The text messages and e-mails didn’t quite come fast and furious in the late winter and into the spring of 2010, but there were enough of them to provide a heavy dose of intrigue regarding Katie Beriont. Let us explain.
Once the Shore Conference basketball season ends, there are always parents with kids in the seventh and eighth grade reaching out to share who, in their estimation, will be the really good high school freshmen to watch. Those e-mails are always read and most are saved, but typically taken with a grain of salt. One particular e-mail that spring noted there was a girl who was 5-foot-11, very athletic and a lefty.
Inquiries were made at that point because, honestly, how many athletic, 5-foot-11 lefty eighth graders do you see walking around? Answers came back and yes, this girl did indeed exist, the height was not an exaggeration and she would be attending perennial NJSIAA Tournament of Champions contender St. John Vianney beginning in the fall of 2010.
The matter was put off to the side, to be revisited at a later date until one last e-mail came in stating this little nugget.
“By the way, she’s also a pitcher and throws 67 mph.”
Do you have all that? An athletic, 5-foot-11 lefty would be playing for New Jersey’s flagship basketball program and as an add-on, she would be playing softball as well for a state power and at the time, the reigning Non-Public A champion.
After the Lancers’ 3-0 loss to Immaculate Heart Academy (32-0) denied them a third consecutive Non-Public A title at Toms River High School East on Saturday, Beriont’s high school athletic career is officially halfway done. Has the buzz been justified to this point? It’s hard to argue that it hasn’t.
Beriont moved into basketball head coach Dawn Karpell’s starting lineup as a sophomore last season and continued to show flashes of athleticism on both ends of the floor that have left most observers believing the best of Beriont on a basketball court is still in front of her.
The basketball is coming along, but the softball is where she has been brilliant. Stepping in as the No. 2 pitcher for head coach Kim Lombardi as a freshman behind senior Jen Retzer, all Beriont did was go 13-0 with a 0.72 ERA and wins in the Monmouth County and Shore Conference Tournament title games.
As the No. 1 pitcher this spring, Beriont battled back from elbow trouble early in the season to go 21-3 with another Monmouth County title and trips to the SCT and Non-Public A finals.
It also needs to be noted that Beriont has done what she has done under the brightest of spotlights the Shore Conference has to offer for female athletes. Karpell and Lombardi come from the same mold. Two of the more respected head coaches statewide at their respective craft, both can be fiery, demanding and part of the end-goal is to win every championship made available to them.
“It’s a lot of focus between school and both sports. I can tell you both coaches are good coaches and they require a lot of focus and work, but that’s what makes their teams so successful,” Beriont said. “When I came into high school with basketball and softball after that, there were seniors that took me under their wing. They helped me improve because when you come into high school, you definitely don’t know as much as you think you do.”
With two years under her belt, Beriont is one of four starters returning next winter and will be 34-3 as a pitcher going into next spring. Everything she has accomplished has come with a steep learning curve, but with the experience gained on the fly, maybe things start to slow down for her now. One thing that is certain is the buzz isn’t likely to subside.
When you’re an athletic, 5-foot-11 lefty playing the two girls sports your high school covets the most, how could it?