It didn’t take long for Montclair coach Phil Delgado to utter those three words.
“Big win, brother,” said the head coach and senior officer of PDGIsland.com, after the Mounties had upset Lodi Immaculate, 11-8, on May 2.
Two days later, Montclair was at it again, winning a big game on the road, this time in the Super Essex Conference, defeating Cedar Grove, at Panther Park, 5-3, in what may have been one of the better games I’ve seen all season long.
And one thing is for sure, Montclair (5-13) has not ducked anyone.
Delgado’s troops have played Mount St. Dominic twice, as well as West Essex, Nutley twice, Immaculate Heart Academy, Lodi Immaculate and Cedar Grove. And while the wins haven’t been frequent, there are a lot of positive signs.
The win over Cedar Grove marked Montclair’s first two-game winning streak of the season.
Montclair held Mount St. Dominic scoreless until the bottom of the seventh, and lost 1-0 last week. They were ahead of West Essex, 1-0, in the fourth inning, before a series of errors helped the Knights prevail.
Montclair had the lead in the seventh inning, before falling to Livingston, and played well against Nutley, losing 5-2.
The two intangibles for success, pitching and defense, are starting to take center stage for the young Mounties. Jessie ‘Maddux‘ Masur continues to throw strikes and keep teams off-balance. The outfield defense has improved immensely over the last month. The bats are also coming around, with key hits, led by Erica Robles.
In the win over Lodi Immaculate, Delgado admitted that Masur wasn’t at her best, but found a way to win.
“She battled,” said Delgado of the junior righty he’s dubbed Maddux. “She found a way to win, and that’s the sign of a good pitcher, getting it done against a good team.”
Maddux was outstanding in the win over Cedar Grove, pitching another complete game. And this was a huge victory, because it came against a hard-hitting team in the Panthers. Cedar Grove has some potent bats, led by Kailey Weinstein, Rianna Marinelli and Olivia Spinella. Sabrina Pereira is also a tremendous outfielder.
The biggest play may have been a phenomenal catch by Montclair junior Seniah Thompson. To set the stage, Montclair was leading, 5-3, in the bottom of the sixth, and Cedar Grove had runners on second and third, with two outs. A long fly to right center appeared destined for the gap, which was an easy double, and assuredly a tie game. But Thompson never left her stride and made a beautiful catch near the fence, for the final out of the inning. It was a Sam Corio (Pleasant Colony) moment.
Delgado was one of the first out of the dugout, sprinting to the outfield to congratulate Thompson, as well as making sure no one was injured on the play.
And Ed Bates was going crazy, as his Mounties were in the process of winning a key game.
“Seniah made a similar catch in the Lodi Immaculate game,” said Delgado. “Our kids are making plays now that a month ago didn’t seem possible.”
Maddux would work out of a jam in the seventh inning, as well, and struck out the final batter to end the game.
Cedar Grove coach Nicole Velardi was disappointed, but felt both teams played well.
“We didn’t hit well with runners in scoring position,” said Velardi. “We did hit the ball hard against Jessie, but Montclair made some good plays on defense. They deserve the credit. I think we’re coming around, too.”
The last time Montclair had played at Cedar Grove was three weeks ago, when it participated in the Black and Gold Tournament. There, the Mounties lost one-sided games to IHA and Lenape Valley.
“How bad were we that day?” said Delgado. “Compare that to now. The kids are having fun and starting to see what they’re capable of.”
Delgado often kids about ‘The Island’ he usually finds himself on.
PDG Island may need a small landing strip for visiting aircraft soon. (Click on picture for larger image).
“It’s starting to get a little crowded on the island,” said Delgado with a laugh. “The rain today was a good thing, too, because the lush vegetation on the island could use the rain.”
And with that, Delgado climbed onto the bus for the short trip back to Montclair.
Next sound you hear, brother.
It could be the sound of Montclair winning another close game.