NEWARK – Kodi Rizzo has been an integral part of the success Newark softball has achieved so far this season.
The sophomore right-handed pitcher along with junior hurlers Kaitlyn Schofield and Taylor Kruser have produced a formidable trio in the circle, which has proven very tough to defeat.
It was Rizzo’s turn to shine again for the Norsemen on Wednesday afternoon against Little Ten Conference rival Serena.
Rizzo was at her dominating best, allowing only one run, one hit and a walk while striking out eight and retiring the last 13 batters she faced.
That helped Newark – the seventh-ranked team in the most current Illinois Softball Coaches Association Class 1A poll – defeat No. 18 Serena, 11-1, in five innings to capture its 11th LTC softball crown and third in a row since the inception of the sport within the league back in 1992.
“I think what really helped me today was having some great defense behind me with my changeup working really well, and my fastball placement was good, too,” Rizzo said. “We also hit the ball and my teammates gave me a lot of runs to work with, so I couldn’t have asked for more.”
The Norsemen (25-3-1, 12-0) smacked out nine hits, including three home runs, which gives them a whopping 32 round trippers so far this year.
“Kodi pitched very well, she did a good job of locating today and after the first inning she was in command,” Newark coach Tim Schofield said. “We also hit the ball against a very tough Serena team. These girls are hungry and they want to win so we just keep pushing.”
The Huskers (14-6, 8-2 LTC) actually got on the board initially with their only run and hit off of Rizzo (7-2) in the top of the first. Senior Katie Baker singled to right with one out and eventually scored on a wild pitch to give Serena a 1-0 lead. But Rizzo and the Norsemen were lights out after that as the Huskers had to endure the loss of freshman phenom hurler Maddie Glade to a pitching hand injury early in the game.
“We came out today, were flat and Newark jumped on us hitting the ball like they do and we could never stop the bleeding after they got going,” Serena coach Kelly Baker said. “Kodi [Rizzo] did a great job pitching against us and once we lost Maddie we couldn’t help our relief pitcher [freshman Jenna Setchell] who I thought really threw well but didn’t have any defense behind her. But credit to Newark. They’re a great team and showed it again today.”
Newark evened the score at 1-1 in the bottom of the first when Kaitlyn Schofield (3-for-3, four RBIs) led off and blasted a 1-0 offering from Glade (14-5) to deep centerfield that glanced off the glove of Reese Cole and went over the fence. It was Kaitlyn Schofield’s team-leading eighth homer of the season.
“I just knew I had to sit back on the pitch and that was my approach,” Kaitlyn Schofield said. “When I saw it go off her glove for a home run I was pretty happy to have some luck like that.”
In the bottom of the second, junior Bre Dixon laced a blistering double off Serena third baseman Paisley Twait’s glove down the line in left. Dixon would score on a wild pitch before senior K.J. Friestad scored after walking and coming home on Kaitlyn Schofield’s run-scoring single to give Newark a 3-1 lead after two innings.
The Norsemen added three more in the bottom of the third. Sophomore Danica Peshia led off and hit Glade’s first pitch over the fence in left center for her seventh homer of the season to put Newark up, 4-1.
“In my last at bat I knew the first pitch came inside so I thought it was coming there again,” Peshia said. “So I just sat back and I got all of it.”
That was it for Glade, as she exited the circle with the injury and yielded to Setchell who surrendered two unearned runs in the frame courtesy of a critical Serena error that put Newark ahead, 6-1.
With Rizzo sailing along in the circle, the Norsemen added five more unearned runs in the bottom of the fifth. After two outs, the Huskers committed a key error that led to Kaitlyn Schofield’s two-run double, Taylor Kruser’s RBI single before sweet-swinging, lefty, sophomore sensation Ryan Williams ended the proceedings with her fourth homer of the year beyond the fence in center that ended the game in style.
“I hadn’t really seen a good ball to hit all day until then,” Williams said. “I just wanted to put it in play and trusted my mechanics. It was a great moment for me and for all of us now as conference champs.”