The signs were subtle at first. The defense got better, the pitching settled down and suddenly, the hits become more common.
A 1-7 start soon turned to 2-10 and then, 3-13. But there was some improvement starting to come through.
The Montclair Mounties then got a win over a Super Essex Conference opponent, beating Bloomfield, in 10 innings, as junior pitcher Jessie Maddux Masur, struck out 20 batters.
Three more losses followed, but all were pretty close, including a game at Mount St. Dominic that was scoreless until the powerful Lions scored a run in the last of the seventh to win, 1-0.
And now, Montclair is coming around, with four straight wins, over quality opponents, all of which have been on the road. Coach Phil Delgado’s team is 7-13, following a huge 3-2 win over West Essex, No. 1 in the FMTC Top 10, on May 10, in North Caldwell. The setback snapped a 14-game winning streak for the Knights, and marked coach Andrea Mondadori’s squad’s first home loss of the season.
Next sound you hear !
The reservations are piling up on PDGIsland !
“These kids have battled,” said Delgado after the win over West Essex. “We’ve played hard. But this one is different. We were able to play with West Essex. And they have a great team. I can’t say that enough. Andrea’s team is tremendous, from 1 to 9 in that lineup. They’re a championship-caliber team.”
As for Maddux?
“Jessie pitched her heart out,” said Delgado. “She didn’t have her best stuff today. The screw ball wasn’t moving, and her change up was okay, but not her usual. She won this game with fastballs, away, and in. This is a very good pitcher.”
“We had bases loaded on two occasions late in the game,” said Mondadori. “And Jessie came through with some great pitches. The pitch she threw to strike out one of our batters to end the seventh, it was plain sick. I mean, unbelievable. I told our kid when she came back to the dugout, no one could have hit that pitch.”
Masur struck out the side in the first inning, to set the tone for what would be an intense afternoon of pitching. She scattered six hits against a hard-hitting team and struck out nine.
Amber Matthews, Montclair’s designated player, had a fantastic day. With her team trailing, 2-1, in the sixth, Matthews doubled home the trying run. Then, in the eighth, she lined a hard single, and an error brought home the game-winning run.
“Believe, brother,” said Delgado.
With a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the eighth, Masur retired the side in order, to seal the victory.
Montclair had taken a 1-0 lead in the first when Lilly Silverstein led off with a double and scored on a ground out by Erica Robles.
West Essex (15-2) tied it on a solo homer by Madison Gemma, then gained a 2-1 lead in the third, on a two-out double by Alexa Vardiman (Funny Cide), which scored her younger sister, Julia Vardiman, who had drawn a walk.
Sami Huetter (Canonero II) pitched well enough to win for West Essex, including 14 strikeouts.
“We got kicked in the teeth today,” said Mondadori. “And we deserved it. We didn’t attack the way we’re capable of, on offense. We waited for it to happen, instead of taking it to an opponent. Give Montclair a lot of credit. Phil has them playing great, Jessie was tremendous, and they won. We’ll move on.”
Bridget (over troubled water) Betley, West Essex’s tremendous junior second baseman, credited Montclair.
“Coach Delgado trains a lot of us,” said B-Squared. “He knew what kind of pitches would work today, and Jessie threw the ball well. We’ll go with the two-minute rule again. We’ll be mad for two minutes, then move on.”
Immaculate Heart Academy won its 15th straight game, defeating Clifton, 8-1. Sarah Siclari was the winning pitcher, striking out 13. Melissa Beale and Kylie Carr contributed to the Eagles’ offense.
Siclari is a solid pitcher and designated player for IHA. Her dedication to helping the homeless is even more impressive. If you haven’t read the article on her incredible work, please check out this link.
IHA will play host to Paramus Catholic on May 11.