Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Jacksonville Players Play Their Way to the Top

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Jacksonville Players Play Their Way to the Top

Article excerpt

Byline: Mark Boleky

The came. They saw. They conquered. What else would you expect?

Their 14-and-under squad, coached by Rich Verderese, entered fall play at a new level of competition. This group of girls played at the 12-U level this summer, with impressive results. They won the Independent Softball Association 12-U World Series in McDonough, Ga., in July.

So, when they moved up to 14-U this fall, they were ready right away. Their first tournament in September, the Border Wars in Altamonte Springs, resulted in a 6-1, second-place finish. Since then, the girls won four tournament championships, each one usually involving 10-20 teams from the Southeast. Their overall record this fall was 43-9.

Jacksonville Players is a Mandarin-centric organization of traveling softball clubs from ages 10-18 based in Greenland Park.

"We're always working on fundamentals, and I truly believe we're fundamentally sound, which gives us a strong defense," Verderese said. "So no matter whom we play, we'll always be competitive because of the defense we play."

That strong defense starts with their pitching. Danielle Soto and Sami Hays are veterans with the team, and Anna Luke is a new addition to the staff. Catcher Heather Roberts, shortstop Jeanie Verderese and second baseman Jordan Daniels are all keys to being solid up the middle.

To add to it, most of the members of this Jacksonville Players squad are 12 or 13 years old, while they're playing against girls who are 14.

Their travels led to an unexpected encounter with a sports legend. While celebrating a tournament victory at a Lake City restaurant on Nov. 2, they ran into Pat Summerall, the well-known TV sportscaster, who was visiting his hometown.

"He took photos with the team. What a nice guy," Verderese said. "He just took to them immediately. …

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