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Sarah Cornell hurls Clarke into state championship

Clarke's Sarah Cornell pitches against Troy in the

Clarke's Sarah Cornell pitches against Troy in the New York State Public High School Softball Class A state semifinal game in South Glens Falls, N.Y., Saturday, June 11, 2016. Clarke won, 8-2, to advance to Sunday's final. Credit: Tim Roske/ Tim Roske

SOUTH GLENS FALLS, N.Y. — The Clarke softball team advanced to the state championship game for many reasons. There was Sarah Cornell’s arm. Kirstin Cox’s speed. Sabrina Caputo’s range. The team’s overall chemistry, experience and talent.

And Mother Nature’s timing.

Oh, and the hospitality of the former college roommate of an assistant coach’s mother.

A combination of all those reasons, and others, helped Clarke defeat Troy, 8-2, in the state Class A semifinals Saturday at Moreau Park. The Rams are back in the state final, looking to avenge last season’s extra-inning loss.

“We’ve been working toward this all year,” said Cornell, who allowed one hit, walked five and struck out 13. “And now we’re here.”

And they’re well-rested. The difference between last year’s title game and Sunday’s is that, thanks to the rain, the Rams received some extra time to relax and recover.

Usually, the semifinal and final are played as a doubleheader, but because of a nearly four-hour rain delay Saturday at the complex before Clarke’s semifinal game, the final was postponed to Sunday at 10 a.m.

There also was this . . .

“Historically, we do not play well in the rain,” Clarke coach Rachel Barry said. “Somebody up there knew we needed an extra day.”

They got it. During the rain delay, the players rested at their assistant coach’s mother’s college roommate’s house, which is just minutes from the field. They lounged and watched the movie “High School Musical” but also watched the clock, waiting for game time.

Cornell wasted little time showing the extra rest paid off, getting batters to chase her rise ball and striking out the first six hitters. Caputo walked with the bases full to give Clarke a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the third and Holly Romeo followed with an RBI single for a two-run lead. “A lot of teams, they have great talent, but if the bond isn’t there, then the wins aren’t there,” Romeo said. “Our bond is something that is so rare and so incredible.”

Victoria Sferrazza, Cornell and Caputo — who drove in two runs each — added RBI singles in the fourth. Emily Widmaier went 2-for-3, helping the Rams secure another day and another game together.

“It’s one more day in the four months we’ve spent every second of every day together,” said Cox, who went 2-for-3 and escaped a rundown with the bases loaded to keep the fourth-inning rally alive. “We’ve been here before. We know what we have to do.”

Caputo tracked a deep drive to center and made a running catch for the final out.

Clarke (18-3) will face Windsor with a chance to capture the program’s first state title.

And unlike last year, the Rams will benefit from a night in between games, giving flamethrower Cornell a chance to ice her arm. “I’ll have four bags of ice on this arm,” she said with a laugh. “Six years have gone by and this has been my dream. I don’t want this to end. But it would be nice to end it with a state championship.”

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