SOUTHINGTON - Southington catcher Abby Lamson walked up the first-base line to meet Kara Zazzaro, who was heading back to the bench after another 1-2-3 inning.
Zazzaro - who allowed just two hits during the 1-0 win over No. 9 South Windsor in the quarterfinal of the Class LL softball tournament- had herself quite the afternoon. The right-hander struck out 14 batters, and walked no one. She threw 93 pitches, 66 of which were strikes, and only gave up two hits.
And the top-ranked Blue Knights (21-1) needed it with Zazzaro and the Bobcats’ Maria Hanchuk locked in a pitchers’ duel.
Zazzaro has been leading Southington all season, and Friday was just another outing for the senior. The pitcher’s latest gem lowered her season ERA to .29. This year alone Zazzaro has struck out 198 batters and through her four years as a Blue Knight has struck out 482.
On the opposing side, Hanchuk struck out 10 batters, gave up three hits and issued no walks. She threw 83 pitches with 55 of them being strikes.
“Maria is a really good pitcher and we knew that going into the game,” Southington head coach Davina Hernandez said. “She’s one of the few lefties that we see so it’s different coming from the other side of the body. We knew that she was going to throw a good game against us. She pretty much shut us down last time. We were hoping that our bats would come alive, and they have been and we were hoping we would see that today but we didn’t. A win’s a win and we manufactured the one run, otherwise it was a pitching duel.”
The Blue Knights had an early taste of what the junior could do during a cold April game. Hanchuk struck out nine in Southington’s 3-0 win and was looking for more this time around.
“We felt prepared for the game, but we were definitely ready for their competition,” Blue Knights’ left fielder Sarah Myrick said. “We knew that they were going to give us a good game and we were ready for it. Their pitcher was very impressive. We were definitely impressed by here but I think we could have handled her a little bit better, but for what she was giving us, we did a pretty good job.”
One of the three hits Hanchuck gave up generated the lone scored run for Southington. It was a bunt from leadoff hitter and shortstop Chrissy Marotta. Lamson then drove in Marotta with an RBI single to left field.
“We came in with the mindset that we really wanted to win,” first baseman Frankie Ferrante said. “Unfortunately our bats didn’t come together very well. Their pitcher came out firing. Our girls were struggling and we knew we had to get something done, but we came out with the win.”
The Bobcats pressured the Blue Knights late in the final inning. After a fly out, Hanchuck hit a single to right field, followed by another single by South Windsor’s shortstop Taylor Darby.
With two runners on base, and one out, the Bobcats were in a position to score. But Zazzaro struck out the final batters to end the game and send Southington on to the semifinals.
The Blue Knights will host fifth-seeded Amity (20-3) either Monday or Tuesday at either 4 or 5 p.m.
Shelby Iava can be reached at (860)801-5096 or firstname.lastname@example.org