Stellar softball career comes to a close for Jeannette grad Cortazzo
There were two outs and a runner on third in the bottom of the ninth inning with the score tied 2-2 in a post-season playoff game earlier this month and Kirstie Cortazzo was at-bat.
Cortazzo, a Jeannette High School graduate and then-senior on the Gannon University softball team, smacked a single to left-center to score teammate Alexa Archambeault and give Gannon a 3-2 win over Mansfield in the second round of the NCAA Division II Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) tournament.
Gannon would go on to lose in the next round, ending their season, but that game-winning hit would prove to be the final hit of Cortazzo's college softball career. And how appropriate for a player who emerged as one of the top players in the program's history and racked up a litany of highlight reel moments during her time with the team.
“I am very glad that the last hit of her college career was a walk-off base hit in the ninth inning of a PSAC playoff game to give us a victory,” said Gannon head coach Tom Jakubowski. “A proper finish for a great player.”
Cortazzo can't believe the run is over.
“It went way too fast, that's for sure,” she said. “I loved everything about playing softball for my school. I really don't know what I'm going to do without it. The softball team is like my family. It's really hard for me to realize that I'm not going to be going back to school.
“Playing college softball was a really good learning experience. It really made me mature.”
She certainly left her mark on the Gannon program. Throughout her four years, all as a starter, Cortazzo hit .326 with a .496 slugging percentage and a .383 on-base percentage. She had 158 hits, 16 home runs and 106 RBIs.
Despite missing eight games with a concussion, Cortazzo's senior season — during which she moved from second base to shortstop — was her best from a percentage standpoint as she had career highs in batting average (.375), slugging percentage (.600) and on-base percentage (.408).
“Kirstie was the heart and soul of our offense for four years,” said Jakubowski. “She is as good a hitter as I have ever coached and plays hard every pitch, every inning and every game.”
Cortazzo said her favorite Gannon softball memory was clubbing a walk-off grand slam in a win over California during her sophomore year, but, not surprisingly, her proudest accomplishment is a team accomplishment.
“I'm most proud of the fact that we were in the playoffs all four years I was there,” she said.
Cortazzo is graduating with 3.3 grade point average and a degree in criminal justice. In addition to embarking on a job hunt, she's continuing to stay involved in softball, playing in a co-ed league. She also hopes to land a coaching position.
“I definitely will stay involved in softball,” she said. “Softball is such a big part of my life. I can't imagine not being involved in the sport.”
Brian Knavish is a contributing writer.