WEST HAVEN — Southington senior Sydney Ferrante had a firm grip on a softball during her post-game interviews Tuesday night after she and the No. 1 Blue Knights blanked No. 5 Daniel Hand 8-0 in the Class LL semifinals at Biondi Field.
Just an hour prior to that interview, Ferrante deposited that same ball well over the 210-foot centerfield fence for a three-run homer. The 3-0 lead it provided was more than enough for ace pitcher Kendra Friedt, who tossed a two-hit shutout as Southington clinched its 20th trip to a state softball championship game in program history.
The 23-0 Blue Knights will face a familiar foil in the finals: No. 7 Amity (24-5), which clipped South Windsor 2-1 in Tuesday’s first Class LL semifinal.
Southington and Amity will meet for the seventh time in a state softball final — and provide a bookend to the Southington-Amity baseball championship — either Friday or Saturday at a time and place to be determined.
On Tuesday against Hand (20-6), Ferrante shattered a scoreless tie in the third inning when she connected with a 1-0 offering from Hand pitcher Kathryn Omdahl.
“She as been so frustrated because she has probably hit the fence 10 times this year,” Southington coach Davina Hernandez said of her All-State senior shortstop. “I had the feeling she was going to hit one out today. She is so strong. She is not big at all and people don’t realize how strong and compact her swing is. We play most of our games on an open field so people don’t get a sense. Half of her balls that were caught this year would have been hit out of this field. It was the right field at the right time.”
The Tigers, meanwhile, couldn’t do much against Friedt.
“I was just really moving my pitches in and out and trying to keep them off-balanced,” the right-handed flamethrower said. “I didn’t want them to hit it because they are a really good hitting team.”
The junior yielded just a one-out single in the fifth to Sam Pavano and an infield single Melanie Rennie in the seventh. The latter hit deflected off of Friedt’s glove.
Friedt fanned 11 and walked none in the two-hit gem.
“Kendra throws hard,” Ferrante said. “Not many teams can catch up to her in the first place. She’s virtually unhittable.”
Caroline Burke started the third-inning uprising with a single up the middle. After a pair of outs, Lauren Zazzaro reached on an error, setting the stage for Ferrante to create a souvenir she always have.
“I’m definitely going to keep the ball,” the smiling shortstop said.
Southington added three more runs in the fifth. Omdahl’s throwing error on a comebacker off the bat of Zazzaro allowed Kaitlin Paterson to score. Paterson had started the fire with a lead-off double.
Ferrante (2-for-3, 4 RBI) followed with an opposite field single that scored Zazzaro to make it 5-0. Sophomore Natalie Wadolowski (2-for-3) capped the rally with her second double of the night, a poke into the right field corner that chased home Ferrante and put Southington up by a half dozen.
Hayley Arduini padded the Southington lead to 8-0 with a two-run, inside-the-park to the left field fence.
“Haley is a clutch hitter,” Hernandez said. “She doesn’t have the highest batting average on the team, but she has hit some of furthest balls out of anyone on this team.”
Hernandez said Friedt was her usual dominant self. Only three Tigers reached base: Pavano and Rennie on their hits and Annah Curcio on a first-inning error.
“Today was the first time I didn’t see her get upset that there were some hits,” Hernandez said.
“She knew that she had a good defense behind her and that we were going to hit. We were on the ball and scored some runs.”
Omdahl, a junior, gave up eight runs on nine hits. She walked none.