As she has done all season, Sarah Cornell shared a pregame peanut butter and jelly sandwich with batterymate Brooke Scherer and proceeded to strike out a whole slew of batters.
That she did it in Clarke’s Nassau Class A softball championship series against Carey made it all the more impressive.
Cornell struck out 28 across a pair of complete-game victories at Mitchel Athletic Complex, helping the Rams secure their second straight county title and earning Newsday’s Athlete of the Week.
“It just feels different,” Cornell said of pitching in the county final. “It feels like there’s more people here. It hypes you up more playing with so many people around.”
Cornell, who passed Kings Park’s Lindsay Taylor in April atop Long Island’s all-time strikeout list, fanned 19 in Clarke’s 4-0 win Monday. She struck out nine in the series-clinching 4-1 win Wednesday and allowed just four hits.
“She kept them off balance, keeping the ball off the plate,” coach Rachel Barry said. “Her and Brooke were on the same page the entire time.”
Barry said that Cornell and Scherer are receptive to the scouting reports she provides. They study strengths and weaknesses for each hitter, and they execute.
“Her game plan is to keep you off balance and keep you guessing in the box,” Barry said. “She knows your weakness, and she’s going to attack your weakness and still keep you guessing in the box.”
For Cornell, a Hofstra commit, that often leads to strikeouts. But the K is just a byproduct of her approach.
“You can never expect 19 strikeouts,” Barry said. “It’s something she’s worked hard for, and when she’s on she’s on. She trusts having a defense. She doesn’t look to strike people out. It’s just a positive result for her.”
In the series clincher, Cornell had to rely on her defense. The Seahawks, who came into the series averaging 6.6 runs per game, put the ball in play 13 times. They manufactured just one run — Brianna Pinto reached on a hit-by-pitch, stole second and scored on Amanda Ulzheimer’s single in the sixth.
Scherer ended the threat by catching Ulzheimer stealing. Kirstin Cox also stood out defensively, starting two double plays at shortstop.
“We know that we’re there,” Cox said, “and we can make the plays on our own and can help her out.”
Added Scherer: “There’s a defense behind Sarah at all times.”
She just doesn’t always need it.