It has been a season of unexpected change for the Corning softball team. One thing that hasn’t changed, however, is the team’s performance.
A combination of power at the plate and dominant pitching sent the Hawks to an 11-0 victory over Southern Tier Athletic Conference foe Elmira on Thursday afternoon at Elmira Free Academy. Corning pounded five home runs and got a combined one-hitter from right-handers Olivia Furness and Angie Frampton.
The defending Section 4 Class AA champion Hawks improved to 6-1 overall and 4-0 in STAC in the first game for Irene Furness as the team’s official head coach. Elmira dropped to 1-8 (0-4 STAC).
Furness stepped in on an interim basis for Mike Johnston Jr. just before the regular season started after Johnston was suspended for undisclosed reasons. Johnston coached Corning in its first two seasons as a combined team after a long stint as head coach at Corning West. He has also coached the Hawks’ boys basketball team in its first three seasons.
Corning-Painted Post School District Athletic Director Jamie Harter confirmed that Johnston resigned as softball coach, with his resignation letter accepted by the school board Wednesday night. Furness, Corning’s highly successful volleyball coach, was immediately named his replacement.
Johnston attended Thursday’s game and watched from beyond the fence in right field. Some of the Corning players greeted him after the game before he left. A message left on his cell phone later was not immediately returned.
Johnston and Furness watched as Gabby Citriniti, Chaylen Andolino, Megan Lewis, Angelena Maio and Taylor Sparks smashed home runs. Corning hit three homers, a triple and a double over a span of six batters in the second and third innings.
“These girls are good hitters,” Furness said. “They’re strong hitters and what they did today was they picked pitches. And they waited, they worked the count, they drove the ball. It’s nice to see them break through because that always builds confidence and I think this will take us a long way.
“They’re all good hitters. If I could get 13 of them into the lineup, I would.”
Corning takes on traditional state power Cicero-North Syracuse at 3:30 p.m. Saturday at the BAGSAI Complex near Binghamton, part of a series of games at the site. Furness said Thursday’s effort provides a boost heading into that showdown.
Andolino added two doubles and drove in three runs. Hailey Blencowe also doubled twice and Citriniti followed her home run with a double. Corning collected 14 hits, including 10 for extra bases.
Furness said the players feed off each other.
“One of them does it, then they want to drive the ball and look good and if it goes out that’s great,” she said. “It’s just like making a great catch in the outfield, it’s like turning in a great double play. You hit the ball out, people get excited about it.”
The bright side for Elmira eighth-grade pitcher Danielle Dille is she may not face a better lineup this season.
“I think my eighth-grader I brought up (Wednesday) had a learning experience,” Express coach Jeff Edwards said. “You’ve got to stay ahead in the count. When you get down, they’ve got solid hitters. They’ve got kids going to (Division) I schools. … They’re a hard-hitting team; they’re a good-hitting team. They returned everybody but the pitcher in the circle.”
Corning made two errors on the same play in the opening inning, but other than that the Hawks were perfect in the field.
Olivia Furness, the coach’s daughter, pitched the first four innings and gave up only Abbie Topping’s single to lead off the second inning. She struck out seven. Frampton struck out five over three hitless innings of relief that included two walks and a hit batter.
“We haven’t scored in 18 innings, maybe the worst streak I’ve ever seen in 22 years of coaching,” Edwards said. “But we’ve just got to get better. I’m not going to make the excuse that we’re young, we’ve just got to get better. That’s the bottom line.”