Kearny’s Fermaint becomes more than solid backstop

When Tatiana Fermaint was just beginning to give softball a try as a youngster, there was no question about what position she wanted to play.

“Being a catcher is my primary position,” said the talented Kearny High School junior. “I don’t think I’m confident anywhere else but catcher. It’s what I’m best suited for.”

In fact, Fermaint has become such a prolific catcher that head coach Jimmy Pickel never even worries about her behind the dish.

“She calls the game herself,” Pickel said. “I never call a single pitch. Tatiana is in charge back there. She blocks the balls back there tremendously and throws very well. I never have to worry about her. She’s one of our biggest assets. The scary thing is that she can still get better.”

Fermaint takes a lot of pride in her defensive skills as a catcher.

“It’s something that I love to do and I’m pretty good at it,” Fermaint said. “I try my best back there. Other people try to bring me down, but I don’t let it get to me at all. I wanted to make sure I continued to do what I do.”
So Fermaint went to camps and clinics to hone and improve her skills. There was one aspect of Fermaint’s game that she felt she had to improve.

“Hitting was something that I knew I had to do and I knew I could do it,” Fermaint said. “I never worried about my catching, but hitting made me a little nervous.”

So during the offseason, Fermaint spent a lot of time working with her father, Samuel, on her hitting.

“We would hit off the tee or he would forward toss to me,” Fermaint said. “We spent a lot of time doing that. I worked a lot on my mechanics hitting. Before the season started, I went to a hitting coach. I really worked hard. I saw the need to hit, so I had to hit.”
It wasn’t like Fermaint was an automatic out last year as a junior. She did manage to bat .315 with two homers and 20 RBI. For someone with excellent defensive skills, those offensive numbers were a major plus.

But Fermaint saw the room for improvement and went to work.

“She never wants to get out of the batting cage,” Pickel said. “She wants to stay there and hit all day. She tells the others to take the time to hit as well. She’s really been focused, tuned in on trying to be a better hitter.”

Over the last two weeks, Fermaint has really seen her numbers improve.

Fermaint has collected two or more hits in five of the Kardinals’ last nine games. In the past week, Fermaint has nine hits in 21 at-bats (a .428 clip) with nine RBI and two doubles. She’s pushed her seasonal average to .444 and has 28 hits on the season with 25 RBI, with three doubles, a triple and a homer.

That’s an improvement of 130 batting average points from last year to this. She also already has five more RBI than she had all of last season. Quite outstanding to say the least.

“She just doesn’t want to let anyone down,” Pickel said. “She’s been our No. 4 hitter all year and sometimes, she puts too much pressure on herself to get a hit. But lately, she’s been more relaxed playing and you can see it.”

For her efforts, Fermaint has been selected as The Observer Athlete of the Week for the past week.

“You can see the improvement she’s made from last year to this year,” Pickel said. “She’s framing the pitches well. She had a little problem throwing early on in her career with her arm angle, but she’s overcome that and throws right to the base. And she does such a great job calling the game. That’s a lot to handle.”

“When I’m hitting well, like I have been, I just want it to keep going,” Fermaint said. “I’ve been swinging the bat a lot better. It’s almost becoming easy to me.”

Fermaint also has a good rapport with pitchers Sydney Pace, Jane Amadeo and Giovanna Scrimo, so that also helps the Kardinals win games. The Kardinals, the defending Hudson County Tournament champions, own a 15-6 record heading into postseason games this week.

The Kardinals, the top-seed in the Hudson County tourney, are scheduled to face the winner of Memorial/Secaucus on Tuesday at the Gunnell Oval.

On Thursday, the Kardinals begin play in the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 1, Group IV tournament. The fourth-seeded Kards will more than likely face East Orange in the opening round of the states. Two do-or-die contests in a span of 72 hours. That’s asking a lot from high school girls, but Fermaint believes the Kards are more than ready.

“We’re going to take it one game at a time, but we’re playing pretty well now,” Fermaint said. “We’ve all worked so hard to be ready for this time of the season.”

Pickel said that he had faith in his backstop all along.

“To be honest, I kind of expected her to do better this year,” Pickel said. “I was waiting for this. She really has settled in nicely. This week is when it all starts for real. We know what we should do come tournament time.”

Fermaint is confident that her skills could carry over to the next level. She has aspirations after next year of playing softball in college.

“I do plan on playing in college,” Fermaint said. “I think I have a chance. I just hope everything I’ve been doing just keeps going. I just hope I can keep hitting like this. I want to win again so bad. The closer we get, the more I want to win.

The Kardinals are shooting for their third county title in the last four years, which would be an incredible run.

“She’s really picked it up lately,” Pickel said. “It’s been fun to watch.”

“I just hope it keeps going,” Fermaint said. “It’s taken a lot of work, but yeah, it’s been fun.”

Winning is always fun, no matter what sport, no matter what level, no matter where you are. The Kardinals are winning and Tatiana Fermaint is a big reason why the Kardinals enter the postseason on a nine-game winning streak.

Jim Hague | Observer Sports Writer