CORNING - Corning enters this year with a plethora of returning young talent on the roster after a successful season a year ago in hopes of winning its first title sectional title since 2012.
“We think we’re going to compete for a league title,” Hawks head coach Mike Johnston said. “The sectional title is our number one goal. We let that slip away last year.”
The Hawks finished 13-6 and earned the third seed, but fell to Horseheads in the section finals, surrendering a 6-1 lead in the final two innings. Corning knocked off No. 2 seeded Elmira in the semifinals on the road.
Despite the heartbreaking loss, the program will hope to build momentum off of that appearance heading into Johnston’s third season at the helm.
“We want to pick up where we left off last year,” Johnston said. “We’re not starting over. We’ve got some kids that have gained a lot of experience as younger athletes for us last year. We want to be at midseason form when we start the season.”
The Hawks may look young on paper with only three seniors, but they return five full-time starters including pitcher Laura Bennett. The senior posted a .865 earned run average during the regular season.
“This year, I think the thing that people are going to notice is that she's in the best shape she’s ever been in,” said Johnston of Bennett. “She worked hard in the offseason with Lou Fiorillo as far as strength and agility is concerned and we’ve carried that over into the season.”
Bennett is ready for another crack at a sectional final game for her senior season after putting in the work in the offseason.
“I’m so excited, I’ve been waiting for this all year,” Bennett said.
One huge loss Corning will have to overcome is pitcher and leading hitter Lexie Easling, who is having a successful season at division II Mansfield University recently throwing a no-hitter. Along with Emily Austin.
“We had two seniors last year,” said Johnston. “Played third base, pitched and Lexie led off for us as more of a power hitter. Emily did a great job filling in for us. She stepped in at catcher and did a fantastic job. Those are two big losses for us from last year.”
Corning will open its season Friday April 5 home against Johnson City at 5 p.m.