Montclair has been battling all season long, against a tough schedule, coming close, at times, but unable to finish the deal against a Super Essex Conference American Division opponent.
On April 25, the Mounties finally prevailed, defeating Bloomfield, 5-3, in 11 innings at The Pond, in Bloomfield. In what may have been one of the more exciting games in Essex County this year, Montclair jumped out to a 2-0 first inning lead, on a big two-out, two-run single by Francesca Testa, and appeared to be coasting behind the stellar pitching of junior righty Jessie ‘Maddux‘ Masur.
But has been the case in most of its closer losses, Montclair (3-10) had a bad inning, when Bloomfield rallied to tie it, and then threatened to break the game open, in the sixth inning. But this time, Montclair responded with a huge double play to end the rally, and from there, both teams played five more intense innings, including two frames under the international tiebreaker rule.
“We really needed that one,” said Montclair coach Phil Delgado. “Wow, that was a big step for this team. In that sixth inning, we were in big trouble, and a few weeks ago, we probably lose the game. But our kids stepped up.”
Masur was outstanding, striking out 20 in a complete game effort.
“I call her Maddux because she paints the corners and has great movement on her ball,” said Delgado in comparing his pitcher to MLB Hall of Famer, Greg Maddux. “She had a good game last Friday against West Essex, but our defense let her down late in that game. Jessie really bore down today.”
Mazur didn’t even know the game had gone 11 innings.
“The scoreboard said nine innings (the numbers don’t go higher than nine), so I didn’t really think about it,” Maddux said with a laugh. “I just kept pitching.”
Bloomfield (6-8) got a solid pitching effort from starter Courtney Politz, before giving way to Samantha Corio, who had a tremendous all-around game. Corio had made a diving catch to stop one rally earlier in the game, then threw out a base runner attempting to score from third base, with a perfect peg to the plate.
Corio would pitch the next few innings, and was solid, working out of a few jams, before the Mounties broke through with three runs in the top of the 11th. Montclair took the lead on a wild throw to third base, then extended to a 4-2 advantage on a solo homer by Erica Robles. Mazur would add a key insurance run later in the frame, when she drilled an RBI single.
Montclair also got a big catch from Sofie Fachin in the 10th inning that saved the game. The ball was hit between the shortstop and left field, and if Fachin doesn’t catch it, Bloomfield would have scored the game-winning run there.
For Bloomfield, third baseman Kim Zapata made two stellar catches to end a Montclair rally in the 10th inning.
“(Zapata) made some really good catches for Bloomfield,” said Delgado. “And Sam Corio is so good, it’s ridiciulous. She made some plays in the outfield that were hard to believe. Hey, I’m all about seeing good, quality softball and any team coached by (Bloomfield’s) Bob Mayer will always battle you. The guy has won over 500 games. That speaks for itself.”
Delgado’s enthusiasm can be infectious. Following the game, I got a text from someone quite familiar with Essex softball, who wrote “who wouldn’t want to play for him?”
Corio was disappointed afterward, but knew her team was right there.
“I didn’t hit the ball as well as I could have today,” said Corio, who will play at Kean University this fall. “(Masur) pitched me inside effectively, and I guess I didn’t adjust to that as well as I could have. Coach Delgado knows me pretty well, from summer ball. I’ll get back on track.”
The Mount St. Dominic Lions paid tribute to the late IHA coach, Anthony LaRezza, in its game on April 25. It was a very classy move by a first-class program.
Seedings for the 39th Essex County Tournament are expected to be announced by April 26, or 27. Two-time defending champion Mount St. Dominic should be the top seed, but a committee will decide the matchups.
Here is the FMTC updated Top 10.
1-Mount St. Dominic (12-1): The Lions keep rolling, including a tremendous weekend in Ohio, where it won a pair of games in a national showcase.
2-West Essex (10-1): The Knights have a nine-game winning streak and will have a huge matchup with Mount St. Dominic on April 27, in North Caldwell.
3-Nutley (10-2): Senior pitcher Emily Holden (Genuine Risk) continues to throw the ball well for the Raiders, including wins over Jackson Liberty and Livingston.
4-Livingston (6-7): The Big Green Machine had a pair of wins last week and will be a factor in the upcoming county tournament.
5-Newark Academy (7-3): The Minutemen won three straight last week, all by double digits.
6-Cedar Grove (6-7): The Panthers are young, but head coach Nicole Velardi feels the team is starting to find a rhythm.
7-Caldwell (10-1): The team with the most championships in the history of the ECT has been very consistent this year.
8-Bloomfield (6-8): Bengals presented head coach Bob Mayer his 500th career victory last weekend.
9-Verona (6-6): The Hillbillies lost a close game to arch rival Cedar Grove, 7-4, and could be a tough out in the ECT.
10-Millburn (13-0): The Millers continue to remain unbeaten, including a win over Columbia. It will be interesting to see where it is seeded for the counties.
The latest stud watch…Two new additions this week.
Sami Huetter, Canonero II
Sydney McCormack, Syd The Kid
Sophie Rosenberg, Arts and Letters
Alexa Vardiman, Funny Cide
Emily Holden, Genuine Risk
Sam Corio, Pleasant Colony
Out of Network:
Olivia Sprofera, Southpaw Slew
Reese Guevarra, Sunday Silence
Emilie Cieslak, Tim Tam