Clarke's star pitcher, Sarah Cornell, spends hours perfecting her craft.
The colors must be coordinated just right, the hot glue applied just so, the ribbons twisted perfectly. And you probably thought it had something to do with windups and fastballs, didn't you?
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Well, pitching isn't her only craft. Cornell is in the softball hair bow business. Her designs have become so popular that not only is her entire team wearing them, but some opposing players are purchasing and wearing them. Even in games in which they're facing the manufacturer.
"One team,'' Cornell said with a laugh, "actually asked me to make bows for the entire team.''
But while she may assist opponents with hair accessories, she certainly does them no favors when they're standing in the batter's box. Cornell allowed one hit and struck out 13 in a six-inning win Thursday as the Rams -- wearing their silver, black and maroon hair bows -- dominated Division, 12-0, in Conference ABC-I.
Sabrina Caputo, who went 3-for-4, ignited a five-run first inning with a double down the leftfield line to score Kirstin Cox. After Selena Ruiz followed with an RBI single, Brooke Scherer drilled a two-run double to the gap in left-center for a 4-0 lead. Danielle Ragusa capped the rally with an RBI double, giving Cornell more than enough to work with.
One major difference between the Rams (8-3) this season and last, in which they lost in the county semifinals, is that they have the bats to complement a shutdown pitcher. They have speedy slap hitters Cox and Charissa Perfect and run-producing contact hitters Ruiz and Caputo, a freshman in her first year who leads the team in RBIs.
"We all go into every game with the mentality of wanting to get to that county final,'' Ruiz said.
Added Caputo: "We need everyone to hit, because when we do, we are hard to beat. Then it gives Sarah even more confidence.''
Compared to last season, Cornell has much better command of her movement pitches and isn't relying as heavily on the overpowering fastball. She walked three Thursday but didn't allow a hit until Alexis Alvino blooped a single into shallow left with one out in the top of the sixth for Division (4-7).
"I can pitch without any stress,'' Cornell said of her run support. "I feel secure in the circle. With the way my teammates were hitting today, I knew we were going to win. And we did.''
The offense put a bow on it.