SOFTBALL: Six HRs and power pitching of Furniss & Blanchard launch Southington past Maloney in CCC quarters

SOUTHINGTON — In a commanding performance, the No. 1-seeded Southington Blue Knights cruised to an emphatic 12-0 victory Tuesday over he No. 8 Maloney Spartans in the quarterfinals of the Central Connecticut Conference softball tournament.

Led by the dominant pitching of Madison Furniss, the Knights showcased their prowess on both sides of the field, with their bats sizzling as they launched six home runs throughout the game.

“Overall, I thought it was a really good day for us; I felt like we were moving on all cylinders,” said Southington head coach Davina Hernandez. “As a team, it was really nice to see hitting from all parts of the lineup today.”

The six home runs broke a previous school record of five in a game, set back in 2013, Hernandez’s first year at the reins.

“It was really cool to see that happen in our first postseason game,” said Hernandez, her team now 21-0.

Furniss, discussing her mindset heading into the CCC tournament, conveyed a concise, powerful message: “Be aggressive; just fight and do your best.”

Furniss did just that, igniting the game with a scorching start, swiftly retiring the first three batters in a row, two of which by way of the K.

In the bottom of the first inning, with one out on the board, Southington made its first mark on offense when Emily Moskal hammered a line drive to right field just out of the reach of the Maloney fielder’s glove.

The electrifying play turned into an inside-the-park home run and a 1-0 Southington lead.

“My goal going into my at-bats was to stay out of my head, and that’s what I did,” said Moskal. “When I hit it, I just kept running.”

After Furniss delivered another shutdown inning in the second, the Blue Knights seized the opportunity to break the game wide open in the bottom half. Mallory Rohon kick-started the explosive inning with a towering home run to left field.

Teammates swarmed Rohon at home plate in jubilation. They wouldn’t have to wait long for another celebration. Nicole Szuba smashed a home run to left field on the very next pitch.

Nevertheless, Southington wasn’t satisfied with just the back-to-back jacks.

After Maloney center fielder Ellie Lopez made an impressive diving catch for the second out, Southington’s Shelby Jordan managed to reach second base when her fly ball was lost in the sun, landing in an unoccupied area of left field for a double.

With the inning prolonged, Elyse Picard delivered a powerful hit to left field. It appeared the ball would be caught. Instead, it slipped from the left fielder’s glove and sailed over the fence for a home run and a 5-0 Southington lead.

In her final inning on the mound, Furniss continued her commanding performance by retiring the Spartan batters in order once again. In her three innings, Furniss kept the Spartans from reaching base and struck out four.

Then, in the home half, Furniss displayed her skills as a dual-threat player by delivering a crushing home run to right-center field.

“It feels really good,” Furniss said. “Being able to contribute both ways just makes me feel like I can support my team even when I’m not on the mound.”

Following Furniss’ home run, Rohon reached base with a single to shallow center field. Taking advantage of a throwing error, Rohon advanced all the way to third.

Szuba, after working a full count, then delivered a RBI double that soared to the left field fence.

The inning wasn’t done. With two outs, Hailey Zaczynski drew a walk and Jordan was hit by a pitch, juicing the bases. Picard then reached first base on a dropped third strike, allowing the eighth SHS run to score.

The inning continued with a clutch hit from Moskal, who delivered a well-executed slap through the left side to clear the bases. The double expanded the home team’s lead to 11-0.

In the top of the fourth inning, Stella Blanchard took over the pitching duties and, over the course of three innings, displayed excellent control by striking out four batters while allowing only one hit and one walk.

“Me and Stella both work hard on hitting our spots, so it was good to see both of us perform like that,” Furniss remarked.

The Blue Knights’ formidable 1-2 pitching punch has been a force to reckon with this season. Blanchard has pitched 62 innings and faced 208 batters. She has surrendered only 12 hits without allowing a single earned run while striking out 133.

Furniss has pitched 55 innings and faced 194 batters. While allowing 15 hits and 3 earned runs, she has also struck out 100.

“I’m so impressed,” said Hernandez. “I truly believe they are two of the best pitchers in the country. They faced some really good hitters this year and dominated.”

Maloney managed to get its first baserunner aboard in the fifth when Maya Massores drew a walk. However, the Blue Knights quickly turned the tide with a double play. Blanchard struck out the next batter and promptly threw out the pinch-runner at second base.

Southington completed the 12-0 mercy victory with a no-doubter to left by Rohon in the bottom of the sixth. Looking to go 4-for-4 at the plate, Rohon sent the Blue Knights home early with her second home run of the game.

Furniss expressed the Blue Knights’ determined mindset and commitment to being relentless in their approach.

“We’re going to be aggressive with our bats, our defense, our pitching,” she said. “We’re going to come out and fight.”

Moskal highlighted the positive team dynamics and camaraderie, stating, “Our team chemistry is really good and we’re all working together. It’s all a lot of fun.”

Southington will be back at home Wednesday to host a semifinal. Maloney (14-7) next plays in the Class LL state tournament, which opens next Tuesday.

“Just one game at a time; we never look past an opponent, so we’re looking to whoever it is,” said Hernandez. “Just remaining disciplined at the plate, having good pitching and great defense. Defense and discipline have earned us some championships.”


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