Kearny shortstop Alex Colon always knew that there was a distinct possibility that at some point her senior season would include a shift back to catcher.
But with a veteran Kardinals squad starting the season 1-6, those plans quickly accelerated.
“I still remember going up to her in the dugout and asking ‘do you have your catching equipment in the car?’ She was like ‘yeah’ so I said go get it,” said head coach Jim Pickel, recalling the conversation before Kearny’s April 19 game vs. Hudson Catholic. She went and got it, I put her back behind the plate.”
“I wasn’t surprised, I kinda knew that down the line I was eventually going to start catching again. I just didn’t know it was going to be so soon, but I was fine with it,” Colon said. “Whatever position Coach tells me to play, I’m totally happy to do as long as it helps the team out.”
Colon’s move was one of multiple changes Kearny made and while it’s not the sole reason for the Kardinals’ turnaround, its impact has been undeniable.
Kearny has gone 7-2 since the moves and Colon’s play has been front and center in the team’s current hot streak.
Last week, Colon had consecutive three-hit games, five of the hits going for extra bases, in HCIAL American Division wins over Hoboken and North Bergen. Then on Senior Night on Saturday against Rahway, Colon had two walks and scored two runs in the 10-5 victory.
Colon’s contributions, both behind the plate and in the No. 2 spot of the Kearny lineup, makes her The Observer Athlete of the Week.
“As soon as we had some position changes, everything started going up for us,” Colon said. “We were in a team slump, but as soon as we got that first win, second win there was just a spark in us. We like this feeling so let’s keep it up. That’s what we’ve done and it feels amazing.
“When I did go back to catching, it was sort of like riding a bicycle. You don’t forget how to do certain things that you need to do back there.”
Versatility and the ability to get on base at a high clip have always been Colon’s two calling cards dating back to her freshman year. Colon was set to see action at catcher and third base as a freshman before the season was canceled due to Covid. As a sophomore, she hit .377 while spending time at catcher, shortstop and first base.
Last season, primarily at shortstop, Colon endured a season-long slump, but despite hitting just .159, her 17 walks and 15 hit by pitches allowed her to remain among the team leaders in on-base percentage.
This spring has seen Colon elevate her offense to new heights. She is back to hitting over .340 with an on-base percentage approaching .500, but unlike those previous seasons, Colon’s on pace to smash her previous career bests in extra-base hits.
“She always had that. Even in the six days we had her as a freshman (before Covid), I always knew she had power,” Pickel said. “This year, she’s really exploded onto the scene with the power numbers.”
“This year I have a lot more confidence,” said Colon, who is set to walk on at Caldwell University next year. “I knew I had to up my game and there was a lot more weight put on my shoulders. I definitely have a lot more confidence and my eye positioning on the ball is a lot better.”
Thanks to its late surge, Kearny is expected to get a high seed in the Hudson County Tournament this week and is now projected to qualify for the North 1, Group 4 tournament later this month.
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Jason Bernstein | Observer Sports Writer
Jason Bernstein joined The Observer as its sports writer in March 2022, following the retirement of Jim Hague. He has a wealth of sports-writing experience, including for NJ Advance Media (nj.com, The Jersey Journal, The Star-Ledger.)