Mazzarone maintains rapid rate of strikeouts for Patriots

Emma Mazzarone of Providence Grove fires a pitch earlier this season. (PJ Ward-Brown/Randolph Record)

Providence Grove senior pitcher holds dominating form

CLIMAX – Emma Mazzarone doesn’t mind the workload that comes with being Providence Grove’s ace softball pitcher.

She keeps on striking out batters at a staggering rate.

“Before every game, I’ll try not to put a number in my head,” Mazzarone said of strikeout totals. “I try to pitch to certain batters to strike them out. And if they get a hit, more power to them. I’m really just focused on what I’m going to pitch to each and every batter in the lineup and what they have.”

Mazzarone is in her final season for the Patriots before she goes on to play collegiately for Virginia Tech.

For Providence Grove coach Tim Brown, he remembered years ago coming across Mazzarone. She was barely in youth leagues at the time.

“She told me, ‘I’m going to pitch for you.’ ” he said.

Sure enough, she has logged so many innings the past couple of years that she became a fixture in the circle. The Patriots went through the regular season undefeated last year and they’re off to another good start this year.

Mazzarone struck out a state-leading 364 batters in 2022. That comes with a lot of innings.

“Last year I would throw a full seven innings,” she said. “I have to have a lot of arm care. It’s just mentally tough first. I have it physically right now. I just have to keep my mental game straight to play three games a week.”

Mazzarone makes multiple visits a week to Athletic Training & Conditioning in Asheboro to help keep her arm in pitching shape.

Double-figure strikeout totals from Mazzarone are the norm. That works out well for Providence Grove’s fielders.

“It makes the defense easier,” Brown said. “We only have to make four or five plays a game.”

Mazzarone, who can appear imposing even at 5-foot-11 in the circle, said she hasn’t stopped her pursuit to improve. She knows the competition is aiming to solve her pitching.

“Every girl in Randolph County, I’ve played with for at least one season somewhere. Even in travel ball or practice,” she said. “So I know most of them and they know me. … I went to a lesson and changed a few things. I’m just trying to get better spin-wise and location-wise.”

She has nine complete games in 11 pitching appearances this year, recording 160 strikeouts in 72 innings – or more than two strikeout victims per inning. She has issued 21 walks and allowed seven earned runs.

Early in the recruiting process, she said college coaches seemed most interested in what she could do at the plate. The pitching dominance became too much to ignore.

Mazzarone, 17, is a major threat at the plate, even though she’s constantly assessing what she can do better with the bat.

“Hitting is not there for me right now,” she said earlier this season. “I’m trying some different stuff out and working on a few different things to just better myself. We’ll get it figured out.”

Midway through the regular season, she’s batting a team-leading .531 with four home runs and 12 total extra-base hits.

Mazzarone, who was an All-Piedmont Athletic Conference player in volleyball, plays center field in the rare cases when she’s not pitching.

It helps the Patriots having her in the lineup to go with what she normally has done with firing pitches past opposing batters.

“She’s a treasure,” Brown said.

By Bob Sutton