What began in seventh grade, as just another example of just another talented girl getting her chance at the varsity level in softball, has now become a historic adventure for Jordan-Elbridge senior Colleen Ryan.
A six-year quest to the top culminated last Wednesday, at Marcellus, when Ryan recorded career strikeout no. 1,279, surpassing the state record set by Sarah Reed at Jamesville-DeWitt before she graduated in 2004. It is the first state record any J-E athlete has ever achieved in any sport.
Entering the game, Ryan stood at 1,272 strikeouts, and the attention and pressure surrounding this record quest seemed to be affecting her performance on the mound in the days leading up to Marcellus.
The Eagles had surrendered 11 runs to Altmar-Parish-Williamstown last Monday in a non-league contest. A day later, in a game against Solvay at Onondaga Lake Park, Ryan allowed 21 walks before the game got suspended with the Eagles behind, 16-8, in the sixth inning.
All this weighed on Ryan at Marcellus, too, as she struggled with her control while accumulating the six K's she needed to tie Reed at 1,278. A big crowd and the TV cameras present only added to the weight of the moment.
In the bottom of the fourth inning, with one more strikeout needed, Ryan faced Amy Sniffen at the plate. The count worked full, to three balls and two strikes, before Ryan sent a fastball just inside the strike zone that Sniffen took for strike three.
With that, the celebrating began.
All the J-E players gathered around Ryan on the mound, as did head coach Joe Ryan (Colleen's father), her mother Betty, athletic director Brad Hamer and J-E school superintendent Marilyn Dominick.
Ryan's career did not take long to take off. In 2002, her first varsity campaign, she had 132 strikeouts, and improved to 201 a year later, all before she even entered high school.
The next two seasons brought consistent results -- 229 K's in 2004, then 225 in 2005. But the real show-stopper was 2006, when, with 325 strikeouts, Ryan carried the Eagle to its first-ever Section III Class B championship. With 167 more K's in the books for '07, Ryan made history.
Once the celebrating was done, the game resumed, without Ryan on the mound. Erica Peterson gave up four runs in the fifth and sixth innings, and J-E could not answer as it took a 4-0 loss to the Mustangs.