Nerylix Cerda had no idea she had such a prominent distinction when she went to school last Tuesday morning.
The High Tech High School senior, who competes athletically with the North Bergen High School athletic program, received a phone call from her softball coach, the veteran granddaddy of Hudson County softball coaches Tom Eagleson.
“Coach [Eagleson] called me to tell me,” Cerda said. “I honestly had no idea. It felt great to see that.”
Listed in a daily newspaper were the state leaders in extra base hits among New Jersey high school softball players. Atop that list of leaders was Cerda.
“It felt good to be No. 1,” Cerda said. “I did recognize the girl from McNair [Academic, namely Sarah Beckner, who was third], but I never heard of some of the towns and schools on that list. It means a lot to me. I never expected it.”
With 12 doubles, four triples and four homers, Cerda’s 20 extra base hits are more than any other softball player in New Jersey. Beckner is third with 17. They are the only two players listed from Hudson County.
“She swings so hard and hits the ball to all fields,” Eagleson said. “I don’t know where she hits the ball more. One minute, she’s hitting it hard to left and the next, she’s driving it down the right field line. The ball can go anywhere. She has great gap power and it helps that she’s fast. And she has the ability to hit it past the outfield. It’s a bullet almost every time off her bat. She hits the ball so hard, so that helps her get the power numbers.”
Eagleson had no clue that his standout shortstop was leading the entire state in extra base hits.
“I knew she had a lot, but I didn’t know that much,” Eagleson said. “I also didn’t know what the other girls in the state had. It’s a great achievement for her.”
For her efforts, Cerda has been selected as The Hudson Reporter Athlete of the Week for the past week.
Cerda said that she’s more relaxed at the plate this season and that might be the cause of the power surge.
“I’m relaxed because I have so much experience,” said Cerda, who has played for the Bruins the last three seasons, one in the outfield and the last two at shortstop. “When I hit, I clear my mind and don’t think of anything except hitting the ball. I don’t think there’s a key to hitting the ball to all fields. If there’s an outside pitch, I’ll take it the other way. I like hitting to right field. Most of my power is to center and right. I just go with the pitches.”
The relaxation has worked wonders, because Cerda is batting .600 with all those extra base hits.
“We were playing Caldwell last Saturday and we were down three runs with two outs and two strikes in the seventh inning,” Eagleson said. “Well, Nerylix hit a three-run homer to tie the game. She’s been tremendous. You never know when she’s going to come through.”
Cerda said that she doesn’t pay attention to her gaudy batting numbers.
“I don’t care about hitting for a high average,” Cerda said. “Coach [Eagleson] tells me how well I’m doing, but I don’t care. It’s basically for my team. We have good pitching already [with senior lefty Jessica Feria leading the way]. I just think we needed some more hitting.”
Cerda moved from the outfield to shortstop two years ago and never missed a beat.
“Actually, shortstop is my original position, when I was growing up and playing recreation softball,” Cerda said. “It was an easy move for me.”
Cerda also plays volleyball in the fall and basketball in the winter, but it’s on the softball diamond where she really shines.
“I keep busy all the time, so I don’t get much time to do anything else,” Cerda said. “I just keep playing, from sport to sport. In softball, I think it’s just my years of experience finally paying off. It’s a great feeling.”
Cerda said that playing softball in the summer for the Hoboken Shockers, who played in Minnesota last summer for the RBI World Series championship, has also helped.
“She’s a dedicated softball player,” Eagleson said. “And she can run well.”
Cerda has decided she wants to attend The College of New Jersey in the fall and would like to try out for the softball team there. Cerda will major in either mathematics or business at TCNJ.
“I’ll try out there,” Cerda said.
“Without a doubt, Nerylix can play on the next level,” Eagleson said. “I think maybe outfield might be more her spot in college. But she can definitely hit with anyone I’ve seen.”
Cerda just wants to enjoy the final few weeks of her high school athletic career.
“It’s my last year and I’m trying to have fun and enjoy my last year,” Cerda said. “Of course, I’m going to try to win. I know we have the team. It might be easier said than done.”
Incredibly, Cerda is the third High Tech student to garner Hudson Reporter Athlete of the Week honors in the past week, joining A.J. Gale of North Bergen and David Strandberg of Weehawken.
“It shows that we still have excellent athletes at the school;” Cerda said. “We might not have sports, but we have good athletes.”
That includes the young lady who leads the state in extra base hits. – Jim Hague
Jim Hague can be reached at OGSMAR@aol.com.