MONTVILLE, NJ - The Montville baseball team's incredible run to the sectional final came to an end on Friday afternoon, as the fifth seeded Mustangs dropped a close, 3-2 loss to third seed Roxbury in the North 1, Group 3 final at Roxbury High School.
Montville trailed, 2-0 going into the fifth inning after a pair of home runs by Roxbury's Will Findlay. Junior Zach Sylvester gave his team some life though, as he hit a two-run home run in the fifth to tie the score. But the Mustangs gave up a run on a throwing error in the bottom half of the fifth, and were unable to muster any more offense against Roxbury starter Jack Findlay.
Although the team came up short of the ultimate goal of a sectional title, it showed off its trademark grittiness which helped it get to this point, as evidenced by Sylvester's clutch home run in the fifth.
"I think if one word could put our season in a nutshell, it's battle," Montville coach Ian Schwindel said. "There were battles every day and I think that's what made this team a special one as these guys were so willing to stand up for themselves, and down the stretch run they were able to channel that mentality into battling for each other which was a key to our success."
Montville's run to the sectional final included a thrilling comeback win in the quarterfinals against 14th seed Northern Highlands, before Matt Bettio's six scoreless innings helped lift Montville to a 3-0 upset of top seed Paramus in the semifinals.
The season was an up-and-down 16-12 campaign for the team, with the positives including a nine-game winning streak, a trip to the county semifinals and to the sectional final. It was a year that Schwindel, who finished his first season as head coach, will remember.
"There were a ton of moments with this crew," Schwindel said. "They are a passionate and fun group to be around. Though we fell short of winning a championship, we had three outstanding runs. The run to the county semifinals with Max Kamper's pinch-hit home run which led us to face a national talent in (Delbarton's) Jack Leiter (in the semifinals), a nine-game win streak, and this run to the sectional finals were all special times that a lot of these guys will hopefully take with them forever."
It also marked the end of the road for Montville's deep and talented senior class, which included standouts such as Matt Bettio, along with some other players who filled key roles despite not having much varsity experience going into the year.
"These seniors had a very tough task in stepping in- many for the first time at the varsity level- and having to contribute beyond their experience," Schwindel said. "We replaced a lot of good baseball players with...a lot of good baseball players, and I believe that is a trend that won't stop. The younger guys who got to be a part of this thing- including our JV squad who gave us great life on the bench during states- got a taste and I think that is going to propel us into a very productive offseason.
"Going back to the seniors, they were impactful in more ways than they know. They were able to help imprint the vision I have for this program and will forever be a part of our family."
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