Clarke tops Long Beach, claims conference title


Clarke softball coach Rachel Barry has been impressed by the team’s ability to win every type of game imaginable this spring.

The Rams were held to a season-tying low two runs by visiting Long Beach on May 20 but still managed to win their 12th straight without a defeat and clinch the Nassau Conference 2 title. Senior pitcher Lola Reese tossed a five-hit shutout with 11 strikeouts and freshman Michelle Diaz scored both runs — in the second and sixth innings. Reese’s counterpart, Marines junior Alex Hastings, also allowed five hits and struck out four while continuing her offensive tear by going 3-for-3 at the plate.

“We’re on a nice run,” Barry said. “Anyone is capable of coming out here and taking our number, but we’ve been resilient. Our pitchers have been phenomenal and we’re getting them the support they need. There are days we’ve had a hit fest, and other days like today where we’re doing just enough to get the job done. We’ve won games 11-10 and 2-1.”

It was Clarke’s fifth win by two runs or fewer, including its second such victory over Long Beach. The Marines, who played a seventh consecutive road game after hosting four straight out of the gate, are 6-6. Their best threat to score came in the top of the second when Reese got a strikeout to end the inning with runners on first and second.

“We’ve lost some close games where our defense let us down,” Long Beach coach Carmine Verde said. “We just need to clean a few things up before the playoffs.”

Both teams have been led by their respective batteries. Reese and sophomore Emily Brown, who also plays third base and bats cleanup, are handling the pitching workload for Clarke. Reese has gotten the bulk of the workload. Brown has two wins, a pair of saves and provided plenty of lumber with five home runs. Senior catcher Cheralyn Dusharme is a rock behind the plate, Barry said, and has slugged two homers.

“Lola has been composed and confident since stepping into the circle as an eighth-grader,” Barry said of Reese. “She keeps things simple and doesn’t get flustered.”

Reese allowed Long Beach only two baserunners over the last four innings. She struck out the side in the fourth and whiffed two in both the fifth and seventh.

In two games against the Rams, Hastings went 5-for-7 from the leadoff spot. She’s batting an eye-popping .682 on the year (30-for-44) while her battery mate, senior catcher Elaina Kassap, is hitting close to .500 with a team-leading 21 RBIs. Senior shortstop Katelyn Erickson is also raking at the dish with a .500 average and 19 RBIs.

“Long Beach has played us as tough as any opponent,” Barry said.