SOUTHINGTON - In the first game of the season against Southington, the Bristol Eastern softball team was looking for sophomore ace Erin Girard to start her season strong and the offense, led by Jordan Fitzsimons, to perform against Blue Knights ace Kara Zazzaro.
Neither happened in the tough loss for Bristol Eastern, yet the loss gave the Lancers a good test and challenge moving forward.
For Girard, it wasn’t going to be an easy task on the mound, as the Blue Knights were runner-ups in the Class LL tournament last spring and always bring a strong lineup to the field.
The sophomore, Girard, was taking on Southington’s Kara Zazzaro, a senior, in what was set up to be a pitching duel.
Girard gave up six earned runs in six innings, though, but her performance will be in the spotlight all season long as the standout player and a major reason behind the Lancers being the No. 4 seed in last season’s Class LL tournament.
Girard knows the group has a lot to work on moving forward.
“I feel like we did well,” Girard said. “It’s still our first game, so we have a lot of things to improve on. We’re still getting to know each other. We have a lot of improvements to make. We’re going to make sure we get more practice in and work on things we need to.”
Throughout the game, Girard mixed in her fastball with off-speed pitches. At times, her change of pace fooled the Blue Knights’ batter looking or forced imbalanced swings.
She struggled with her command, though, leaving pitches up in the zone for the Southington batters to take advantage of, which led to 13 hits allowed in the game.
“I thought it was a good first test for Erin,’ Bristol Eastern head coach Scott Redman said. “It’s tough when you open up against a team like Southington. She wanted that challenge. I thought she pitched well and held them down. There were a couple hard hit balls on a couple hanging pitches. And the thing with good teams is you’re not afforded as many mistakes. Good hitters capitalize when you make mistakes. She got away with a couple, but they took advantage of a couple others. She limited damage and got out of a couple jams. I thought she was pretty good.”
The inexperience of the Lancers stood out, especially offensively, after losing some key pieces in Mikayla Martin and Makenzie Jankowski. Bristol Eastern could only get two hits.
Both hits against Zazzaro came from sophomores, Taylor Keegan and Alyssa Hackling.
“We’re young but we do have some experience back,” Redman said. “I like how the bottom of the order created some opportunities in the third inning. But I think they came in a little intimidated [of Zazzaro] and we kind of talked about that. You can’t be intimidated if you get in the box. If you do you’re already starting behind, so it’s hard to perform that way.”
Offensive production moving forward will be just as important as Girard’s continued development on the mound in order to replicate last year’s success.