Exactly one year after dropping a Conference ABC-I softball game at Clarke by a margin of 13 runs, Kennedy turned the table in a big way last Friday and continued its early surge with an 11-3 victory.
In winning their third straight while sending the Lady Rams to a fourth consecutive defeat, the Lady Cougars scored five times in the top of the first and plated two more in the second to provide senior pitcher Danielle Polirer with all the support she’d need. Senior Kaitlyn Judd homered and drove in five runs and senior Azaria Vargas went 2-for-4 with three steals and two runs scored to lead an offense averaging 10 runs during the streak.
“Before every road game I text the girls our itinerary and today I wrote at 4:48 p.m. I want to be playing with a lead,” second-year coach Krista Thorn said after Kennedy improved to 3-2 against conference rivals. “We look to approach every game like it’s the championship and I think the idea has helped make them really aggressive,” she added. “Their confidence is starting to grow.”
Senior Sabrina Richards went 3-for-4 and scored once out of the leadoff spot for Clarke (2-3 in conference play), which used its seventh different lineup in as many games. Freshman Cheralyn Dusharme knocked in the host’s first run with a single in the fourth.
“We have a team that can hit, but we haven’t done it yet,” Clarke coach Rachel Barry said. “We’ve gotten the occasional big hit, but we’re leaving too many runners in scoring position and we’re making little mistakes that force us into bad situations offensively.”
Kennedy, which lost 17-4 at Clarke on April 13 of last year, came out swinging this time and surpassed that run total after only six batters. Vargas, senior Amanda Maffucci and Judd strung together singles for a quick 1-0 lead. Polirer drove in Maffucci, freshman Morgan Tesser doubled home Judd, and sophomore Randi Finkelstein capped the outburst with an RBI groundout.
The Lady Cougars increased their lead to 7-0 in the second when Maffucci tripled home junior Lauren Varela and scored on a Judd grounder. Judd iced the victory in the six with a three-run blast over the fence in left, scoring sophomore Frankie Yandolino and Vargas ahead of her.
Clarke, playing its fourth game in five days, left two runners on base in three of the last four innings. Polirer worked six innings, sitting out the fourth as Thorn wanted to give the Lady Rams’ hitters a different look, and allowed just one run on three hits while striking out six. She also beat Carey, 7-2, and blanked New Hyde Park, 12-0, last week.
“I call it patient progression,” Thorn said. “The first two games were learning experiences. Now we’re building momentum, but the hardest part is to keep it. We have to outwork everyone else.”
Things won’t get easier for Clarke, which faces Mepham, defending county champion MacArthur and Carey this week.
“This is probably the most positive group we’ve had in years,” Barry said. “They’re bothered by a loss, but they know how to hit the reset button every day.”