Southingtonâ€™s Kara Zazzaro and New Britainâ€™s Will Homar are the aces for their respective softball and baseball teams and are also our Athletes of the Week.
The Southington softball team has a winning tradition, and while the Blue Knights are a young group this year, they still have lofty expectations and Zazzaro is a big reason why.
In the teamâ€™s season opening game last week against South Windsor, the junior was dominant.
On a day when Southingtonâ€™s offense couldnâ€™t get too much going, Zazzaro made sure the Bobcats couldnâ€™t either. She went all seven innings and allowed just one unearned run. She allowed just four base runners (three hits and a walk) while striking out 12 batters.
The numbers are impressive enough, but beyond that there wasnâ€™t even much solid contact by South Windsor in the contest.
â€śShe did a really good job moving her pitches around [last week],â€ť Southington head coach Davina Hernandez said. â€śI think her control was really good. There were a few that got away from her, but for the most part she was on point.â€ť
The weather has impacted the Blue Knightsâ€™ schedule, as they have played just two of four scheduled games. The game against South Windsor was in danger of being cancelled too, but was played after a delay and Zazzaro was thrilled.
â€śI was just really excited to get out there, because itâ€™s the season opener and itâ€™s taken a while to get on the field,â€ť Zazzaro said. â€śI knew that I had great defense behind me and I knew that whatever I threw they were going to make the plays behind me, so it gave me a lot of confidence that I could throw my pitches and do my stuff and they would make the plays.â€ť
The right-hander was great in her first start of the year, but she only figures to get better as she is working on adding to her repertoire. The win over South Windsor was the first game in which she got to try out her new pitches against live opponents.
â€śThe new pitches have worked pretty good,â€ť Zazzaro said. â€śAgain, it was just trusting that my teammates were going to support behind me. I have been working a lot in the offseason, so I knew that the pitches were going to pay off, and itâ€™s good to feel it in a real game situation and I just tried to run with it.â€ť
Zazzaroâ€™s role with the team a season ago was as its closer. This year that role will grow significantly, but based on one start she looks like she is ready for it.
Hernandez already has an expectation of what she will get from the junior every time she pitches, but she also believes that she has room to grow and will only get better the more she pitches this season.
â€śI think she will keep improving and I think she will get looser and looser,â€ť Hernandez said. â€śShe has a big bat, too, so she will have a big impact for us this season.â€ť
Homar was stellar in his start last Monday against Bristol Central. The junior hurler had five strikeouts over the complete-game outing, while allowing just seven hits, two walks and one earned run in the 8-4 victory.
â€ś[He had] a great start for us,â€ť New Britain coach Roberto Mercado said. â€śHe did a phenomenal job for us. Iâ€™m very, very proud of his effort.â€ť
Homar has been outstanding for the Hurricanes over recent years, but this season has been more difficult than the others, as the weather really wrecked havoc on the beginning of the season. Most of the area teams were relegated to gym time for most of the first two weeks and Homar and New Britain were no different.
Homarâ€™s start against the Rams came in the Hurricanesâ€™ first real home game of the season - after playing a few times at CCSU - and he showed very few signs of rust, unlike an earlier outing.
â€śHis first time out last week, he struggled a little bit,â€ť Mercado said. â€śJust like everyone else, [heâ€™s] just getting back into the feel of pitching against live hitters. Our whole team needs to continue to get better and Willâ€™s going to get better as well.â€ť
Being outside again was much anticipated and Homar was more than happy to be back at Beehive Field.
â€śIt felt amazing. I finally got to throw outside,â€ť he said. â€śIt sucks being inside a gym.â€ť
The only missteps for Homar came in the form of hit batsmen.
He plunked four Bristol Central batters, but was able to prevent them from becoming game-changing runs.
â€śHeâ€™s a competitor,â€ť Mercado said. â€śWhen big spots come up, heâ€™s up for the challenge.â€ť
â€śIt felt real good,â€ť Homar said about getting out of the jams. â€śI knew my defense had my back if I just threw strikes. I was in situations and I was nervous, but I knew my defense would have my back.â€ť
Homar also helped himself out at the plate against Bristol Central, going 2-for-3 at the plate with two runs scored and one RBI.
â€śIt felt good,â€ť Homar said about the offense. â€śIt helped the whole team out because, without those runs, it wouldâ€™ve been tied or something.â€ť