Attn: Pawling High School faculty
Consider giving Olivia Zoeller extra credit — be it on an upcoming assignment or even just a shiny gold sticker as a memento.
Because minutes after completing the most superb performance of her sparkling softball career, the junior was far less concerned about celebrating her perfect game than she was completing the homework for her four advanced-placement classes.
“I’m enjoying this now because I won’t have time afterwards,” Zoeller said during the bus ride home Wednesday evening. “I’ve got so much work to do.”
She had already done quite a bit of work in the circle, fanning a career-high 18 and notching her first perfect game as Pawling cruised in its season opener, 12-0, over host Blind Brook High School.
“It was an amazing pitching performance,” Tigers coach John Hodge said. “Especially this early in the season, she had great command. She was amazingly sharp and just locked in.”
So locked in that Zoeller didn’t even realize her feat until being told afterward by her catcher, Shannon Ward, and the coaches.
“I had an inkling I had a no-hitter going, but I’d forgotten that nobody reached base,” said Zoeller, who had thrown a no-hitter before. “When they told me what happened, I was speechless.”
She made Blind Brook’s lineup look hapless. Zoeller’s diving changeup and high fastball were, well, a perfect combination. Only three batters put the ball in play, and two of those were bunts back to the circle. She had three-ball counts in only two at-bats.
“Shannon (Ward) did a great job behind the plate and called a good game,” Hodge said.
Zoeller struck out the first seven batters, then fielded a bunt. She fanned the next six before yielding a grounder to third in the fifth inning. The slow roller was scooped by third baseman Mikayla Ward, who threw easily to first.
“Everything was working for her,” said Hodge, whose team won the Section 1 Class B championship last season.
Zoeller also sparked the offense, going 4 for 5 with a homer, a triple, two doubles, and three RBI. Julia Krasinski went 2 for 4 with two RBI, and Ward was 3 for 4. Isabella Santiago hit a two-run double, Allison Parent had two doubles and two runs, and Kayla Chavarri hit a triple.
“Hopefully this game is a good sign of what’s to come,” said Zoeller, who is part of a young core that has made Pawling a contender. “I feel really confident and I think we can go farther than we did last year. This was a great way to open the season.”
A perfect way, really.
Pawling isn’t an upstart team, nor is Zoeller new to the spotlight. Opposing teams have done their homework on her … but the course remains difficult, to say the least.
Stephen Haynes: email@example.com, 845-437-4826, Twitter: @StephenHaynes4