by Andrew Garda

It was a rough preseason for the Montclair varsity softball team.

The weather kept them from practicing outside or scrimmaging, which means that part of their early schedule will involve knocking off the rust they’d normally remove during the preseason. On top of that, they had to contend with several injuries to players, including a concussion to their starting catcher and an outfielder with an injured elbow.

It’s no wonder they looked off-kilter in an 8-0 loss to Livingston this past Monday night.

The Mounties had four errors on the day, and that, coupled with some bad throws, contributed to their woes as well.
“In order for us to make the outs, we have to field the ball. We didn’t do that today,” Coach Valerie Tauriello said after the game.

MHS has several players out of position due to injuries and it showed. The players were also tentative at the plate, striking out six times and generating just two hits through seven innings — a single by right fielder Seniah Thompson in the third and a double by second baseman Grace Chellius in the fourth.

“They were very indecisive at the plate today,” Tauriello said.

There were similar issues on the basepaths as well, as the team made numerous mistakes on the rare occasion they got on base.

The team has to turn things around quickly with tough games against Nutley, Cedar Grove and Robbinsville over the next four days if the weather holds (Tuesday’s game against Demarest was cancelled due to rain).
Tauriello is optimistic that the Mounties will get things back on track.

“These girls are mentally tough,” she said recently. “Whatever comes their way, they’ll handle it. It’s a very different vibe than I’ve seen in the past. This is a very serious and dedicated team.”

They’ll need to be.

That especially goes for the starting pitcher, Jess Masur, who was roughed up Monday afternoon. Masur didn’t pitch poorly by any stretch, but Livingston’s hitters had her number.

“I thought Jess pitched well,” Tauriello noted. “She had to find the empty spots here and there, but [Livingston is] a very good hitting team.”

The errors added to Masur’s issues as well.

At some point, injured players will return and the lineup will shift back to normal. However, some players will get hurt and the coaches will move others to different positions and spots in the lineup.

That means the mental fortitude Tauriello referred to will continue to be tested as the Mounties make their way through the season. If the Mounties are going to bounce back, the team needs a short memory.

“Hopefully that was just first-game jitters and we got it all out,” Tauriello said.

With a long season ahead of them, the Mounties had better hope they had done just that.

Next up for Montclair is a Friday game at neighboring Cedar Grove, followed by Saturday afternoon’s game at Immaculate Heart Academy in Bergen County, where MHS will face a Robbinsville team that won 19 games a season ago.