By John Goralski
If there were any questions remaining about the Lady Knight softball team, those critics have been quieted. With a trio of shutouts in the second week, Southington has surged out to an early 5-0 record during their Class LL title defense.
So far, the Knights have out-scored opponents, 43-2. A 5-0 win over Rockville on Monday proved they could beat a solid defense. A 13-0 win over Conard showed their offensive abilities, and a 1-0 win over Bristol Eastern on Friday proved they could win a close rematch.
Could this be the year that Southington wins back-to-back titles?
“I know a lot of people had doubts when we lost four players that were two year starters at the least,” said Lady Knight coach Davina Hernandez. “I don’t think that people expected us to fill in with so many solid players, but I think all our returning players got better.”
Rockville’s left fielder made two stops in the second inning, and the centerfielder made back-to-back plays to end the third. The Ram infield didn’t make a hiccup, and the Lady Knights needed back-to-back triples to manufacture their only two-run inning.
On Monday, April 14, Rockville presented the Knights with their first major obstacle of the season, and it was driven home by an over-the-shoulder catch in left field that robbed the Knights of an extra-base hit in the fifth inning.
The scouting report said that Rockville was rebuilding after the loss of a couple of key players, but that wasn’t Southington’s takeaway at the end of a 5-0 battle.
“Their left fielder was just all over anything. Anything that went out there was in her back pocket, including a blast to the fence where she just put her head down, turned, and was with it the whole time,” Hernandez said. “I was very impressed. They had strong arms, and they are definitely a team to watch this year.”
So the Lady Knights bore down. Kaitlin Paterson drew a lead-off walk, and Lauren Zazzaro drove her in with a triple. Caroline Burke led off the second inning with a double, and the Knights pushed her in to score. Emily Lippincott scored a two-out single in the fourth inning, and the Knights moved her around with a walk and a single.
It took a pair of two-out triples in the sixth inning by Paterson and Zazzaro, along with a single by Sydney Ferrante to score two runs in one series.
“We were poking a lot of balls out to the outfield. We had to make adjustments, and it took us a while to do that,” said the coach. “We had to manufacture a couple runs with base hits. We had to get a couple of runners on by digging out ground balls. It took us a little while longer than I wanted to get us to shorten up, but we did.”
Defensively, Southing-ton held firm with just two runners advancing to scoring position. Kendra Friedt struck out 11 batters with just one walk and two hits to score the shutout win.
“Kendra was phenomenal on the mound today,” Hernandez said. “She was hitting her spots so well. She may have only missed one or two all game…by inches. I don’t even know if she realized how well she pitched today.”
Cruising past Conard
Southington put the game out of reach with four runs in the first inning, but the Knights were far from finished. On Thursday, April 16, the Knights rallied for runs in every inning but one with three runs in the third and four in the inning that followed.
Southington batters combined for 13 runs on 16 hits. Nine different players scored, and the Knights opened their conference schedule with a 13-0 win over Conard.
“The middle of our lineup really got it going. Sydney, Rachel, and Hale all scored back-to-back, and that got us going,” said Hernandez. “We had contributions throughout the lineup, and Kendra threw well again.”
Kaitlin Paterson and Hayle Arduini (2-for-5, 2 runs, RBI) scored triples. Ferrante (2-for-3, run, 2 RBI) and Emily Lippincott (2-for-3, 2 runs, 2 RBI) scored doubles. Rachel Dube went 2-for-4 with a pair of doubles and two RBI.
Kendra Friedt went 2-for-4 at the plate with an RBI, and threw a one-hitter with 13 strikeouts and no walks.
Low scoring rematch
Hernandez cautioned her team before the first pitch to erase any memories of the 16-1 win over Bristol Eastern in the opening week. The Lancers were at home with a new pitcher and a chip on their shoulders.
On Friday, April 16, the Knights had their hands full in the rematch. Through five full innings, the long time rivals were deadlocked in a scoreless tie.
“This was much more like those older Southington-Bristol rivalries that I was always used to,” Hernandez said. “I told our girls before the game that they were going to come after us. They are good players. They know how to play softball, and we knew that they’d be coming after us.”
Ferrante and Friedt were the only two with multiple hits on either team as the Lancer pitching held the Knights to just five hits in the contest. On the mound, Friedt scattered three hits and two walks over seven innings with 12 strikeouts. Still, it took a manufactured run in the sixth inning to tip the scales in Southington’s direction.
Paterson reached first base to start the winning run, and Zazzaro pushed her to second with a sacrifice bunt. The Lancers threaded a perfect riser on a 3-2 count, but Ferrante drove it out of the infield to score the winning run.
“Sydney was on the ball all day, and she got up at the right time,” Hernandez said. “It was one of those good, old, traditional manufactured run softball.”
Now, the Knights will look to build on the victory with a pair of conference games against NW Catholic and Farmington. Hernandez said that she hopes her team learns from the scare in Bristol.
“We made some mistakes. We missed a couple of signs in key situations, and that could have pushed in another run for us in the seventh, but it was that sort of tournament-feel game that we needed,” she said. “It’s good to know that, even under pressure, we can keep our composure on the mound, at the plate, and in the field.”
To comment on this story or to contact sports writer John Goralski, email him at email@example.com.