Emily Verdon had to have some level of frustration. After all, the Weehawken High School senior won just one game as a sophomore softball player. That’s right, the entire year and one win.
The Indians improved immensely as Verdon moved to her junior year. They won all of two games.
So when the Indians started off her senior year with 12 straight losses, the senior pitcher Verdon had to think that maybe it was her. Maybe she wasn’t ever meant to be on a winner.
“It was pretty tough,” Verdon said. “As the season went on, I think we all gained some confidence.”
But the Indians had nothing to show for it.
“We just weren’t clicking,” said first-year Weehawken head coach Joe Coffaro. “Emily has always been a pretty good pitcher. She’s been averaging eight strikeouts per game.”
Verdon really took her softball seriously in the off-season. She joined a summer and fall league with a team based out of West Milford. That alone is dedication, considering the commute from Weehawken all the way to West Milford in the northern most parts of Passaic County.
“A friend of mine recommended me,” Verdon said. “It really helped me a lot and kept me improving with my pitching.”
Verdon then also went to several pitching clinics and took lessons at Lefty’s in Clifton.
“I guess I went there at least once a week during the winter months,” Verdon said.
That also wasn’t easy, considering Verdon was a member of the girls’ basketball team at Weehawken during the winter months.
“It was pretty difficult, juggling my school work, playing basketball and getting softball in,” Verdon said. “I had a scheduled time every week for my pitching lessons. I would run from basketball practice, come home, change and run out to Clifton. I did it because I wanted to be a better pitcher.”
But it looked as if all that dedication and hard work was going to be for nothing, as the Indians lost their first 12 games of the season, even though Verdon was vastly improved as a pitcher.
“She had all of her pitches working,” Coffaro said. “She throws a fastball, a changeup and a screwball. She also fields her position well. I was more concerned with her pitching.”
There were games in the early part of the season that the Indians had a tough time fielding the ball behind her.
“In the past, I would take it upon myself to make the plays,” Verdon said. “My Dad [Weehawken Recreation co-director Chris Verdon] told me to shake it off and concentrate more. I wasn’t as bothered by it. It took a lot of training to get to this point.”
Finally, somehow, some way, the Indians began to see the light.
“We just started clicking,” Coffaro said. “We started making the plays in the field and that gave her a chance to pitch the way she can pitch.”
The Indians defeated Wallington to stop the slide, but the winning didn’t stop there.
With Verdon on the mound, they defeated perennial rival St. Mary’s of Rutherford, then Cresskill, 2-1, with Verdon throwing a five hitter and striking out eight.
Last Monday, Verdon pitched the best gem of her career, a one-hit shutout in a 4-0 victory over Cliffside Park, a game where Verdon struck out nine to surpass 100 strikeouts for the season.
So Verdon has won four games in the past week – more than she won her entire career prior.
For her efforts, Verdon has been selected as The Hudson Reporter Athlete of the Week. Verdon becomes the first Weehawken girl athlete to ever receive the honor in the 23-year history of the Athlete of the Week feature.
Needless to say, the sensation of winning has caught everyone in Weehawken by surprise, including the standout pitcher.
“I knew we could do it,” Verdon said. “We just needed a little confidence. It feels amazing.”
Verdon was asked if there was a major reason for her personal turnaround.
“I have more control now,” Verdon said. “I used to be wild. I don’t walk as many. It’s definitely helped me to be more accurate.”
“She definitely wanted to go out with a bang,” Coffaro said. “I wish I had another year with her, because it seems we just got it going in the right direction now. This program is obviously not used to winning, but we’ve proven lately that we can compete with other teams. Everyone is in awe here because we’ve won three in a row. It’s awesome.
Added Coffaro, “I knew Emily had the talent. She just needed the team to play better behind her. We’re making the routine plays, fly balls, grounders. She just has to make her pitches and the players are making the plays. In softball, you’re only as good as your pitcher. Pitching is the key. She’s doing a very good job.”
Verdon just wants to continue pitching the way she has over the last two weeks.
“It’s been an amazing run,” Verdon said. “I’m so happy we’ve turned things around.”
Verdon will head to Bergen County Community College in the fall to continue her softball career.
“I’ll figure out where I’m going with my life once I get there,” Verdon said. “For now, I know I want to play softball.”
Somehow, winning a few games can do a lot for one’s confidence. – Jim Hague
Jim Hague can be reached at OGSMAR@aol.com.