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Jeannette grad playing up to potential with St. Bonaventure baseball squad

| Wednesday, April 9, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
Jeannette grad Brian Weightman is having the best season of his collegiate career at St. Bonaventure University.
Jeannette grad Brian Weightman is having the best season of his collegiate career at St. Bonaventure University.

For Brian Weightman, “someday” is now.

The Jeannette High school graduate is a senior on the St. Bonaventure University baseball team and since he arrived at the school, he has displayed those tools needed to be a star player.

Raw power. Eye-opening speed. A cannon of an arm.

Each of the past three seasons, St. Bonaventure head coach Larry Sudbrook has watched him in the batting cage and on the practice field and was impressed with Weightman's physical abilities. But that raw talent didn't translate into success on the field and Weightman saw little playing time.

“Someday” — when his experience catches up with his talent — Weightman would be a big-time producer, predicted Sudbrook.

This season, someday has finally arrived as Weightman is one of the top players on the NCAA Division I Bonnies.

“For three years, every time I was asked about Brian, I said ‘he's an unbelievable athlete. He runs well. He throws well. He has a lot of power for a lean body frame,'” said Sudbrook. “I always said, ‘When he figures out the intricacies of baseball, he's going to be a big player for us.' And now, he did it this year. It seems everything has come together and he's hitting for average, he's stealing bases, he's hitting home runs.”

Weightman leads the team with a .303 batting average and a .418 on-base percentage and is second with a .455 slugging percentage. In 66 at-bats, he has two home runs, nine RBIs and two stolen bases.

As Sudbrook explained, part of the reason for the delayed development in Weightman is that he was a multi-sport athlete at Jeannette, playing baseball only seasonally, unlike many Division I players who work to refine their skills year-round.

Weightman took the advice of his coaches and began to play the sport-year round for the first time in his life.

After his freshman and sophomore years, Weightman played for Johnstown in the All-American Amateur Baseball Association, then last year, he played for Geneva in the New York Collegiate Baseball League, an even higher level of completion.

All of those extra at-bats taught him the finer points of hitting, said Weightman.

“I think a lot of it (the successes) is because of the experience I got playing the past few summers, which really helped me,” he said. “I got a lot of at-bats, and the coaching up there was great. I saw a lot more off-speed pitches, and I started laying off of the bad pitches and hitting the good pitches.”

Sudbrook expanded on that point.

“He struggled to recognize the ball, good pitches and bad pitches,” he said. “So many times, no matter how good a hitter is, there's a confidence factor at play when he goes into a slump. He has a split second to make a decision, and if he doesn't have confidence — I don't care if it's Miguel Cabrera — he's almost always going to chase bad pitches and not go after the good ones. Now Brian has that confidence and we are seeing the results.”

While things have come together for Weightman individually, St. Bonaventure is struggling team-wise thus far this season.

The Bonnies are 6-17 overall and 1-6 in the Atlantic 10 Conference, though they have won two of their past three. Weightman hopes the Bonnies can ride that momentum to more wins and, if they really catch fire, a post-season spot.

“I think we can turn it around,” he said. “We've had a few injuries, but everyone's coming back now … if we keep up with some good pitching and hitting, we could turn it around, rack up some wins and squeak into the tournament.”

Cortazzo at Gannon

Jeannette grad Kirstie Cortazzo had a two hits and three RBIs in the first game of a double-header Sunday as her Gannon squad fell to Division II Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference rival Edinboro 12-5.

Gannon then took game two 9-1. Gannon is 9-11 overall and 2-4 in the PSAC. Cortazzo, a senior shortstop, is hitting .379 with a .707 slugging percentage and a .404 on-base percentage. She leads the team with 14 RBIs and 41 total bases.

Cortazzo at Fairmont

Delaney Cortazzo — Kirstie's sister and another Jeannette grad — scored what proved to be the winning run as her Fairmont State Fighting Falcons beat Notre Dame College (Ohio) 4-3 in the second game of a double-header on Saturday.

Delaney Cortazzo, a freshman outfielder, entered the game as a pinch runner in the sixth inning and scored on a Carly Mundie sacrifice fly.

She also scored as a pinch runner in Fairmont's 10-6 loss to Notre Dame earlier in the day and in the team's 9-5 loss to UVA-Wise on April 2.

Cortazzo has appeared in 10 games this season, scoring five runs.

She has two singles and two RBIs in four at-bats. Fairmont is 15-9 overall and 6-4 in the Division II Mountain East Conference.

Big game for Ault

At Division III Bethany, Jeannette grad Jordan Ault caught the first game of a double header and helped to lead the Bison to a 6-5 win over St. Vincent Saturday. Ault, a senior catcher, had a single, a walk, an RBI and a stolen base in the win.

Ault is hitting .294 with a .343 slugging percentage and an .435 on-base percentage. Bethany entered the week 10-5 overall and 5-2 in the Presidents' Athletic Conference.

Paulone on the links

Jeannette grad Thomas Paulone, a senior on the Waynesburg University golf team, shot 93 at the Thiel College Invitational on Saturday, as the Yellow Jackets finished sixth out of seven Division III teams.

The day before, Paulone shot 94 at the McBride-Behringer-Allen Invitational at Grove City College as Waynesburg again finished sixth out of seven teams.

Brian Knavish is a contributing writer.

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