By Stephen Martin, Staff Writer

Since the age of ten, Gina Verduzco has been taking softball seriously.

“From then I started being the number one pitcher on all of my teams,” Verduzco said. “I’ve gotten a lot of pitching time throughout my career. That’s helped me reach my goals and our goals as a team throughout college.”

The Portage High School star is savoring her last moments involved with college softball. She will graduate in December with a degree in elementary and special education. Her goal is to teach high school special education and coach softball.

She said in high school her brother had volunteered at a special needs school and had asked for her companionship. After volunteering herself, she discovered that this is what she wanted to do professionally.

But before she became a professional, Verduzco knew she wanted to play softball in college.

“It was important to me to find a school that would allow me the opportunity to give both if I earned it. I work hard in both areas and it’s my goal to help the team on offense and defense.”

Verduzco is both a strikeout pitcher and has a swing that generated the fourth highest on base percentage of the team last year.

“Gina is one of the best players I have coached on and off the field,” women’s softball head coach Vince Alessandrini told The Michigan Journal. “Gina leads by example and works extremely hard in practice, but once the game starts she turns into a different person; her will to win is amazing.

“Gina is not only of the best pitchers in the league but also one of the best hitters. Truly a special player.”

Verduzco said that because she only had four years left to play the game she loved, she wanted to play as much as she could.

“I love pitching which makes me love softball,” she said. “Because of the game within the game, I like having the battle between the batter and the pitcher.

Verduzco said that there are no pitch counts in softball because the pitching motion is more natural, leading to less wear and tear on the shoulder.

“Usually my arm feels fine,” she said. “It’s just other places in my body that get more sore as the game goes on.”

Verduzco is one of five pitchers on the team. Generally she starts the first and second innings and tries to pitch as long as she can. In the March 28 game against Lourdes University, Verduzco went 9.2 innings.

Verduzco said the best part about playing college softball is the closeness that develops within the team, comparing them to family.

“You spend so much time with them over the season,” she said. “Being with a team that gets along so well and is really pulling for each other has really made my college experience the best one I could have imagined.”

Verduzco said the grind of playing softball prior to college allowed her and her teammates to acclimate to the college schedule easier.

“Growing up we play six games in a day when we’re younger,” Verduzco said. “[Now] we condition our bodies, we work out three times a week, we practice four to five times a week.”

She said there is usually a mid-week game and then a weekend game.

Verduzco said her favorite pump up songs for the games right now are “Energy” and “Anchor” by Hillsong, ending her pregame playlist with them each game.

“Other than that it’s like regular pop, rap,” she said. “I end with those two songs because it gets me in the right mindset.”

Verduzco said that the worst thing about playing college softball is that she knows it is the last time she will get to play the game. She said when she was playing as a child growing up there was always another game.

Verduzco and the Wolverines have 16 games left in her final season.