Clarke fights off Seaford rally


Clarke freshman Sarah Cornell has piled up strikeouts like few others in Lady Rams softball history, averaging 2.2 per inning pitched through the first 20 games. None may have been bigger than the last one she registered to help sixth-seeded Clarke close out No. 3 Seaford, 8-7, in the quarterfinals of the Nassau Class A softball playoffs last Monday.

The Lady Vikings battled back from an early eight-run deficit with a half dozen runs in the sixth, crept closer in the seventh with another and had the winning run on first base before Cornell notched her 221st whiff of the season and ninth of the game.

“She carries herself like a college [player],” coach Chrissy DeMott said of Cornell, who also started a 1-3 double play in the game by stabbing a liner back to the circle. “She doesn’t get rattled and knows what she needs to do.”

The victory catapulted Clarke (10-10) back into the semifinals against No. 2 Island Trees. Games one and two of the best-of-3 series were set for after presstime, while Game 3, if necessary, was scheduled for Friday with Island Trees hosting. The two teams had a pair of hotly contested regular-season battles, both one-run decisions taken by the Lady Bulldogs.

Cornell’s highlights weren’t limited to her sharp work with the ball and glove in the circle, however, as she helped her own cause with a bases-loaded single that drive in two runs as part of Clarke’s three-run third inning. Sophomore catcher Selina Ruiz had two hits and two runs in the win, while Danielle Ragusa had two hits and a run batted in as part of the balanced offensive attack. “It was a matter of stringer hits together and having better pitch selection,” DeMott said of the offensive outburst against Seaford’s Lindsay Montemarano, who won both regular-season meetings allowing just one combined run.

After weathering the early offensive by Clarke, the Lady Vikings climbed back in the game with a few hits sandwiched in between a handful of Lady Rams’ miscues. Seaford didn’t get its first hit until there were two outs in the fifth, but the sixth became a different story. “For us we’ve struggled defensively throughout the season and in that inning we unraveled a little bit,” DeMott said of her young team, which includes just four upperclass players. “But it was nice that we were able to [bounce back]. We are definitely big rivals with Seaford, so this was a big game for us.”

Cornell pitched a two-hit shutout against No. 11 Floral Park in Clarke’s first-round win, a 3-0, decision last Saturday. She struck out 16 with Ruiz, the team leader in batting average, RBIs and on-base percentage driving two runs with a pair of hits. The team’s season-high three game winning streak entering the semifinals started with a 2-1 victory over Bethpage on May 6 in the final game of the Conference A-I schedule.