In the face of tragedy, Franklin softball seeks togetherness

The Franklin softball team celebrates freshman Lily Cornell's 500th career strikeout during the team’s Strikeout Cancer nighton Thursday to raise money for Cornell’s mother, Abby, who is battling brain cancer.

The Franklin softball team celebrates freshman Lily Cornell's 500th career strikeout during the team’s Strikeout Cancer nighton Thursday to raise money for Cornell’s mother, Abby, who is battling brain cancer. Courtesy photos

Franklin and Newmarket stand together on the night of Franklin's Strikeout Cancer game on Thursday May 16, 2024.

Franklin and Newmarket stand together on the night of Franklin's Strikeout Cancer game on Thursday May 16, 2024. —Courtesy

From left: pitcher Lily Cornell, head coach Maddie Trefethen and catcher Ava Kolacz after Cornell picked up her 500th career strikeout on Thursday.

From left: pitcher Lily Cornell, head coach Maddie Trefethen and catcher Ava Kolacz after Cornell picked up her 500th career strikeout on Thursday.

Lily Cornell (left) hugs her mother, Abby, after picking up her 500th career strikeout on Thursday. Franklin held a Strikeout Cancer fundraiser to support Abby, who is battling brain cancer.

Lily Cornell (left) hugs her mother, Abby, after picking up her 500th career strikeout on Thursday. Franklin held a Strikeout Cancer fundraiser to support Abby, who is battling brain cancer.

By ERIC RYNSTON-LOBEL

Monitor staff

Published: 05-17-2024 10:41 AM

There was a lot riding on freshman Lily Cornell’s shoulders as she walked out to the circle for Franklin’s softball game against Newmarket on Thursday night at Odell Park. She entered the game just 10 strikeouts shy of reaching 500 for her varsity career (she’s been on the team since seventh grade), and the Golden Tornadoes wanted to keep pace in the Division IV standings, as they aim to qualify for the playoffs for the first time in eight years.

But there was far more on Cornell’s mind. Thursday night was also Franklin’s Strikeout Cancer fundraiser to help raise money for her mother, Abby, who’s currently battling brain cancer. Abby was hospitalized earlier in the week and wasn’t given much more time to live, but she was able to make it to the game to watch her daughter pick up her milestone strikeout.

“Honestly, that was the best moment of my entire coaching career, and I’ve coached four different sports for Franklin, and I’ve been a coach here the last six years,” head coach Maddie Trefethen said. “It honestly was such a memorable night.”

The program set out to raise $1,000 for the night; they raised $5,000. 

“Our athletic director (Dan Sylvester) even said, even in Franklin’s championship years, there was never, ever, not even a state championship game where there were that many people coming to support a Franklin team,” Trefethen said. “That was just crazy to me.

“It’s a big family that we have in Franklin,” she added. “It’s a small community, it’s a tight-knit community, so for us, it feels really great to be able to do this, to be able to support them in some way.”

Abby used to coach softball and volleyball, so she’s played a role in the lives of a number of current Franklin student-athletes. She planned to coach the JV softball team at Franklin last year before she was diagnosed with cancer.

While the community turnout may have been larger than anticipated, it spoke to the wide-reaching impact Cornell’s had on so many.

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“She always has been around and has been willing to step up and help out other people, too,” Trefethen said. “Even through this whole cancer battle that she’s had, she’s really been there to check on other people and see how everybody else is doing which is incredible.”

Franklin wound up losing the game to Newmarket, 14-4, but between Lily Cornell picking up her 500th strikeout, Abby being there to see it and the team hanging around after the game for a cookout until 11:30 at night, it was an evening of some peace amid tragedy.

“It’s one of those things that’s bringing the community together for sure, and with Lily going for 500 strikeouts and us hopefully, keeping fingers crossed, making it to the playoffs for the first time in (eight) years, there’s a lot going on,” Sylvester said. “But it’s all good stuff surrounding this unfortunate illness.

“That’s kind of what communities do. You try to find the silver lining in everything. And we know that’s what Abby would want.”