GLENS FALLS, N.Y. - Just days before the state softball tournament, Clarke pitcher Sarah Cornell said she got into a playful scuffle with her brother and walked away with an accidental black eye.
Considering most batters she has faced struck out against her, it was the hardest Cornell had been hit all season.
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"My mom said to cover it up with makeup," she joked Saturday. "But I said, 'No, it makes me look tough.'"
And the Rams showed how tough they are yesterday, proving they could take a hit, keep swinging, and keep fighting. Though they lost 9-7 to Averill Park in the Class A state final at Moreau Park, the defeat is in no way a black eye to the Clarke program.
With Clarke trailing 7-3 entering the bottom of the seventh inning, Cornell launched a three-run homer to cut the lead to one.
With the Rams down to their final out, Brooke Scherer hit a home run as dramatic as it gets, belting a solo shot to even the score at 7.
"I do well under pressure," said Scherer, who hit the go-ahead homer in the Long Island championship. "We should be proud of ourselves for making it this far."
Averill Park answered in the eighth as Caraline Wood hit a two-out, two-run double for a 9-7 lead, denying Clarke its first softball state championship.
"This season meant everything," said Selena Ruiz, a senior catcher bound for SUNY Oneonta. "I love every one of these girls. They're going to take it all the way next year."
Cornell's sacrifice fly and Sabrina Caputo's two-run single gave Clarke (23-4) a 3-0 lead in the fifth. To that point, Cornell hadn't allowed a hit. But she got hit hard in the sixth, and the defense committed a series of errors, as Averill Park scored seven runs to go up 7-3. But the Rams fought back.
"Clarke softball has never ever made it to the state tournament," Rams coach Rachel Barry said. "They're now in the record books."
Cornell tossed a three-hitter with 11 strikeouts in a 3-2 win over Lockport Starpoint in the semifinal earlier Saturday. She hit a tying two-run homer in the fourth and Lauren Reilly followed with the go-ahead RBI single.
"It's a good accomplishment to get to the finals," Reilly said. "Obviously we want to win but the whole experience has been great for us."
An experience that the Rams' core of Cornell, Caputo, Scherer and other talented young players hope to build on next season.
"We're going to take this into next year and keep feeding off it," Cornell said. "We're a fighting team and we're never going to stop fighting."
She's got the black eye to prove it.