CLARK, NJ- Arthur L. Johnson High School senior Victoria Zatko has been a standout on the softball team, both on and off the field. She added to her athletic resume with one swing of the bat in the team’s fifth game of the season.
Zatko secured her 100th career varsity hit with a double in a 6-1 loss to Cranford HS on Wednesday, April 10. With the regular season ongoing, Zatko has recorded 14 hits on the season entering play on Thursday, April 18, 2019.
She was recognized for his accomplishment after the game for Johnson, with a softball and a poster commemorating her accomplishment and hard work over all four years. Currently, she holds a .462 batting average with 12 hits (three doubles), three home runs and 11 RBIs.
“I was standing on second base and Coach Di Nucci looked at me and he was like, ‘That’s your 100th hit.’ I knew I was getting it that game. Right after I hit the ball, it wasn’t in my head. I was just aiming to hit the ball.”
She has been playing softball since the age of three, watching her older sisters play the same sport growing up. She also played in Kumpf and transitioned to high school softball.
Zatko saw time on the field as a freshman, collecting 24 hits (seven doubles, two triples), along with two home runs and 22 RBIs. She maintained a .279 batting average on her first season on the varsity team.
As a sophomore, Zatko picked up right where she left off. He cashed in on 32 hits (six doubles, three triples), one home run and maintaining a .410 batting average.
For Victoria, the passion of the game grew drastically in recent years, but it always makes coming to the field a great day and playing with her teammates.
“I love the sport I play,” Zatko said. “Every day I wake up, I’m excited to step out on the field and play a new day. I try to make the best out of every moment I can.”
As her junior year started, she not only had to make an adjustment in stepping up at the plate, but an adjustment on the field. She became the team’s starting shortstop, instead of being the one behind the plate, working with the pitcher.
For Victoria, however, it was never so much thinking of playing a new position for herself, but rather, it was adjusting for the team.
“I play for my team, so no matter where Coach Di Nucci asks me to go or put me, I’m going to say yes and do whatever he asks,” Zatko said. “If ever one day, he needed me to pitch on the mound, I’d go and do it for him.”
She collected 38 hits her junior year (six doubles, two triples), five home runs and driving in 23 runs and maintaining a .494 batting average. A major moment included hitting a walk-off, two-run home run in a 4-3, ten-inning win over Elizabeth on May 8, 2018.
“She’s a good example of how to play the game,” Johnson third-year head coach Chris Di Nucci said. “She’s a phenomenal softball player in all facets, at the plate, defensively and a tremendous base runner. She’s evolved a ton from her sophomore year to this year. She’s going to be a heck of a college softball player.”
Her efforts and drive to win day-in and day-out are noticed on the field, especially the underclassmen players who look up to her.
“Victoria plays very unique and it’s very influential to see her play and mimic things she does because she’s a heck of a player,” Johnson junior Lia D’Angelo said. “It’s been an honor playing with her in my three years of playing.”
While the 2016 softball team had the banner year, it wasn’t so much the accolades that were memorable for Victoria, but instead, it was being able to contribute on a predominantly young team, with her sister Gabriella being one of the two seniors leading the way.
“In softball, I played with my sister [Gabriella],” Zatko said. “Out of the three sports I’ve played, playing with my sister in softball was probably the best memory.”
Her freshman year proved to be a phenomenal run for the program. The softball team won a school record 24 games, along with winning Union County Tournament, UCC-Watchung Division and NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group 2 championships. She started the year as a third baseman, before becoming the starting catcher in late April 2016.
“We kept playing for [seniors Stephanie Visconti and Gabriella Zatko] because we could’ve reached and knew we could’ve gotten what they wanted that season,” Zatko said of that team. “We kept playing our hearts out and made it as far as we did [to the Group 2 State Finals].”
“We wanted to put in our best effort to go as far as we wanted to go,” she added.
Her two older sisters Veronica (ALJ Class of 2014) and Gabriella (ALJ Class of 2016) both achieved the 100-hit mark in their respective senior seasons, something Victoria says was a factor of looking up to her sisters when they played.
“I look up to both my sisters,” Zatko said. “Knowing the both of them got their 100th hit, I wanted to at least [accomplish] the same thing that they achieved. I think it’s actually kind of cool that all three Zatko girls all played softball and got their 100th hit playing. I think it’s an accomplishment for all three of us.”
Victoria’s sisters were beaming with excitement, as they watched her accomplish what she’s done, with Gabby watching it firsthand in 2016.
“Softball is a game that our family fell in love with,” her oldest sister Veronica said. “Victoria really works hard and is dedicated to stepping up her game. I’m unbelievably proud of her for deciding to extend the career and play ball at La Salle University. I will always be one of her biggest fans cheering for her from the bleachers.”
“I’m an extremely proud sister and I wish I could be there more to see her do all these amazing things,” her sister Gabby said. “I can't wait to keep hearing about all she accomplishes playing college softball.”
With the 100-hit accomplishment in the books, Zatko has her eyes on finishing her high school career on a high note. She will continue with the sport in college at La Salle University. She expressed great excitement when explaining her choice to continue the game she loves.
“My travel coach that I play for now used to coach my [head softball coach] at La Salle when she was in college,” Zatko said. “The way she coaches is the same way my travel coach’s [coaching style], so I knew when she gave me the offer, I was going to click well with her. I fell in love with the campus and everything they had to offer me.”
Zatko also played on the varsity volleyball and girls basketball teams in her Johnson athletics career. She was a starter on both teams and a part of the 2016-17 girls basketball team that captured the UCC-Mountain Division championship.
She’s credited his parents for being the most supportive person in his life, stating that they’ve been there for every single game. She adds if they are unable to make a game, they’re always keeping track of the game from start to finish.
“Victoria is probably the most passionate and has worked the hardest to achieve her accomplishments, and we hope that she continues to work just as hard when she enters into her collegiate softball experience,” her mother Stella said. “We are extremely proud of her and her passion for the game and can’t wait to see what she does in college.”
“She’s excelled through the game,” her father Steve said. “She knows the game very well, playing club [softball]. Both of her club coaches are ex-college coaches. I’m very proud of her, she’s an exceptional player. I’m excited to watch her play at the collegiate level.”
Zatko stressed for younger players that in order to achieve the successes she’s had, that hard work is needed every single day to accomplish what she has been able to do.
“Play your heart out every time you step out on the field, no matter what sport it is,” Zatko said. “Always put your heart into everything you do and make the most and you’re going to play the best you can play.”