by Andrew Garda

garda@montclairlocal.news

It was fitting that the Montclair High School softball team left Grove Street Field — their home away from home — on the heels of a three-game win streak with a 4-1 victory over Newark Academy Tuesday night.

“I told them let’s go out with a bang. That this was the last time on this field,” coach Valerie Tauriello said after the win. “Our first home game on our actual field will be Thursday against West Essex. We’re looking forward to that.”

The team hasn’t looked comfortable at Grove Field, and has been itching to get back to Fortunato. However, two of the last three games have resulted in wins at their temporary field and it’s appropriate they say goodbye with a 10-hit effort resulting in a win.

MHS did it on the strength of two innings where they put together a string of seven hits, scoring four runs, looking more confident both at bat and on the field.

That’s really been the case for all three of the wins during this streak as the Mounties are hitting the ball well, and when they get runners on base, they are finding ways to get them to home plate. The three wins saw MHS scoring 14 runs while allowing just 7 against.

In Tuesday’s win over Newark Academy, Frankie Testa, Aliyah Taylor, Grace Chellius and Gabby Isola all went 2-for-3, with Isola hitting a double in her first at-bat and later scoring during the three-run second inning which put the Mounties on top for good.

Add in another solid performance from senior pitcher Jess Masur — who finished the game by striking out two straight batters before getting the final out on a pop fly — and you have a dangerous team.

The Mounties weren’t just hitting the ball well, though. Tauriello manufactured some offense as well by calling an aggressive game on the basepaths.

“I stepped outside my comfort zone a little bit,” Tauriello said after the win. “Playing around with some steals, some hit and runs, things like that. [The team] responded well.”

Both innings where the Mounties scored featured Tauriello’s aggressive base-running calls. During the three-run second, Sophie Mylin bunted her way on base, and both Isola and Taylor stole bases, with Isola showing some heads-up running to score.

“They’ve been more confident at the plate, they really have,” Tauriello said.

That translates not just to success on the basepaths, but when fielding as well. The Mounties did a good job avoiding mistakes and even when they had an issue were able to get out of the jam.

For Tauriello, fielding has been an emphasis with this team, and it’s paying dividends during this win streak.

“What you do in practice day in and day out is what it takes to win the game. Staying down on the ball, keeping your eye on the ball — everything we practice, every single practice is what’s going to take us forward.”

While the fielding wasn’t perfect, she was happy with the results.

“We’re going to put runners on base, so we need to be flawless on the field,” Tauriello said. “We were fighting to be 4-4 and this was a big game for us, and they got the job done.”

Now the Mounties finally return to their home field at Fortunato and face a tough team in the form of West Essex but Tauriello is very confident about where the team is.

“I feel good about going into the West Essex game. Three straight games with good momentum going — I got a good feeling about it.”

Tauriello also knows that this talented team can beat some of the schools it struggled against earlier in the season. She knows they can improve upon their play next time around.

“We’re going to start facing these teams a second time. Any team that has gone after us and beaten us, we’re going after them 10 times stronger this time around.”