When she first started playing softball at the age of nine, Leigh Ann Murduca was not talented.
"I used to just stand there in the outfield and pray that the ball wouldn’t be hit to me," Murduca said. "I wasn’t that good when I was little. I just sort of stood there."
Six years later, Murduca’s still standing there, but she’s now the best high school softball player in Hudson County.
The talented sophomore pitcher from St. Dominic Academy led her team to the HCIAA Coviello Division title, the school’s first county crown since 1989, and the Blue Devils also captured the Hudson County Invitational tournament title for the first time ever.
For her efforts, Murduca is the 2003 Hudson Reporter High School Softball Player of the Year and heads this year’s highly talented Hudson Reporter All-Area Softball Team.
Murduca had a brilliant sophomore campaign, posting a 17-6 record on the mound with a 1.13 earned run average, with 160 strikeouts in 142 innings and walked just 32, facing top flight competition all over the country.
At the plate, Murduca batted .494 with two homers and 22 RBIs, including 11 doubles and two triples.
"I best describe Leigh Ann as a quiet storm," said SDA Coach Dave Majewski, who earned Hudson Reporter Coach of the Year honors for a second straight year. "You can see in her eyes, the intensity. She’s not a real rah-rah person and you barely know she’s out there. But on the mound, you can see it in her face, how desperately she wants to win. Her desire to win outmatches her ability at times."
Of the 18 young ladies who were selected to the team, an amazing 10 are repeat performers from last year’s All-Area team. In the 12-year history of the All-Area Softball Team, there has never been a larger representation from repeat honorees.
One performer is making her fourth consecutive appearance on the All-Area team, namely North Bergen’s sensational Jodie Hild, who leaves North Bergen with a legacy of greatness, including this season when she fanned a school and county record 253 batters, posted an 0.67 ERA, while batting .469 with two homers and 24 RBI. Hild had a phenomenal career and will move on to Fairleigh Dickinson to accomplish more great feats.
Other than Murduca and Hild, the other returnees to the All-Area team include pitcher Kristin Wilhelm of Secaucus (in her third straight appearance), Roxanne Schneider, Melissa Manzo and Dena Tomassi of St. Dominic Academy, Megan Gale (also in her third straight appearance) and Michelle Bartoli of HCIAA Seglio champion High Tech, Somaira Serrano of Hoboken and Tawana Cooper of Snyder.
The multi-talented Schneider made the team as an outfielder last year, but has been tabbed as an infielder this year.
The team also features three freshmen, namely Lauren DeGrushe and April Jacob of High Tech and Natalie Lugo of Hoboken, which means that any of those three have a chance to duplicate the "four-peat" compiled by North Bergen’s Hild.
But the year belonged to Murduca and the Blue Devils.
"I never thought something like this could happen, that I would be considered this good," Murduca said. "It really was a great year and a lot of fun. I think everyone on the team improved and it felt good to win everything."
And that just puts the pressure on Murduca and the Blue Devils for a repeat performance in 2004.