cleanup. 

Senior outfielder/pitcher Michael Bronstein and sophomore catcher/outfield/designated hitter Eli Solomon were at fifth and sixth in the lineup respectively before Carlesimo. Sophomore infielder/pitcher Ben Otner and Nussbaum were eighth and ninth.

In terms of tournaments, Montclair Kimberley would like to go further than last season, when they were knocked out in the first round of the Greater Newark Tournament, the Prep B Tournament and the state tournament.