BRISTOL - The power-hitting parade continued to roll through St. Paul High School on Wednesday afternoon.
Abby Poirot, Jess Persechino and Janessa Gonzalez each belted home runs, sending the Falcons softball team to a 9-2 victory over Watertown.
The Falcons (5-1) scored six of their nine runs via the long ball and have now racked up 11 home runs this season.
Head coach Gary Hovhanessian said perhaps it was Wednesday’s visit from Katelynn Oullette - a 2018 senior captain who could put a charge into a ball - that inspired the girls to showcase their penchant for hitting blasts.
“Maybe they were just showing off for her,” Hovhanessian joked. “We didn’t hit off the machine today. We just worked on the fundamentals and techniques of swinging. If they do it right, they’re gonna hit a lot of home runs.”
Gonzalez is the Falcons’ leadoff hitter, while Persechino and Poirot are the No. 3 and 4 hitters for a lineup that was locked in one through nine against the Indians (2-5).
“[It wasn’t] like this last year,” Poirot said of the Falcons’ power surge. “I think we have a very strong first half [of the lineup], and then we get the bunters and faster runners toward the bottom. We have our power hitters in front.”
Rebecca Nerbonne, the No. 7 hitter, put St. Paul on the board in the third inning. From down the third-base line, Hovhanessian shouted to Nerbonne, “Be a senior leader up there!”
The veteran obliged, roping an RBI single two pitches later to score Poirot, who had smacked a ground-rule double. Nerbonne’s hit to left field plated another run on an error for a 2-0 advantage.
In the fourth, Poirot’s three-run homer broke the game open, giving the Falcons a 5-0 cushion after Katrina Roy drew a walk and Persechino hit a single.
The Indians plated a run in the fifth off an RBI single by Nikki DeFeo, but Gonzalez answered in the bottom half with her solo home run. Persechino added her two-run shot in the fifth, and she produced another run with an RBI single in the sixth.
“We’ve just been working hard in practices as a team and everything, working on our swings a lot. It’s showing in the games,” Persechino said. “We kept the energy up in the dugout, cheering loud, and that definitely helped us. We just learned how to play as a team early in the season, which definitely helps a lot. We still have stuff to work on, though.”
Persechino was impressed with her teammate Poirot on the mound. The senior starter pitched a complete game, firing 11 strikeouts against one walk, allowing two earned runs on five hits.
In the first inning, Nikki DeFeo and Chloe DeFeo powered hard-hit balls to the outfield fence, each of which came inches from going over the wall for solo home runs. Each hit resulted in a single, just three pitches into the game, and Poirot then loaded the bases with a walk.
“Abby’s been in this situation many times before, and she’s always gotten out of it herself,” Persechino said. “She can just do it herself, and she has the defense behind her and she knows that.”
Poirot responded to the hectic start, settling in to record three straight strikeouts to get out of the jam.
“I knew this wasn’t gonna be an easy game, and I left two fastballs over the middle of the plate. Those were pancakes, meatballs, not gonna lie,” Poirot said. “I knew I couldn’t come into this game throwing whatever I wanted. I needed to hit my spots and get my spins to help move the ball, and then I beared down because I’ve been in this situation.
“I like the pressure. I think I pitch better with the pressure than [when there’s no] pressure. We had a lot of one-run games [last year] so I’m used to the pressure. Even if it was the first inning, I still wanted to get those [pressure] outs.”
After loading the bases in the first, Poirot retired 13 straight Indians before a double by Morgan Hodorski preceded Nikki DeFeo’s run-scoring single in the fifth.
“That’s why she’s an All-State pitcher. I’m proud of her,” Hovhanessian said. “[Watertown’s] a tough opponent. They’re well-disciplined at the plate. Their top three hitters get on, now she’s gotta go to work against 4-5-6 [and she got out of it].
“I like to think I contribute with the pitches I call, and her pitches were working today. In a tough game and tough battle, you’ve gotta have all your pitches working, and today everything was working. Her screwball and changeup were working. We threw a minimal amount of fastballs. We threw screwballs, changeups and rise balls a lot. We kept fastballs to minimum.”
Zack Carpenter can be reached at (860) 973-1811 or firstname.lastname@example.org