Softball preview: Ready to make another run

By BRIAN JENNINGS

STAFF WRITER

After making appearances in four out of the last five championship games, the bar is set high for the Lady Knight softball team. That’s the case every spring, but Lady Knight coach Davina Hernandez said that making it to the championship game isn’t everything.

As long as her players show up for practice every day giving dedication and commitment to improvement, Hernandez said that she can’t complain.

“We’re not going to have an undefeated season every year,” said Hernandez. “Sometimes there are things in life that are much bigger than a win or loss, and I think we experienced that as a team last year.”

The Knights finished last year’s regular season at 18-1 overall (8-1 home, 10-0 away) and won the CCC Central Blue with a perfect records of 13-0 in the region and 8-0 in the division. The Knights came into last season needing eight wins to tie Seymour’s state record of 78 consecutive wins, but Southington’s streak stopped at 77 after they fell, 2-0, to Fitch at home during the regular season.

The second-seeded Knights received a bye in the first round of the Class LL tournament and advanced to the semifinals for the fifth-straight year with a 7-1 home win over No. 15 Newington in the second round and a 14-2 home win over No. 23 Darien in the quarterfinals. Southington’s four-year streak of reaching the championship game came to an end after the Knights fell, 4-1, to No. 6 Amity in the semifinals at West Haven High School.

After falling to Southington by a run, 5-4, in last year’s championship game, top-seeded Cheshire found themselves back in the big game, only to secure their first CIAC Class LL title with a 5-0 shutout of the Spartans.

Now, the Knights look to re-assert themselves atop the Class LL rankings, but the Knights will sport a different look in 2017. The extension of the small game will allow the Knights to use more slap hitters and bunters in their lineup rather than having those big, strong hitters that Southington teams had in the past.

“It’s going to be more of a collective, solid-hitting team rather than just those few kids that were hitting bombs all the time,” said Hernandez. “We’re going to have a more consistent-hitting team.”

Smaller and faster with a lot of younger girls stepping into the larger roles, Hernandez said that there is always room for improvement in communication amongst players and aggressiveness in big games.

The Knights lost four athletes to graduation after last season. All were key contributors to the team: Emily Mankus (OF), Brenna Sarantides (P/OF), Nicolette St. Amand (OF), and Natalie Wadolowski (3B/1B). Mankus, Sarantides, and Natalie each played in all 22 games last year and were selected for all-conference honors.

Natalie paced the Knights with team highs of 28 RBIs and three home runs. Natalie also finished with 23 hits, 18 runs scored, and a batting average of .404. Mankus finished last season with a team high of 23 runs scored, including 24 hits, 15 RBIs, and a batting average of .381.

On the circle as the team’s ace, Sarantides mowed down batters with 158 strikeouts and an ERA of 0.59, finishing the season with a record of 18-2 in 20 starts. She also pitched four complete games, three shutouts, a no-hitter, and a perfect game. At the plate, Sarantides finished the season with 18 hits, 14 RBIs, and a batting average of .383.

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For the first time in Hernandez’s tenure with the program, the team voted four players to lead the Knights as team captains for the upcoming season. Those players are seniors Maighread Scafariello (C), Kaitlin Semmel (CF/IF), Michelle Woodruff (2B), and junior Kara Zazzaro (P). Zazzaro is the first junior to be chosen as team captain in Hernandez’s time at Southington as well.

“We don’t want our captains to just be the captains of the varsity squad,” said Hernandez. “We want them to captains of the Southington varsity softball program. We want freshmen all the way through seniors to be able to utilize our captains as resources, and we felt that those four girls resembled that.”

Other returning seniors include Amanda Delorme (RF), Kelly Graff (OF) and Delaney Picard (P).

Returning juniors include Victoria Aldieri (IF/OF), Mackenzie Beaupre (2B, SS), Francesca Ferrante (1B), Mikaela June (1B/OF), Sarah Myrick (LF), and Rosalese Waskowicz (C).

Returning sophomores include Abigail Lamson (C/IF), Gabby Malachowski (1B/3B), Chrisala Marotto (SS/3B), Madison Rocha (P/OF), and Diane Williams (C).

Senior Megan Mahon (IF/OF) and junior Janette Wadolowski (SS) have chosen not to return to the team this season. Janette led the team with 25 hits, garnering 21 RBIs, 17 runs scored, and a batting average of .391 in 22 games played.

Southington added Maloney, Westhill, NFA, NW Catholic, and Tolland to this year’s schedule. The Knights will also travel to Washington Park in Groton to play Fitch.

Hernandez is entering her fourth year as head coach of the program and currently holds an overall coaching record of 68-2.

For weekly box scores and daily results, visit us throughout the week at www.SouthingtonObserver.com.

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