chuckled when reminded how many runs her Southington (Conn.)
softball team has both scored and allowed this season.
The Blue Knights' run differential has been absurd, as they've scored 86 runs and allowed just two.
More absurdity — Southington isn't even halfway through its schedule yet.
Also note that the defending CIAC Class LL champions have battered opponents with a new head coach, a new battery, two new outfielders, and with just three seniors on the roster.
"We knew we had four key losses, but I've been impressed with some of the girls," Hernandez said. "Some of them made huge improvements. You could really tell they've put the work in during the offseason."
Southington is 7-0 and ranked No. 1 in the New Haven Register Top 10 poll. The program has won a state-record 15 state titles.
Pitching was arguably the Blue Knights' biggest spot to fill after the graduation of Jordyn Moquin
(Mercy College). She went 24-1 last season with a 0.47 ERA and gave up just 10 runs.
Junior Kendra Friedt
is Southington's new ace and has been a resounding success so far.
"Her stats speak for themselves," Hernandez said. "She worked really, really hard in the offseason and came back a totally different pitcher. She threw hard last year, but she came back with a whole different sense of control with the ball. It's really moving now. It's jumping out of the zone, and a lot of people are having trouble hitting her."
has taken over as catcher. She missed part of last season to a concussion and has come back strong for her senior year.
"You'd probably have heard her name a lot sooner, but she's battled a couple of injuries over the years," Hernandez said. "She's very strong and very quick. You don't really see that combination much in a catcher."
Southington's entire infield returned — sophomore Natalie Wadolowski
(first base), junior Kaitlin Paterson
(second base), senior Sydney Ferrante
(shortstop) and junior Lauren Zazzaro
The Blue Knights offense has scored 10 runs or more in seven of its games. It beat Farmington, 24-0, in its last game (April 23).
"They're a very disciplined team," Hernandez said of her charges. "That actually, in my opinion, was the big difference in the (second) Bristol Eastern game (a 1-0 win on April 18). Kendra was able to get batters to chase pitches out of the zone. Their pitcher (Sarah Beliveau) did that at the beginning of the game, too, but we made adjustments and were able to manufacture that one run."
Paterson hit a leadoff single in that game and scored on Ferrante's one-out single.
Hernandez, 27, had the good fortune of being entrusted with the program. She played for rival Bristol Central, as well as UMass-Amherst and the Puerto Rican national team, and joined Southington as an assistant last season under John Bores.
"I had a lot of respect for him as a coach, and he had a lot of respect for me as a player," Hernandez said. "He ran into my father (Dave) in a grocery store (the previous offseason), and about a month later, I got an email from him asking if I'd be interested in coaching. One thing led to another."
Hernandez has added her own touches to the program, such as being aggressive on the base paths. The Blue Knights stole 15 bases during the Farmington win.
"I was always an aggressive base runner, and I like to mix things up," Hernandez said. "I like to challenge the catcher early in the game. I like to catch the infield sleeping. I want us to take those extra bases. A lot of that was already instilled in them.
"We have a lot of kids, and none of them are the fastest kids in the world by any means, but they run smart and they run hard. They get a good jump."
The Blue Knights expect a challenge today when it plays host to Maloney (8-0).
"This is a huge game for us," Hernandez said. "(The team) isn't underestimating them at all."Ned Griffen has covered high school, college and professional sports in the Northeast since 1992. A 2003 New England Associated Press News Executives award winner, he may be reached at
or follow him @MetalNED