By John Goralski
On Wednesday, May 14, Davina Hernandez yelled back at the dugout in frustration as she swung an imaginary bat. “Like this,” she instructed as she motioned a level slap at an invisible pitch. “You’re swinging up at the ball.”
Southington is cruising toward the finish line for another undefeated season. The Lady Knight softball team is already gearing up for their annual postseason run. The Knights have a comfortable lead in the Class LL standings, and they’ve already dispatched the rest of their schedule easily the first time around.
But Hernandez isn’t ready to rest on her team’s laurels. That’s why she was so frustrated with her offense, even though the Knights were leading NW Catholic by four runs.
“I’m still looking for us to adjust to each pitcher earlier in the game,” said the coach. “It’s been taking us a little too long to get going. It’s not until the second, third, or fourth inning that we’re starting to hit the ball. I want to come out right away in the first inning.”
The Knights responded to their coach’s prompting. Lauren Zazzaro (2-for-4) sparked a three-run rally in the fourth inning with a deep homerun ball. Kaitlin Paterson (2-for-3) capped the next inning with a two-run homer to give the Knights a 9-0 lead. Sydney Ferrante, Natalie Wadolowski, Haley Arduini, and Emily Lippincott each stroked triples as the Knights manufactured 11 runs on 13 hits.
Still, Hernandez said that there’s always room for improvement.
“To be honest, I wasn’t really too happy with our hitting in the first two innings today. As soon as we hit that second round—the second time they saw the pitcher—they did much better,” she said. “I think we were lucky that we mis-hit the ball a few times. It just ended up landing in no-man’s land on pop-ups or things like that. We have to adjust sooner.”
It’s easy to lose sight of the fact that the Knights are still trying to perfect their game even though two lopsided victories this week pushed them to 14-0 with six games remaining on the schedule. On the other hand, Hernandez said that her team is heating up at the right time.
They’re doing the little things right and rising to each challenge. Kendra Friedt was as good as ever, scattering one hit and 14 strikeouts over seven innings, but the Indians capitalized on a pair of sixth inning walks to manufacture two runs. Hernandez said she was pleased that the Knights responded at the bottom of the inning with two runs of their own.
“We’re human. I have to remind them of that all the time. They’re still kids, and they’re going to make mistakes,” she said. “What I do like is that when we give up runs, we keep coming back —2 runs against Hall or two runs against NW Catholic—we came back and answered that same inning. Whether we’re up buy two runs or nine, it shouldn’t matter. We came back and answered back each time.”
The win came on the heels of Southington’s ninth shutout of the season, but Hernandez said that even that victory wasn’t perfect. Kendra Friedt was almost perfect on the mound, scattering two hits and 14 strikeouts over seven scoreless innings, but the offense took time to warm up.
Paterson, Ferrante, Rachel Dube, and Zazzaro each managed multiple hits as Southington rallied for 10 runs on 12 hits, but it took three innings to put the game out of reach with a four-run rally. The Knights added four runs in the fifth and two more in the seventh as they surged to a 10-0 win over Conard to complete the season sweep.
“It was another slow start. It took us a while to get adjusted. Luckily, Kendra was on fire,” said the coach. “On the other hand we had a couple of players in new positions, but they didn’t miss a beat. Haley Messenger was starting at third base. Nikki White was starting in right. They stepped in and did exactly what I expected. That really shows that we have depth as a team.”
Now, the Knights turn into the final stretch with five games this week and one the following Tuesday. Southington will hold senior night on Friday night at 7 p.m. at Panthorn Park, and they’ll raise money for Lupus research during a noon game on Saturday at the high school field.
“I think we’re heading in the right direction, but we have to keep taking it one game at a time,” said Hernandez. “We never talk about the game on Monday at Thursday’s practice. We talk about Wednesday. Right now, we’re just focused on Hall.”
Hernandez is still looking for the perfect game.
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By John Goralski