Montclair softball preview: An experienced squad with high hopes
By EDWARD KENSIK
It was the best run for the Montclair High School softball team in a decade.
The Mounties had not won 17 games in a season since 2011, but registered a 17-8 mark in 2021, finishing second to Caldwell in the Super Essex Conference-Liberty Division. Montclair will be looking to get to the top of Liberty this year.
The excitement is well-founded, as there are 10 returning players who saw time on the varsity, eight of whom saw plenty of at-bats in the regular lineup.
“Our goal is win as many games as possible,” head coach Michael Goldstein said. “I feel the next step in our progression is to win at least as many games and have some success in our tournaments.”
Last season, Montclair lost in the first round of the Essex County Tournament to division rival Caldwell, and also lost an 8-7 verdict to Ridgewood in the North 1 Group 4 state tournament.
“We lost an extra-inning game to Ridgewood in the state tournament, which was a tough way to end the season,” said Goldstein, whose team lost in eight innings to the Maroons.
With the graduation of Aliyah Andrews in the circle, junior Alana Flynn will move up to be the top pitcher after throwing 57 innings last season. Goldstein said that Flynn will also be playing the outfield, with senior Alexus Williams getting time in the circle.
It is the combination of Flynn's arm, bat and speed that makes her an all-in-one weapon. She had 11 stolen bases in 2021 and was named to the All-Liberty second team.
“She will see plenty of time in the circle as well as batting near the top of the lineup,” the coach said. “Because of her potent bat, she also will see time in the outfield when not pitching.”
The top two players returning are senior co-captain Brianna Leech and sophomore Hannah Martin, both of whom garnered All-Liberty first-team nods last spring and are part of a strong infield.
Along with pitcher, shortstop is a pivotal position, and Leech will hold it down for the third straight year for the Mounties. The senior will be playing softball next season at the University of Chicago. She led Montclair last season with 15 stolen bases and was one of the top RBI producers with 23.
Martin was one of the top freshmen in the county last season. She is back at the hot corner this year after accumulating 46 hits. “She put together one of the best freshman years in the history of our program,” Goldstein said. “She played a brilliant third base.”
Also on the infield is senior co-captain Remi Antinoro, who was an All-Liberty second-team player in 2021 and had four home runs and 23 RBI last spring. Antinoro will be heading north to play at the University of Vermont next year.
“She is another great leader and is an outstanding first baseman,” the coach said.
Montclair also has a strong second baseman in sophomore Maya Gerdes, who like Martin had a quality freshman season. Gerdes was named to the All-Liberty honorable mention list. “She is a rising star at second base,” said Goldstein, adding that Gerdes will also get some pitching duties.
Catching the pitchers will be sophomore Olivia Carr and freshman Savannah Seawell. Carr saw time behind the plate as a freshman.
Carr also will see time in the outfield along with Flynn and junior Marin Furer, who also played some second base in 2021. The anchor of the outfield is senior center fielder Ella Baschwitz. “She is a dependable and athletic center fielder,” the coach said.
Two other returning varsity players are sophomores Kayla Purnell, who will see time at first base, and utility player Ckiaralis Arias. The newcomers to the varsity are junior outfielder Georgia Aishton and utility infielders Meredith Katz, Abigail Price and Lena Turner, all juniors.
Montclair softball schedule
(Games at 4 p.m. unless noted. Home games at Fortunato Field, 10 Essex Ave.)
April 1 Millburn
April 4 at Caldwell
April 6 at Glen Ridge
April 7 at Hackensack
April 8 Belleville
April 12 Linden
April 13 at West Orange
April 14 Paramus Catholic
April 18 Bloomfield
April 19 at Livingston
April 20 at Millburn
April 22 Caldwell
April 23 North Bergen, at Cedar Grove, 9 a.m.
April 25 Glen Ridge
April 27 Payne Tech
April 29 West Essex
April 30 at Kearny, noon
May 3 MKA
May 6 at Leonia
May 9 at Belleville
May 10 Hudson Catholic
May 12 Columbia
May 13 Morris Hills
May 16 West Orange
May 18 at Bloomfield
May 23 at Mount St. Mary Academy