By MIKE DUPREZ
FRANKLINVILLE — Emma Mazzarone has established herself as one of the best high school softball pitchers in North Carolina.
The roots for that go way, way back.
“When she was 5 years old, she comes into the gym and says, ‘I'm going to pitch for you one day,’ ‘’ said Providence Grove coach Tim Brown. “I had no idea.
“Emma, hey, she works hard. She does it all.”
Mazzarone, a junior, remembers that day. She remembers it well.
“Yes, sir,” Mazzarone said, with a giggle. ”… My parents really helped me and my mom used to work here. So I’ve always been around PG and this environment.”
It's one in which she has thrived to the hilt.
Mazzarone was the PAC-7 pitcher of the year as a sophomore after going 8-4 with a 1.03 earned run average and 135 strikeouts in 74 2/3 innings. The tall right-hander allowed opponents a minuscule .116 batting average.
And now the Virginia Tech commit is even better.
Mazzarone overpowers hitters with a fastball that touches the upper 60s. She also throws a first-rate rise ball and a devastating changeup. It’s not real complicated, as she sees it.
“Lots of hours at the ball park,” Mazzarone said. “And I play travel ball every weekend.”
It’s something Brown marvels over every game. He gives her the ball and watches it happen.
“She gets better as the game goes on,” Brown said. “The other night, the last pitch she threw was 68. She's a hundred percent better than last year and she was pitcher of the year in the conference last year. She just works hard. She knows what to do.”
A dominant pitcher has a huge impact in fastpitch softball.
“The girls fee like if we get two or three runs, it’s over,” Brown said.
That was never more apparent than Friday night against Uwharrie Charter.
Mazzarone threw a suffocating six-inning no-hitter, striking out 15 of the 19 batters she faced. She issued a pair of walks and nothing else.
Providence Grove's infielders celebrate after yet another Emma Mazzarone strikeout.
Oh, and by the way, she blasted a towering home run to dead center, easily clearing the fence at the 210-foot mark.
“She’s always been able to hit,” Brown said. “You have to remember we lost a whole season to COVID. Emma has only played 18 varsity games.”
Through five games, Mazzarone has done it all. She was 5-0 with a 0.00 ERA and 64 strikeouts in her first 29 innings. Opposing batters hit .084 against her during that span. At the plate, she was batting .647.
As for the two or three runs needed for a win, Providence Grove got four in the bottom of the first on Friday. The first came on back-to-back triples by Mazzarone and Makayla McClain. Reann Saunders brought in two more with a bloop single.
The rest of the game was on cruise control. Mazzarone’s domination was complete. The closest Uwharrie Charter came to getting a hit was when Kenzie Hill ripped a pair of line drives that fell in foul territory down the right-field line in the third inning.
Mazzarone’s mixture of pitches proved to be dazzling, especially the changeup.
“It’s pretty fun,” catcher Gracie Smith said. “You never know what's going to happen.”
It’s all about focus, as Mazzarone sees it.
“I have a clear mind when I’m pitching,” she said. “And my catcher over here, she helps out a lot, too.”
The view was certainly good from behind the plate.
“All I know is I don’t want to miss the ball,” Smith said. “I try to block the ball with everything I have. ... And she usually hits her spots.”
Mazzarone takes it all in stride, in an easygoing manner.
“Pitching is a mental thing,” Mazzarone said. “It really is.”