When Emily Clark’s decorated Ohio State career came to a close this past May, opposing softball programs breathed a collective sigh of relief.
It was a short-lived reprieve, as another Clark is torching pitchers in her first season with the Buckeyes.
Avery Clark, a designated hitter and Emily’s younger sister, is off to one of the hottest starts in the conference, with back-to-back Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors to start the new season.
“I knew I had big shoes to fill,” Avery Clark said. “So knowing that my sister was a really great player here, I want to make my own legacy and want someone to remember Avery.”
Avery Clark leads the Buckeyes in batting average, slugging, RBI, runs scored and home runs through 13 games. She could have played alongside her sister Emily Clark –– a four-year starter and 2019 All-American –– if she didn’t take a year off from the sport.
Before coming to Ohio State, both Clark sisters earned All-Ohio honors three times in Prospect, Ohio. They were also four-time All-Mid Ohio Athletic Conference first team honorees.
But rather than come directly to Ohio State, Avery Clark spent a year at Marion Technical College in Marion, Ohio.
Following the year off, Clark sought an opportunity at her sister’s alma mater.
“She came up to me during her sister’s intrasquad in the Woody Hayes, and she said, ‘How would you feel if I came on the team next year?’” Ohio State head coach Kelly Kovach Schoenly said.
It took courage as well as an appetite for success and competition for Avery Clark to get back on the diamond.
“Over the summer, I put in as much work as I could,” Avery Clark said. “I was in here 24/7. Just putting in the work was what I was trying to get in my head, making sure I was ready for anything and everything.”
The work has paid off, as Avery Clark’s return to the sport has already yielded several high-level performances.
Avery Clark hit .500 with six hits and four RBI in four games against NC State and Notre Dame Feb. 14-16.
In the second game against Notre Dame, Avery Clark hit home runs in consecutive at-bats, making her the first Buckeye to do so since Niki Carver on April 21, 2019. She also became the first freshman to hit two home runs in one game since Ashley Prange on May 18, 2019.
In her first 13 games, Avery Clark is hitting .475 with five home runs and 11 RBI.
Emily Clark said she recognizes some of her own qualities in her younger sister.
“We definitely will go get what we want and we’re never going to settle,” Emily Clark said. “She hasn’t had the best road; she wasn’t even supposed to be playing in college. It just shows that hard work pays off.”
Although Avery Clark has produced similar numbers to her sister early in her career, Schoenly, who has coached both Clarks, said the two each worked in their own way to produce results.
“They are completely different kids,” Schoenly said. “Avery is a power player through and through, and a lot of what she does comes out of her competitive spirit. Emily was very talented and a completely different skillset.”
As Avery Clark readjusts to life as a softball player, Emily Clark is a constant source of advice and encouragement, the younger sister said.
“Stay calm, breathe, take it in and know that your work is worth it and you can do anything,” Avery Clark said. “She texts before every game day.”
Emily Clark spoke about how a good start to a career is significant in impacting a player’s mindset going forward.
“She needs the confidence,” Emily Clark said. “If things don’t work out in her way, I think she starts to get into her head and she overthinks the littlest things. Just remember to trust yourself and to slow down the moments. It gives her that confidence that she is supposed to be there.”
Soon the Clark family will have to build a second mantle to show off the accolades earned by their Buckeye softball players, especially if Avery Clark continues to dominate college pitching.
“My mindset is to do damage,” Avery said. “I know that they are probably scouting me, but I want to go in there and make sure I am in the right mindset, and whatever is thrown at me I am going to do damage to.”