The Montclair high school baseball team closed out a productive 13-15 season which saw season highlights against tough state-ranked competitors.
“We had a fun year, we really enjoyed competing on a daily basis,” said head coach Ron Gavazzi. “The players worked as hard as they could to improve daily and as a coach it was enjoyable to watch them no doubt.”
The Mounties closed out their season just below .500 after edging out Livingston, 6-5, on Saturday, June 3.
Despite trailing, the team displayed the fight it has showed all season long by rallying with a two-run seventh inning to overtake the Lancers.
“I can’t think of a time where there was a moment that we didn’t want to give our all and really fight to win,” junior second baseman Danny Banks said. “Just our hunger to win and to succeed, I want to bring that over into next season.”
Gavazzi recalled highlights throughout the season in which the Mounties topped two state-ranked teams in Milburn (7-4) and Bayonne (10-7). The squad also enjoyed two Greater Newark Tournament wins against Bloomfield (4-1) and Livingston (6-1), to advance to the semifinals. Montclair put up a huge performance against No. 1 Seton Hall Prep, outhitting the Pirates, 5-4, but ultimately fell to a 1-0 decision.
The Mounties also made a run in the state tournament, winning their opening game on the road at Passaic County Technical with a dominant 5-0 victory.
“We definitely step up our level of play whenever we have a big time opponent on the field and I think that those wins are really big for the program,” Banks said. “We knew we were capable of getting it done because of not only our talent but our hunger to win. Winning those games felt amazing because it’s always fun to kind of prove everybody wrong and coming out on top in those games was a really great feeling that everybody really enjoyed throughout the season.”
Montclair saw senior right-handed pitcher Henry Brooks step into a pivotal role for the team with his performance on the mound, moving from a reliever role to a starter.
“He really gave our team the spark we needed to succeed the way we did,” Gavazzi said. “He was definitely a big part of our success throughout the entire season.”
According to Gavazzi, it was Banks who also showed great leadership throughout the year and led the team on and off the field. As the team graduates a large class in 10 seniors, the players will look to Banks to help pave the way for a more successful season.
“I just hope to be the best leader I can be for the team,” Banks said. “All of the guys that are coming up or have been on the team this year and last year are all incredibly mature and will help me lead just as much as I would be myself, so everybody is going to be a big part of leading the team.”
The team will also return sophomore Evan Chaladoff who recorded 14 hits on the season including three doubles and one triple and classmate Kyle Miller who nabbed
13 30 hits, eight runs scored and four stolen bases on the season.
“We feel strongly about our future, we don’t feel like we’re in a rebuilding mode or anything,” Gavazzi said. “We’re just going to be a program in transition, but we’re excited about our opportunity to improve and we’re really looking forward to the ’17-18 baseball team.”
As for Banks, he’s pleased with the productivity of the season and the maturing of his teammates.
“We definitely could have improved in some areas but I think overall we became better men for sure and better ball players as well,” Banks said.
Photos (Montclair High School Varsity Baseball Team): Glenn Wright