WEST HAVEN - There will be no trip back to the Class LL championship game for the Southington softball team.
For the second time in three seasons, the Blue Knights were ousted from the state tournament by Amity, who scored five runs in the top of the seventh to beat top-seeded Southington 6-5 at West Haven High School Monday afternoon.
The winning run came on the strangest of plays.
Kara Zazzaro, the Blue Knights starting pitcher, was hit in the chest on a comeback line drive. As the ball rolled towards first base, Zazzaro attempted to recover and get Amity Danielle Nordyk out at first, but threw wide of Southington first baseman Francesca Ferrante, allowing Nicole Koshes to score from second. Southington was retired in order in the top of the inning to end its title hopes.
“Amity has been a great hitting team all year,” Southington head coach Davina Hernandez said. “We knew that they had a very strong hitting lineup. At that point in the game, second, third time through, Amity was all over everything. Kara was actually throwing good pitches and they were still all over it. They fought and unfortunately it came down to a couple errors.”
With the Blue Knights up 6-1 heading into that final inning, the Spartans did not go away easy. Brooke Matyasovsky started off the inning with a double. Two batters later, Rachael Crow brought home Matyasovsky with an RBI single to right field.
Kelly Pritchard then reached first on a single of her own and allowed Crow to score on another single by Elizabeth Brownfield. A third single by Nicole Koshes tied the game 5-5.
The error by the Blue Knights’ ace on the next play led to Amity’s first and only lead of the game.
Going into the seventh inning Hernandez was confident in her team with the four-run lead Southington had. It even appeared the Blue Knights would walk away with the win.
“I felt confident in our players,” Hernandez said. “I felt confident in Kara, but unfortunately the ball doesn’t always bounce your way.”
Zazzaro struck out five batters, walked one and allowed seven hits and despite getting the wind knocked out of her, the senior refused to come out of the game.
“She said she was fine,” Hernandez said. “She wanted to keep pitching and I completely understand that. In that type of situation she was not coming out. She just missed that last ball. I don’t expect anything less form her, she’s a fighter, she’s a gamer regardless of the hits and runs she’s given up, I knew she wasn’t going to give up.”
Unlike its quarterfinal came in which the offense provided Zazzaro with a single run, Southington’s lineup came out strong and notched 10 hits off Spartan pitching. Zazzaro also led the way there, going 2-for-4 with a double and a stolen base.
Maddy Rocha also hit a double, while Nicole Greco went 2-for-3.
“I thought that up and down the lineup we hit the ball well,” Hernandez said. “We came out strong and scored right away, that was our plan. Score right away and then hold them. We out hit them and did our job. Ten hits, usually with 10 hits you’d think you’d come out with a win, but defense wins championships.”
The Blue Knights were able to get on the board early. During the bottom of the second inning, Rocha hit an RBI double to bring home Gabriella Verderame.
Junior catcher Abby Lamson had another big hit for Southington in the second inning as well. Lamson hit 2-run RBI single to increase the Blue Knights lead to 3-0.
“I think we did really well in the beginning scoring first and really getting out in front,” Lamson said. “I think we just didn’t make the plays when we needed to. It was unfortunate and it sucks to end that way, but they had good hits and we couldn’t come up with the plays we needed to.”
The Spartans had trouble getting themselves on the board, until the fourth inning when Danielle Nordyk hit an RBI double driving in Koshes. Before and right after that, the Spartans couldn’t get anything going offensively.
“The timing of the errors was a big thing,” Lamson said. “We had the lead and we could have done a better job staying calm and I think some of us faltered a little bit in the belief that we can do this. That was a big issue. We tried to get it back but they just had some good hits.”
The Blue Knights were not ready to end their season, and despite the turn out, Southington already has its eyes on next year.
“This team in particular is really close,” Lamson said. “I’ve been on varsity for three years now and this team by far has been the most close knit and all together in it. We’re going to use that for next year and go off of this. Everyone was in the game and everyone was invested in the program.”
Shelby Iava can be reached at (860) 801-5096 or firstname.lastname@example.org