SOUTHINGTON — The sound of the pop when Southington pitcher Kara Zazzaro’s fastball hits the catcher’s mitt is unique.
The junior’s heater sits in the low 60s and has topped out at 65. This is her first year as the featured Blue Knights’ starting pitcher and she’s off to a perfect start.
Zazzaro entered the season with a mind at ease as far as where she will pitch in college. The 5-foot-9 right-hander has given her verbal commitment to Division I Iona College in New Rochelle, N.Y.
“It’s a relief,” Zazzaro said. “I know where I’m going. Now it’s just improving on my craft and getting better by the time I get there. I’m working towards that. Now I don’t have any pressure in my college decision. I just have to play my best.”
Zazzaro and the Blue Knights are off to a spotless 5-0 start. Zazarro’s last win was a 17-strikeout, no-hit masterpiece in a 14-0 win over Maloney on Sunday.
It was her first no-no as a high school starter. Only a two-out walk in the fifth inning kept her from a perfect game.
“I felt really good,” Zazzaro said. “I was hitting my spots well. That’s a big key for me. I didn’t really think about the no-hitter. I didn’t realize I was throwing a no-hitter until one of my teammates told me.”
Southington coach Davina Hernandez said Zazzaro has a presence on the mound.
“She worked so hard in the offseason, not only on her pitching, but on her speed and power,” Hernandez said. “She put herself in a great position and she’s pitching with a lot of confidence this year. Kara had a great sophomore year and opened a lot of eyes.”
Zazzaro served mainly as the closer for the Knights last season in relief of All-State selection Brenna Sarantides. Zazzaro allowed one earned run on eight hits in 39 innings.
“I started getting calls from (college) coaches,” Hernandez said. “They were calling me after her sophomore season and she wasn’t even our No. 1 starter.”
Zazzaro finished with a 0.65 ERA. She totaled 72 strikeouts.
“It was great to be able to pitch alongside Brenna,” Zazzaro said. “It was a different approach. I would come in with different experience. I liked being in pressure situations. I liked being the closer last year and being there for my team whenever I was needed. I learned a lot of good things working through those situations.
“Over the summer I got to start games and got a different perspective,” she added. “I had a good time with it. I’m feeling good this year coming out strong in the first few innings. I feel that I get better as I go on in the game.”
Zazzaro said she’s been blessed with the ability to throw a softball with great velocity. (“It’s been a natural part of my pitching since I started.”) The craft has come in harnessing it.
“I’ve worked on my control,” Zazzaro said. “That’s more important. It doesn’t matter how hard you throw if you can’t throw it over the plate.”
In addition to the heat, Zazzaro has an arsenal of four other pitches.
“To me, she’s nowhere near peaking,” Hernandez said. “She’s only going to get stronger. I’m proud of Kara. She’s going to a great school in a great conference. She knows it’s not just about softball. Iona is a strong academic school with great programs. It’s a great decision for her.”
Zazzaro, who will play summer ball on Long Island, had other college offers, but Iona was the school for her.
“I had gone to a few of their recruiting camps,” Zazzaro said. “I liked coach (Melissa Inouye) and the coaching style. It seemed like a great fit. It’s a super competitive softball program and close to the city. I wanted to go somewhere and win.”
After no-hitting Maloney, Zazzaro and the Blue Knights are gearing up for two big nonconference matchups at home. Westhill comes calling this afternoon. Norwich Free Academy visits on Thursday. Both, like their host, are perennial Class LL contenders.
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