by Andrew Garda

The Montclair High School softball team lost in the opening round of the Essex County Tournament to Livingston Monday afternoon by a score of 12-2. The 11-seed Mounties jumped out to a two-run lead in the first, but 6-seed Livingston came back strong with five runs in the bottom half of the inning and never looked back.

While the Mounties kept finding ways on base with walks and the occasional hit, after the first inning they struggled to get runners on consistently and couldn’t score again.

The first inning the Mounties were able to generate offense, as Sofie Fachin drew a walk and advanced to second when Francesca Testa got a base hit. Then pitcher Jessica Masur drove the ball for a double, sending both players home.

While the Mounties couldn’t score again that inning, it was a great start.

Unfortunately, it didn’t last. The Lancers’ five-run inning came about not just because of good hitting — though Livingston certainly had that — but in part because of a pair of errors that extended the inning and allowed runners to advance.

Those mental errors frustrated coach Valerie Tauriello.

“We came out early and scored two runs but we can’t score runs and not play defense,” she said after the loss. “[Livingston] hit the ball hard, they hit it in the gaps, but we made a few fielding errors that gave them the chance to keep going and then we stopped hitting.”

At first it seemed as if the Mounties might respond to the five-run inning with some offense of their own. Milani Davis led things off in the top of the second with a base hit and then stole second. However, she never got further as the next three batters struck out.

It went like that for much of the rest of the game.

After a rough first inning, pitcher Jessica Masur did a very good job of settling down, blanking the Lancers for the next two. Unfortunately the fielding errors again reared their ugly heads and some good hitting from Livingston got the team into trouble in the bottom of the fourth, when MHS allowed another five runs.

Tauriello tried to get something going in the fifth when she subbed in Khristina Cassanova for Aliyah Taylor and Carli Miller for Seniah Thompson, but both struck out swinging and while Lily Silverstein drove the ball deep, Livingston was able to make the catch.

The Lancers added two more runs in the bottom of the fifth and the game was called.

The Mounties have little time to reboot, though they got back on track with a vengeance in a 9-2 victory over Bayonne High School on the road Tuesday. Now they must prepare to take on Linden at home on Thursday.