It isn't only her vaunted fastball, accompanied by a loud grunt as she throws every ounce of her compact body into her violent delivery, that can make you look foolish. When Samantha Giovanniello drops the Bugs Bunny changeup on you, "th-th-th-th-th-that's all folks!''
The Floral Park sophomore sensation had the changeup working Monday, utilizing that tantalizing pitch to perfection in pitching her team to a 6-0 victory over Island Trees at Sparkes Elementary School in Levittown.
In fact, perfection was in the wind for most of the afternoon, as Giovanniello did not allow a baserunner until there was an infield error behind her with two outs in the bottom of the fifth. She did not lose her no-hitter until there was one out in the sixth and she never lost her shutout, even after allowing a pair of one-out singles in the seventh.
"I've had no-hitters before, so it was no big deal," Giovanniello said. In helping the Knights improve to 7-1 in tough Nassau ABC-I, Giovanniello struck out 10. She also had three singles, scoring the game's first run in the fourth. Allison Bostrom and Lindsay Triton had RBI singles for Floral Park off losing pitcher Taylor Tedeschi and Island Trees (4-5) made two costly errors in a four-run sixth.
Not that Floral Park needed any help. When Giovanniello is on her game, one run is usually enough.
"There's always a chance of a no-hitter when she's out there," said Knights coach Dan Sackman, in his 30th year. "She's definitely the best pitcher I've ever had. Her changeup was really on today."
Five of her strikeouts came on that oh-so-soft floater that is oh-so-hard to hit. The Bugs Bunny tag comes from the description major-leaguers use for a changeup that ties up a hitter so badly, it appears that the ball has stopped en route to home plate. The nickname is a nod to an old Bugs Bunny cartoon in which that silly wabbit struck out the side on one pitch that stopped so suddenly, three batters in a row whiffed before it reached the catcher's mitt.
"It's my best pitch - when it's on," Giovanniello said, "but it's not always on. Sometimes I can't control it."
That wasn't the case Monday as she had command of her changeup, as well as her signature high-speed pitches.
"I like to set batters up with the fastball or curve," Giovanniello said. "I like them to be looking for speed and then I give them the changeup."
If only opposing hitters could train themselves to listen closely and react impossibly fast to the sounds of Giovanniello's game.
"I've always grunted when I throw the fastball," she said with a sheepish smile. "It just comes out when I throw hard."
When she doesn't grunt, the hitter grumbles. Another changeup, another strikeout victim.