When the Clarke softball team takes the field, the area between the circle and batter's box quickly becomes known as "Cornell University."
Simply because it's the area where eighth-grade pitcher Sarah Cornell has recently been schooling hitters.
"Her fastball moves a lot," Clarke coach Chrissy DeMott said. "It's curving, it's rising, it's always doing something. It's fooling the batter every time."
Cornell, a power pitcher with a fastball topping 60 miles per hour, made her first start of the season last week and tossed a no-hitter with 16 strikeouts. She followed that up Tuesday with a one-hitter and 11 strikeouts to lead Clarke to a 15-1 win over host New Hyde Park in a six inning Conference A-I opener.
"It's a very big responsibility," Cornell said of her new role. "I feel like we're going to be very successful this year and we're going to win a lot of games."
Plenty of games will be won if she continues to overpower hitters as she did in this game and develop her secondary pitches as she did in the offseason. She walked three Tuesday and allowed only a single just inside the leftfield line by Lisa O'Callaghan in the bottom of the fourth inning.
It helped that she was handed a 7-0 lead before she was handed the ball. Danielle Ferrara and Cornell each had RBI singles and McHaela Rotundo and Selena Ruiz added two-run singles in the first inning.
Rotundo went 2-for-3 with four RBIs, including another two-run single in the second to give Clarke a 10-0 lead. Ruiz, a freshman catcher and leadoff hitter, went 2-for-3 with three RBIs and two walks and Alyssa Colletti went 3-for-5 with an RBI in a balanced attack.
"We have power throughout," Colletti said, "and a lot of speed on the team also."
Power and speed, the most basic elements of Softball 101. Along with a talented young pitcher.
"We just stand around the field and she just shuts batters down," Rotundo said of Cornell. "We just have to back her up with hits."