(Note: This story also appeared in Jim Hague’s sports column last weekend, which you can also read on line each week at hudsonreporter.com)
It was two Tuesdays ago, and the Weehawken High School softball team was facing local rival Secaucus in a game that could be best described as a proving ground contest.
It was a way for the upstart Indians to prove that they belonged. They were facing the Patriots, who two years ago accomplished the unthinkable by winning the Hudson County Tournament for the very first time.
In the past, Weehawken could never dare to compete with Secaucus in practically anything, even if Secaucus students once were forced to attend Weehawken High because Secaucus didn’t have a school of its own. But that was more than 40 years ago. A lot of the current residents don’t remember those days.
They certainly can recall the decades of dominance that Secaucus simply had on Weehawken.
“Last year, we lost to them in the second round of the states,” said Weehawken head coach Joe Coffaro. “No matter what happens, it’s still Secaucus and it’s still very competitive.”
Well, it has been competitive — if you reside in Secaucus. If you live in Weehawken up the hill a little bit, chances are you didn’t compete with Secaucus at all. You tried, but failed miserably, time and time again.
So here comes this upstart softball team from Weehawken, winners of 12 of their last 15 games, taking on the seemingly invincible Patriots.
Sure enough, a week ago Tuesday, Weehawken finally got one in a huge way, defeating Secaucus, 16-0, ridding themselves of the demons that hovered over them for ages.
And who do the Indians have to thank for their incredible turnaround? A pair of twin sisters named Sophie and Samantha Chong.
The two, now juniors, have helped to totally alter the image of the Weehawken softball team, perhaps forever.
“Before they came, the program had four wins,” Coffaro said. “Since they’ve been here, we have more than 40 wins. You don’t have to be a genius to figure out how big this was. I couldn’t wait to get home and scream, “You just beat Secaucus.’ We all know how successful they’ve been. It was a nice win to have.”
Sure is. The Chongs are the Indians pitcher and catcher, Sophie the pitcher, Samantha the catcher. They are totally in tuned with each other and complement each other so well, like twin sisters generally do.
“We’ve been together forever,” Sophie Chong said with a laugh. “The chemistry between us is very good. But it’s good with the whole team.”
“We push each other,” Samantha Chong said. “We try to make each other better.”
But this is a special pair.
Just how special? Try this one on for size.
Both girls were approaching the impressive milestone of their 100th career hit. They each entered the week only a few hits shy of the milestone.
As it turned out in the Secaucus game, Sophie lined a double to reach the 100-hit club. In the same inning, Samantha smacked a single that drove Sophie home for her 100th career hit.
That’s beyond uncanny. In fact, it’s almost spooky. To have the twins reach the same impressive milestone in the same inning?
“I never experienced anything like this in all the years I’m coaching softball,” said Coffaro, who was an assistant coach with the highly successful Pequannock High School program before coming to Weehawken eight years ago. “It’s unbelievable that they did it in the same inning.”
It’s been a season of milestones for Sophie Chong, who recorded the 500th strikeout of her career a few weeks ago.
She’s having an incredible season, batting .542 with 39 hits, 28 runs scored, 22 RBI and three home runs to go with her pitching exploits.
“It’s pretty crazy,” Sophie Chong said. “I think we knew we were going to be more competitive this season. So we really worked hard to get ready.”
Sophie has already had 14 games this season with two or more hits. She had five hits and five RBI in a early season win over Wallington, had four hits in a win over North Arlington and three hits, four runs scored and four RBI in the win over Secaucus.
Samantha is certainly no slouch. She’s hitting a robust .523 with 34 hits, 21 runs scored, a team-high 30 RBI and also belted three homers. She’s collected four hits in a game three times this season and has 10 games with multiple hits.
“It’s been a great year and it’s not even over yet,” Samantha said. “I’m pretty pleased with what we’ve done and where we’re at.”
The sisters have another year to terrorize opponents in the North Jersey Interscholastic Conference before heading on to college. It’s taking a little while for the word to get out to the college recruiters. Misericordia College in Pennsylvania has shown interest, along with Felician College and Georgian Court. But it’s still early. The Chongs are just juniors and a lot of colleges do their work in the summer months after the season.
“We really want to play softball in college,” said Sophie.
The sisters are also fine basketball players, but they realize that their bread-and-butter is softball.
Although the Indians were eliminated from the Hudson County Tournament by Union City this week, falling in a 2-1 decision, the Indians head to the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group I playoffs as the No. 9 seed. They will play Bloomfield Tech in the first round Monday in Newark.
With the Chongs and players like Jennifer Acosta (.338 batting average, three HRs, 21 RBI), the Indians have more than a puncher’s chance of making some noise in the section.
Weehawken is not a pushover anymore. The Indians are no longer a laughingstock. The Chongs have seen to that.