SOUTHINGTON - The Southington softball team looks like itâ€™s about ready to be champions again.
The Blue Knights got a dominant performance on the mound from Kara Zazzaro and enough offense to defeat E.O. Smith 4-0 in the quarterfinals of the Class LL tournament on Friday at home.
Zazzaro was in complete control of the game from the beginning, as she allowed just three hits - two of which were infield hits - while striking out 10 batters and walking none. A lot of the contact the junior did induce was weak, as evidenced by the fact that E.O. Smith only hit one ball into the outfield and that was Gabby Petroneâ€™s single through the right side in the sixth inning.
â€śI really just wanted to go after every hitter and execute every pitch,â€ť Zazzaro said. â€śI knew that if they put the ball in play, the defense would have my back so there was nothing to lose.â€ť
There were two errors committed by Southingtonâ€™s defense in the game but, for the most part, the defense was strong. The Blue Knights turned a double play on a popped up bunt and turned the second error, an errant throw by third basemen Abigail Lamson, into an out when right fielder Amanda Delorme backed up the throw and gunned the runner down at second base.
â€śWe donâ€™t let our errors hang us down,â€ť said second baseman Michelle Woodruff, who committed the first error. â€ś[Head coach] Davina [Hernandez] tells us that we are going to make mistakes, we just have to make up for them somehow and I did and we did.â€ť
While the defense was strong, the story of the game was clearly Zazzaro, as she never allowed the Panthers to even mount any type of threat, and it appears as though she is getting stronger as the season winds down.
â€śThese are my favorite games to pitch in,â€ť Zazzaro said. â€śIt gets more exciting and I really get into it. I feel like Iâ€™m only getting better and I feel like I can still get even better.â€ť
â€śI think she has been throwing really well the last couple of games,â€ť Hernandez said. â€śI think her velocity and her movement have continued to improve throughout the year. We know that the teams we face now are going to make contact so we donâ€™t expect her to get 15 strikeouts in a game. Itâ€™s all about inducing weak contact and she did that today.
â€śShe is absolutely getting stronger the deeper into the season we get, too. She works extremely hard in the weight room and with her pitching coach even throughout the season. I also think she has been a lot looser and she tends to heat up as the game goes on.â€ť
The run support for Zazzaro in this game came early. Southington had each of its first four hitters - Woodruff, Sarah Myrick, Delorme and Lamson - in the first inning hit singles. Myrick drove in Woodruff with her single after Woodruff stole two bases and Lamson knocked in two with her rope up the middle. In total, the Blue Knights had four hits, three runs and four stolen bases in the first inning to jump out in front.
â€śThat was huge to have a big first inning like that,â€ť Woodruff said. â€śDavina always says you have to start off with a bang. You have to bust it open right away and we definitely try to start out hot so they have to catch up and play to us. It seems like every time we start off the first inning strong and score, we are able to keep the energy up and are ready to go for the rest of the game.â€ť
After the first inning, though, E.O. Smith starter Hailey Golembiewski settled in. The sophomore only allowed three hits for the rest of the game, one of which was an RBI double by Katie Semmel, which drove in Frankie Ferrante, who had been hit by a pitch. Golembiewski was solid in the game as she struck out four and allowed just seven hits and one walk in her six innings of work, but that first inning did her in, as the offense couldnâ€™t give her any run support.
â€śIt seemed like they had a really good scouting report on us,â€ť Hernandez said. â€śThey played this field really well considering the wind that is always present here. We made a lot of solid contact but they made all of the plays. Overall, I am happy with our at-bats. Though, I donâ€™t look at things like hits. Iâ€™m more focused on the details and one of our best at-bats was a strike out.â€ť
With the win, Southington is now on to the semifinals, where it will face the winner of the matchup between No. 2-seed Cheshire and No. 7-seed Westhill. That game is being played this afternoon at 1 p.m.
The Blue Knights lost to Westhill earlier this season and Cheshire has only one loss all year so the semifinal game will be tough, regardless of the opponent. With the way Zazzaro is throwing, though, Southington certainly has a chance.
The Blue Knights will next be in action on either Monday or Tuesday, with the site and time to be determined.
Michael Woolfson can be reached at 860-801-5203 or email@example.com On Twitter: @bigwoolf5