While scoring runs is always important in baseball and softball, having a pitcher who can control the game from the mound/circle is just as vital.
Over the past week, Newington Joey Zawisza and Southington’s Kara Zazzaro were just that for their teams.
After a 0-2 start that included an extra-inning loss to Windsor, the Newington baseball team was in need of a win entering Wednesday against Bristol Central and Zawisza proved more than up to the task.
“Our pitching staff’s done a great job all year and Joey really put us on his back [Wednesday],” Indians head coach Ben Alaimo said.
The senior struck out 11 hitters over the course of a seven-inning complete game. He also allowed just three hits and walked one in the 5-1 win.
“It’s all about having those guys behind you,” Zawisza said of his outing. “Personally, I’m not a strikeout pitcher. I’m a groundball-fly ball guy. I can only do my part and allow the guys behind me to make plays. But it was pretty fun. I was cruising and we had a lot of momentum in that game.”
Newington has a solid 1-2-3 punch at the top of its rotation, but Zawisza’s performance was nothing that was unexpected from both his coach and his teammates. Zawisza was an all-conference pitcher his sophomore season before breaking his foot last year which cost him all but four games in the regular season and the postseason.
“[Zawisza] really been working hard and waiting for his senior year,” Alaimo said. “He’s demonstrating the kind of impact he can have.”
The pitcher had little trouble in dealing with Bristol Central throughout the afternoon, he knew from the second inning on he was dialed in. But for Zawisza, it was more than just getting 11 strikeouts.
“We have big expectations for ourselves at the start of the season and I wanted to help us get that W out of the way and we were hungry for it,” he said. “It’s a team game and we played as a team. But missing the majority of my junior year made me hungry. I really wanted to go out there and help my team.”
And he can certainly do just that as the season continues. Like Zawisza said, the Indians have high expectations this season.
“Honestly, we want this to have a snowball effect,” Zawisza said. “After beginning the season 0-2, now we’re sitting at 2-2 and we keep that momentum going and the snowball keeps getting bigger.”
The Southington softball team is in contention for the Class LL state title every season and this year is no different. The Blue Knights are already off to a 2-0 start with Zazzaro being a key reason why.
The senior and Iona-bound pitcher dominated Bristol Eastern in the season opener last Monday, throwing a complete game, while giving up just two hits in a 6-0 victory. But perhaps what was most impressive was Zazzaro believed she should have been even better from the circle.
“I was super excited to get started,” Zazzaro said. “It wasn’t the best or exactly what I would have liked, but I just tried to do the best with what was working [Monday] and inning by inning took it one pitch at a time.”
Not one to only get things done with her pitches, Zazzaro also helped herself out with a RBI single in the third to put Southington up 2-0, showing how dangerous a player she is for opposing teams to deal with.
“Kara’s huge for us,” Blue Knights junior Gabby Malachowsi said. “She was huge for us last year. She goes out there and works the hardest she can every single game. Being a senior too is huge. She’s such a leader for all of us and we have her back defensively and offensively.”
Southington lost a considerable amount of talent from last year’s team that reached the LL title game, but having a player like Zazzaro to rely on, on a younger team, can make quite the difference.
And if anything, the quick start to this season was a step in the right direction for Zazzaro.
“I think our younger players are so important,” Zazzaro said. “They’re doing really great so far stepping up and they’re all such great players. As the season goes on they’ll get more confident in themselves and they’ll do great.”
Until then, opposing teams know it’s going to be a long game when Zazzaro’s in.
David Glovach can be reached at (860) 801-5085 or email@example.com