The Weehawken High School softball program hasn’t exactly been setting the world on fire for several years. In fact, it’s maybe even longer than that.
It’s not readily known when the last time the Indians were even a factor on the softball diamond. It has been that long. Most people in Weehawken have chosen to forget rather than try to remember.
However, prospects have dramatically changed for the better this year, thanks to the addition of a new freshman pitcher and a new freshman catcher.
They just happen to have been born on the same day to the same family, albeit 80 minutes apart.
Sophie Chong is the new Indians’ pitcher. Twin sister Samantha is the catcher.
Together, the Chong twins have pumped some life and excitement into a program that was totally moribund forever.
Head coach Joe Coffaro was totally aware of the immense talents of the Chong twins for years, since they played in the Weehawken Recreation league.
“I saw them play on the recreation level and knew they had a lot of talent,” Coffaro said. “I couldn’t wait for them to get here.”
But there was no way Coffaro could have predicted the impact the sisters would have.
“Not as freshmen,” Coffaro said. “I thought it might take a little while. I was hoping to get their feet wet a little, but they’re not playing like freshmen. I didn’t think it could happen this quickly.”
However, Coffaro knew one important factor about high school softball.
“If you have a steady pitcher and catcher, that’s the foundation of a good team,” Coffaro said. “Luckily for me, I have them both for three more years.”
How much of an impact have Sophie and Samantha had on the Indians? Well, a year ago, Weehawken won a total of seven games.
Last Friday, when the Indians defeated St. Mary’s of Rutherford, 12-0, it marked the ninth win of this season.
And in that game, Sophie Chong hurled a perfect game, striking out 12, including the 100th batter this season.
Samantha had two hits and three RBI in the win. It’s been the recipe for success this season, a little dose of Chong and Chong, without need for any Cheech.
Sophie Chong was ready to be a top pitcher this season, freshman or not.
“I knew the program wasn’t doing well, so I was looking forward to trying to help turn things around,” Sophie Chong said. “I didn’t think I’d jump right in and have everything happen so quickly. This was going to be a building year for us, so it has been somewhat of a surprise.”
And as for the perfect game?
“I was just focusing on throwing strikes,” Sophie Chong said. “I didn’t realize it was a perfect game until after it was over.”
While Sophie has been the pitching force, Samantha has been a terror at the plate.
“Even though she’s a freshman, she’s definitely the leader on the team,” Coffaro said. “She tells the others what to do, what the situation is in the game. She has a great personality and the umpires point that out to me, giving her compliments.”
On the season, Samantha is batting .456 with nine doubles and 22 RBI. Sophie is no slouch at the plate, batting .350 with nine RBI.
“I’m not that good of a hitter,” Sophie Chong admits. “She’s better than me.”
The catcher, the younger twin by 80 minutes (how rare is that?), sings her sister’s praises.
“I’m so proud of her and what she’s done this year,” Samantha Chong said. “She’s really improved so much.”
For their efforts, the Chong twins have been selected as the Hudson Reporter Co-Athletes of the Week for the past week. It marks the first time in the 23-year history of the weekly feature that twins have shared the honor in the same week.
While the sisters share their softball prowess and determination, they admittedly are definitely different.
“We’re like night and day,” Samantha Chong said. “We wear different clothes and like different things. We act differently. I’m definitely louder. Sophie is the quiet one. We argue with each other a lot.”
“Basically, we have those days where we want to fight,” Sophie Chong said. “We actually sometimes fight on the mound. I think we just get sick of each other. But we’re so comfortable with each other, so that’s why we’re doing well. I’ve been pitching to her since fourth grade. It just sort of happened. She has always been the better catcher. We may fight sometimes, but she’s always there for me. It’s good to have someone with me all the time.”
Samantha Chong was protecting her sister during the perfect game.
“After she got the 100th strikeout, I was so happy for her,” Samantha Chong said. “But I knew she had the perfect game going. So I wouldn’t let anyone talk to her on the bench. I kept everyone away from her as much as possible. I didn’t want to jinx it.”
Although the twins also play basketball and do that well, they really put a lot of time into their softball skills.
“We go to a lot of clinics and go to batting and pitching coaches,” Samantha Chong explained. “I took it upon myself to focus more on the offense. Sophie does a great job with the pitching. We put in a lot of work, because we wanted to get this team going. I wouldn’t want anything else than to share this with Sophie. It’s been a challenge, but it’s what we wanted to do.”
Needless to say, it’s double trouble for Weehawken opponents – both this year and for the ensuing three more seasons.
“I couldn’t ask for two better kids,” said Coffaro, who was an assistant coach at perennial winning Pequannock before coming to Weehawken last year. “We’ve definitely improved and hopefully we keep going in the right direction.”
As long as the Indians keep going from Chong to Chong, then chances are they’ll be in fine shape for quite some time. – Jim Hague
Jim Hague can be reached at OGSMAR@aol.com.