Andrea Chiaradio zoned in on catcher Julie Royer's signals. The junior pitcher from Stonington (Conn.) was one out away from accomplishing a feat she had never done for her high school team: throw a no-hitter.
But this wasn't your garden variety no-hitter, this was a perfect game. And it wouldn't be just any perfect game, it'd be a perfect perfect game. The first 20 batters had come to the plate and all exited the batter's box via strikeout, and Chiaradio was now on the cusp of striking out every single batter in a full-length, seven-inning high school softball game.
So with her palms a little sweatier and her heart beating a little faster, Chiaradio dug in.
"You could tell she had more pop to the ball that day," Stonington head coach Ann-Marie Houle said. "Her dropball was really moving and she was hitting spots more than ever."
Chiaradio didn't leave teammates, coaches or fans in suspense long, quickly fanning Norwich Free Academy's (Conn.) 21st and final batter to complete a feat that has only been achieved one other time in the history of Connecticut high school softball.
"The other team was actually very nice," Chiaradio said. "When we shook hands a lot of them were saying ‘good game’ and patting me on the back."
The only other name next to Chiaradio in the Connecticut record book is Rachele Fico, now a junior ace for the nationally ranked LSU softball team.
Fico hurled a staggering 26 perfect games in her high school career, but Chiaradio's perfection is arguably the best performance in state history for two reasons.
First, this is the first "perfect" perfect game since the high school softball rubber has been moved back from 40 to 43 feet, giving hitters a longer reaction time to square up on a pitch.
Second, and perhaps most impressive, Norwich Free Academy plays in a higher division than Chiaradio's Stonington squad. And, even more mind-boggling, NFA had pounded out 27 hits in the game prior to its matchup with Stonington.
"For games against teams a division up, our team tends to really focus and play hard," Chiaradio said. "We want to beat the bigger-division schools, the teams that we aren't necessarily supposed to beat."
The ensuing media frenzy might mark more than just a historic milestone. It might also set off an alarm to college coaches around the country that there's a blossoming hurler in Connecticut who could really bolster their programs.
Chiaradio followed up her perfect game with a five-inning no-hitter against Tourtellotte (Conn.) last Friday, coming within a fourth-inning walk of her second consecutive flawless masterpiece. In that game, Chiaradio was again dangerously close to perfecting perfection, striking out 14 of 15 Tourtellotte hitters, the 15th of which was thrown out trying to bunt her way on.
"Over the winter I did a lot of pitching and working out," said Chiaradio, who continues to train with her pitching coach, Henry Laudone, as well as with her father.
"As a coach, this is why you encourage your players to work hard," Houle said. "To reap the reward."