The Vernon High School softball team started off considerably slowly during this spring’s regular season. But the good news is how the Vikings responded, which was with resilience, pride and determination.
Kerry Ludeking, Vernon’s veteran and successful head coach, recalled the moment when her team turned their season around in a positive way.
“It started with Kinnelon on a Monday [April 11], just coming off of a 0-5 start with two losses on the weekend,’’ Ludeking said. “We faced a very good team, and they could have folded, but this team found the fire they needed to bring a win to their team. This started a new beginning for this team.
“Then the biggest, most memorable one was definitely with a strong North Warren team [an 8-7 victory on May 5], 11 innings of back and forth, with nerves going and the fire and determination of the team, we pulled it off-and we never turned back. Now the best and toughest one of all was Monday [a 5-2 win on May 23], against Jefferson, this was the game for the Conference Championship; we played our tough defense and we never gave up to win that title.’’
Leadership on the roster was vital to the success of the Vikings this year.
“This team had a different leader every day,’’ Ludeking said. “This team didn’t have just one, but it needed all to be leaders, it had all 10 of them pick each other up or make sure they were cheering each other on. When it comes to stats, each and every one of them led in a different category. From Sydney Grifone pitching with 206 strikeouts on the year, Lucy McRae catcher, one pass ball on the year and not once but twice with game winning hits. Lydia Alheidt, third base, kept stealing hits from all, while playing a position that was not her favorite and laying down and leading the team in sacrifice bunts several times to set up the winning runs.
“Jenna Moser stepped into short stop after being in the outfield [and] is one of the leaders on the team with steals this year. Skye Ivancich, second base, came back from an injury to lead off the team and have the highest on-base percentage, with most walks and hits by pitches. Audrey Baldwin, designated player, also led the team with the longest hitting streak of 10 games. Leigh Rose Hart, first base, led the team with hits and batting average. Jess Lefort, right field, put three direct throws to home for an out and led the team with RBIs. Natalie Hasert, center field, led the team with triples and sacrifice flies, plus no errors on the year and stealing home runs from the other teams at the fence. Maryanna Cova-Gomez led with doubles while slapping her way through the season. So that is how we were led through our season.’’
Vernon finished with an impressive overall record of 16-7 and a championship winning mark of 8-2 in the Northwest Jersey Athletic Conference Freedom Division.
They also advanced to the NJSIAA North 1 Group 2 Sectional Tournament this past season.
The Vikings are, not surprisingly, optimistic for the 2023 season.
“We have some strong players coming up in the program and we have some strong Vernon eighth graders who can help make an impact with this program,’’ Ludeking said. “Vernon softball has kept the confident play we need, and with that attitude, winning will be there.’’
“Vernon softball has kept the confident play we need, and with that attitude, winning will be there.’’ - Vernon Softball Head Coach Kerry Ludeking