By John Goralski
For three innings, Maloney’s sophomore ace was matching Southington’s veteran pitch for pitch. Close calls weren’t going Southington’s way, and it was etched on the Lady Knight faces. Coach Davina Hernandez could see frustration mounting on her players’ faces, so she huddled her team for a pep talk.
“I told them that close calls are part of the game,” said the coach. “There were a few calls that could have gone either way, but they were very close calls. I brought them in and told them not to let any of those calls be the deciding factor. Go put some runs on the board, and sure enough that’s what they did.”
Sydney Ferrante led off the inning with a single up the middle. Natalie Wadolowski dropped down a bunt for a single, and Ferrante scrambled around to third. With one out, Haley Arduini drew a walk to load the bases. Then, Kendra Friedt scored two runs with a hard liner up the middle.
The two-run rally was all that either team would manufacture, but it was enough to secure a Southington win. After a string of lopsided routs, this was just what the doctor ordered.
“I love games like this because it puts pressure on us,” said Hernandez. “Sometimes when you have big wins like we’ve been having, you sort of lose the sense of competitiveness of a close game. We’re getting closer to that second half of the season.”
Friedt anchored the win on both sides of the plate. On the mound, she struck out 11 batters in a three-hit shutout. At the plate, her two-run single in the fourth gave the Knights the win. Southington managed just two more runners in scoring position, but Maloney (8-1) never reached third base as they fell for the first time this season.
“I think that Kendra did fantastic on the mound,” Hernandez said. “She helped herself out by driving in two runs. What more could you ask for as a coach from your pitcher?”
The game was the best test for the Knights in the early season, and the defense rose to the challenge. Both Haley Arduini and Emily Lippincott had key stops in the outfield. Southington infielders were perfect on the day.
Maloney led off with a hit in the sixth inning, but Rachel Dube threw out base-stealing standout Ariele Virgulto to end the threat. Virgulto was coming off a six-steal performance, so Dube’s throw needed to be perfect.
“I knew they were stealing, but Rachel threw her out,” said Hernandez. “Itss all about being ready to make those plays in those situations when they come. In those mercy rule games, we don’t get the opportunity to pick girls off or throw runners out. We’re really only doing that in practice. I love close games like this because it’s only going to help us.”
The victory clinched a postseason berth, but that was never really in question. The defending state champions are alone atop the standings as the only undefeated team left in Class LL. Southington carried that momentum into Friday with a 13-0 road victory at Simsbury.
Lauren Zazzaro had two doubles and four RBI. Friedt went 3-for-4 at the plate, which led to two runs and one RBI. Dube went 2-for-4 with a double, and Caroline Burke went 2-for-3 with two runs and an RBI.
Southington blew open the game with a six-run rally in the top of the third inning. The girls added runs in the fourth and sixth innings before posting a five-run surge in the top of the seventh.
Friedt allowed just one hit with eight strikeouts an one walk to secure her seventh straight shutout. Southington improved to 9-0 (4-0 in the CCC West).
By John Goralski