By KEVIN ROBERTS
When Southington softball hits the diamond this season, expect many of the things that make the Lady Knights a perennial contender. There will be some strong hitting, small-ball and speed used on the bases, and solid defense.
The biggest question at the start will be who is in the circle? Unlike 2018, it won’t be mostly one pitcher for the Knights. Senior Kara Zazzaro threw 127.1 of a possible 144 innings (88.4 percent) and led Southington to the Class LL state semifinals last year, but she has graduated.
Five pitchers saw action in preseason scrimmages. Of those, the four that threw in 2018 are senior Julia Theriault, junior Katelyn Lipski, sophomore Kelsey Fernandes and junior Julia Panarella.
“They’re all so close to each other in terms of what they bring, but they’re all so different from each other,” Hernandez said.
Theriault had the most innings pitched in 2018 with 10.2. Southington has a ton of depth to play with in 2019, and that depth is not confined to just the circle.
“Every year is a new year, and nobody is locked into their starting role from last year,” Hernandez said.
The Knights will be led by senior captains Abby Lamson, Gabby Verderame-Malachowski and Chrissy Marotto. Lamson has seen time at third base and shortstop in the preseason after mostly catching as a sophomore and junior. Verderame-Malachowski will play right field and Marotto will be at shortstop when she is cleared to play. Junior Kristin Rose is a second baseman, and fellow junior Alex Roger will battle for time in the infield. Junior first baseman Katie Gundersen saw time at first base, but is also dealing with an injury this preseason.
Sophomore Nicole Greco is the left fielder. Also competing for time in the outfield are junior Gianna Perugini, Lipski and Fernandes.
Senior Diane Williams, sophomore Kayla Pelletier and sophomore Liz Urcinas are competing for the catching position.
“I’m really excited. We have some great athletes, some really good speed,” Hernandez said.
At the plate, Marotto hit at a .486 clip to lead the team, and Lamson was not far behind her at .463. Marotto had six doubles, five triples and three home runs while Lamson led the team with 34 RBI.
Southington will jump right into competition in the season opener when it hosts NFA on Monday at 4 p.m. NFA was the No. 6 seed in Class LL and won a pair of games in the state tournament. The Knights then hit the road for games at Hall and Conard on Wednesday and Thursday.
Southington will also play out-of-conference games against Cheshire (April 30 in Cheshire) and Fitch (May 7 at home). The Rams, like the Knights, were a state semifinalist last year in Class LL.
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Kevin Roberts, email him at KRoberts@SouthingtonObserver.com