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By Brian Fees
Southern Tier Sports Report
CORNING — As the ball soared over the fence it looked like the back-and-forth matchup between Elmira and Corning was about to be tied.

Payton Ross had come up clutch for the Express, crushing a ball to right center field with a runner on down two runs in the bottom of the seventh.

But, the runner on base was called out for not touching home and just like that the Hawks held on for the 13-11 victory.

The wild ending capped an instant classic game that saw Corning rally from 5-1 and 7-4 deficits to get the victory.

Elmira scored runs in all but one inning in the game, and they led 2-1 after one inning. Elmira added two in the second and a run in the third to go up 5-1. However, Corning got three in the bottom of the third to get within 5-4.

Elmira struck for two more runs in the fourth to stretch the lead to 7-4, but Corning had a nine-run fifth inning to rally back for a 13-7 lead.

“We had a little bit of a deficit early in the game, we could have hung our heads,” Corning coach Mike Johnston Jr. said. “We had a little come to Jesus before we scored all the runs that inning and our kids stepped up and I had three kids that went in and pinch ran, and they don’t have a lot of varsity experience, and I think all of them scored for us, so that was huge. Timely hits, making things happen on the base paths.”

Elmira got two runs back in the sixth to within 13-9 and then in the seventh they scored two runs to get within 13-11.

Right before the home run that was called back the Hawks made a big defensive play.

Elmira hit a ball to right field and it dropped in for a hit. Elmira’s base runner on first had to hold for a second to make sure it dropped in, and that gave Corning time to pick up the ball and throw out the runner at second. The Elmira run scored, but that proved to be the second out of the inning.

That left Elmira with one on and two outs, instead of two on and one out, which wound up being crucial after the runner was called out on the final play.

“It was probably a ball that should have been caught,” Johnston Jr. said. “But, she kept her poise and she was alert to the fact that there was a force at second base, so she then threw the girl out. That was huge, got us to two outs. Then you come to the plate, now you are up two runs and they have their best player at the plate and anything can happen.

“That was a critical play for us right there. We made a lot of mistakes today. If you would have told people we would be 7-1 right now I would have told people you were crazy. But, we are coming along, and every game we are trying to get better. We keep finding ways to grind it out and win and they did that again today.”

Peyton Sullivan went 2-for-4 for Corning with a home run, a double, four RBI and two runs scored and Sophia Polzella was 2-for-3 with two RBI and three runs. Sullivan struck out four in the complete game on the mound.

Maddie Dibble had two hits and Kayleigh Sparks finished with two hits, two RBI and two runs.

Kendall Curreri had a hit, two RBI and two runs.

Courtney Searfoss had a double and an RBI and Daphne Sherman had a hit, while Hayden Robinson, Sydney Layton, Jacqui Crisco and Lily MacNeal all scored runs for Corning.

For the Hawks it’s a lot of new faces this year that are helping them get off to the strong start.

“That’s the facts,” Johnston Jr. said. “Truly we have three kids that got on the field and the fourth was our DP and she got hurt halfway through the season, so she didn’t even play half the season last year. So, we have three kids, 3 1/2 that have really got any varsity experience right now.

“They are making the world go round for us right now. They are making things happen and the other kids to. We just have to continue to work with them and things keep falling in place and keep stressing the fundamentals and trying to keep it in perspective that they don’t have a lot of experience.”

Ross had a 5-for-5 day for Elmira with a double, three RBI and three runs scored.

Ross has had some tough luck the past couple of days against state ranked teams. She had this home run called back and only credited as a double after the runner was called out. The previous game she had a no hitter through seven innings, but the Express couldn’t get on the board and they fell in eight innings.

“I think Payton Ross is one of the best players in Section IV for sure,” Johnston Jr. said. “Anytime you put her on the mound she’s a competitor. She’s a quiet leader, and I tell you what was a big play by her, not only she threw six innings, but the play she made when she went to third base. It was a hard hit shot that was going to the shortstop and she came across and made the play and threw the girl out or the inning would keep going.

“She’s a competitor, and I think she’s their leader and she showed that two games in a row that she’s the one that can keep them in games.”

Lily Cornacchio was 4-for-5 with an RBI, 2 runs scored and a triple in the game. Addisyn Chorney had two hits, a double, an RBI and a run scored and Abby Lambert had two hits and scored two runs.

Mackenzie Fusare had a hit and an RBI and Ava Sherman scored a run.

Madisen Jones had a hit, an RBI and a run scored and Riiley Ogden had a double and scored a run.

Ross struck out seven over five innings and Madison Smith pitched a shutout final inning for Elmira, striking out one.

Corning faces a state-ranked opponent on Friday as they host Vestal, ranked third in the state in Class A and unbeaten. Corning is 7-1 and ranked 11th in Class AA.

Elmira is home against Binghamton on Friday.

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