by Andrew Garda

The Montclair High School softball team had a rough homecoming last Thursday, as they lost to West Essex by a score of 14-1.

The Mounties had been playing their home games at Grove Street Field for the start of the season due to a conflict with boys lacrosse home games. While the field is a nice one, it wasn’t home and at times the players didn’t feel comfortable there.

Despite that, they made the most of it and won their last two games at the location as part of a three-game winning streak.

Returning to Fortunato Field, the Mounties were hoping to carry that momentum forward. Instead, they ran into the buzz saw that is the West Essex Knights.

The Knights came into the game with a 10-2 record and are considered one of the top — if not the top — softball programs in the state and are vying for the SEC-American Division lead alongside Mount St. Dominic.

Knights pitcher Sami Huetter was tough on the Mounties, but they were able to get to her during the third inning when they scored their lone run.

During that inning, Lily Silverstein led things off with a double, then ended up on third base when Paige Davenport reached first on an infield hit. Francesca Testa then drove Silverstein in with a double of her own.

Meanwhile MHS pitcher Jessica Masur worked hard for every out and gutted through several tough spots to get big outs.

While she struggled in the first inning, when West Essex scored their first four runs, she battled back and only allowed one more run through the fourth inning. Masur helped her own cause as well, fielding a hard ground ball hit back directly at her as well as a rocketed line drive in the fifth.

The Mounties were never able to claw back into the game though, and West Essex was able to capitalize on some mistakes here and there to extend its lead.

For coach Valerie Tauriello, this was just a game the team is going to have to file away and forget.

“I told them to forget about anything that happened today. I could rehash mistakes all day, but this is the type of game where you need to walk off the field and forget about it.”

Tuesday’s game against Paramus was rained out and Nutley’s was threatened the same way on Wednesday as of press time, but even if both games are canceled, lingering on issues from a game like this won’t help turn things around.

So Tauriello will work the players and get them back on track for the next group of teams, many of which are divisional matchups — in fact, five of their last 10 regular-season games are divisional games.

That means even with the loss the Mounties remain in a great position to make a run in the American Division.

“We’re starting to play these teams twice and gear up and get ready for them. That’s all we can do.”