Ask Freshman Gianna Fazzolari exactly how many home runs she has on the season and her reaction will likely be a pause, followed by a smile and say, “Yeah, maybe.”
Maybe that’s part of why Fazzolari is playing so well. She isn’t over thinking every step of the way.
Fazzolari’s eighth home run of the season was the highlight of a five-run first inning as Sacred Heart edged Mt. St. Mary, 7-6, in the Monsignor Martin Athletic Association softball game that was played at ShoShone Park, Friday afternoon.
With the Sharks holding a 1-0 lead, no outs and two on, Fazzolari sent a fastball offering from Thunder pitcher Emily Trotman over the left field fence that put Sacred Heart up 4-0.
Looking at home inside the batter’s box, Fazzolari said a big reason why she hasn’t felt overwhelmed as a varsity rookie is because of the network of support within the team circle.
“It’s a great atmosphere here and the girls, I really relate to them,” Fazzolari said. “It’s just a great thing and I feel comfortable and everything is just where it has to be.”
Sharks coach Karen Conway said the Fazzolari has made the incredibly difficult leap to varsity in amazing fashion.
“I give her a lot of credit. I don’t think kids coming from eighth grade to high school appreciate how hard the transition is to varsity softball,” Conway said.
“You are playing against girls that are not only four years older than you, three years older than you. Girls that have been around the block. Girls that are looking to play in college and you are at best in 14U (travel) transitioning from not so great pitching to good pitching. So I think she is a very mature girl. I think she is perfect in the four spot (in our batting order) and she’s just outstanding as a catcher.”
The fact that Fazzolari’s home run came off a high quality pitcher like Trotman, a senior veteran who just signed her letter of intent to play softball for St. John Fisher is further proof of how impressive the hit was.
Conway also spoke glowingly of the work Fazzolari has done behind the plate as the Sharks starting catcher. But what the Coach likes most is the fact that Fazzolari hasn’t let her strong start go to her head.
“The thing that I admire is that she is a freshman and she knows she is freshman,” Conway said. “She’s definitely an asset for us.”
As a team, the Sharks made the most of their chances, including the fact that the Thunder made two of their six errors on the day in the first inning. Which resulted in the Sharks fifth run.
As it turns out the Sharks (2-0 in league, 5-4 overall) needed every one of those runs, and some timely defensive plays, to hold off the Thunders who mounted a fierce rally that went down to their very last swing of the bat in the seventh.
The Thunder (2-1) put up to runs in the sixth inning after Emily Trotman’s RBI single and Danielle Gugino’s check swing that dropped just inside the foul line behind first base to score Trotman.
But the Sharks came up with some slick fielding when they needed it most as the turned a double play to get out of the inning still holding a 7-5 lead.
Thunder coach Caroline Kos pointed to the fact that her team outscored Sacred Heart 6-2 from the second inning on, including three scoreless inning from the fourth to the sixth- as a sign that they never stopped fighting and believing they could win. It was a matter of looking at the big picture and realizing that if they limit the errors they can compete with any team.
“I told them I was proud of the way they came back after being down five)runs in the first inning,” Kos said. “It’s definitely a mentality on our team of never giving up. It’s unique and special. I was really proud of that. I did tell them errors are going to happen, but it’s how we recover from errors and what we do next that really matters.”
Trotman struck out six in her six innings inside the pitching circle.
Sharks pitcher Clare Falkowski, who fanned four in her seven innings of work, drove in what turned out to be the game-winning run when she doubled in Martha Balthasar in the third. Claire Hejaily scored twice for Sacred Heart.