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Jeannette grad helps Bethany baseball to postseason

| Wednesday, May 7, 2014, 10:48 p.m.
Jordan Ault is a senior at Bethany College.
Jordan Ault is a senior at Bethany College.

The ride isn't over just yet for Jordan Ault.

The Jeannette High School graduate is a senior catcher on the Bethany College baseball team, which has clinched a spot in the NCAA Division III Presidents' Athletic Conference (PAC ) tournament.

Ault and the Bison will open play in the tournament today against Thomas Moore in Washington, Pa.

“We're looking to do some damage in the tournament,” said Ault.

Bethany has an overall record of 19-15 and a 14-10 mark in the PAC; the local product has been a big part of that success.

While he was a contributor as an infielder and as a pitcher during his first three years with the program, he never grabbed regular playing time. Then, after last season, Bethany head coach Rick Carver saw he had an opening behind the plate.

“I told him last summer, ‘If you want to start your senior year, catching is the place to do it,'” said Carver. “He has that determination. He went out there and got it done. It was very tough for him to learn a new position, but that's what makes Jordan special, that determination.”

As is the case at any level of baseball, catchers don't play every day, due to the physical grind of the position. But Ault appeared in 20 games, starting 17. He hit .269 with a .308 slugging percentage and a .400 on-base percentage, to go with 14 hits, 14 RBIs and five walks.

“He does a very good job with the bat,” said the coach. “We hit him second in the order and he moves runners well.”

Carter added that Ault was more than adept defensively — throwing out some 40 percent of would-be stealers — at a position he hadn't played since high school and even then only occasionally.

“Switching to any position at the college level is tough, particularly to catcher,” said the coach. “Jordan made that transition very well, largely because he's got a very good head on his shoulders. He's a very mature kid, a very smart kid and has a very good head for baseball.”

Catching involves a lot of strategy and mental work, which is one of the reasons Ault says he enjoyed the switch so much.

“I enjoy catching,” he said. “I'm more into the game. There's a big mental aspect to catching, and that's who I am.”

Ault's leadership has been just as much a factor as his baseball abilities this season, said Carter.

“He's not a ‘rah rah' kid, but he's witty and he uses his personality to get the other kids to respect him. They know how hard he works,” he said.

That leadership will be key during the PAC tournament, added Carter. The Bison take on a powerful Thomas Moore (20-17) squad, and the other teams in the tournament — Washington and Jefferson (27-13) and Waynesburg (17-23) are also tough.

But, at one point this season, Bethany has beaten each of those teams, “so our guys know it's possible,” said Carter.

“It's certainly going to be tough … But I like our chances, largely because of the leadership of Jordan and our senior class,” said Carter.

Ault said his teammates share that optimism.

“We're going into the tournament with a fresh attitude,” said Ault. “We know that, in the tournament, everybody is now equal. If we play our best, we can win it.”

Season ends for Gannon, Cortazzo

The season came to an end for the Gannon University softball team and Jeannette grad Kirstie Cortazzo in a 2-1 loss to West Chester in the Division II Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference tournament last week.

Cortazzo, a senior shortstop, helped propel the Knights into the post-season in each of her four seasons with the team. After winning their final eight regular season games this season, Cortazzo and Gannon fell to Bloomsburg 5-1 in game one of the PSAC Tournament on Friday; Gannon's only run was scored by Cortazzo.

They took game two, also on Thursday, downing Mansfield 3-2 in extra innings. Cortazzo had two hits, an RBI and a stolen base in the win.

That brought about Saturday's showdown with West Chester, but the Golden Rams proved too tough, knocking Gannon out of the double-elimination tournament. Gannon finished the season with an overall record of 24-21 and a 16-12 mark in conference play.

Cortazzo led the team in home run (five) and RBIs (30) and was second on the team in batting average (.375), slugging percentage (.600), on-base percentage (.408), hits (45) and doubles (12).

Cortazzo, Fairmont Fall

Fairmont State and Delaney Cortazzo were knocked out of the Division II Mountain East Conference tournament in a 6-1 loss to Urbana on Sunday.

Fairmont lost to Notre Dame College (Ohio) 6-4 on Thursday in the first game of the tournament. As has been her specialty all year, Cortazzo — a freshman outfielder — appeared as a pinch runner and scored a run.

Fairmont then beat West Liberty 9-1 and Glenville 4-2, both Saturday, to advance to the game with Urbana.

The Fighting Falcons, with 31-17 overall record, have an outside shot at an at-large spot in the Division II playoffs.

Brian Knavish is a contributing writer.

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