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Jeannette's Cortazzo is already gearing up for next step

| Thursday, Jan. 3, 2013, 10:14 p.m.

During the holiday break, many college sports come to a halt. Athletes generally enjoy the time off, focusing on “the now” as they celebrate with friends and family. But, at the same time, their attention begins to drift to the future as they itch to get back on campus.

While she's not yet a college athlete, Delaney Cortazzo can relate.

Cortazzo, a Jeannette High School senior, recently signed an NCAA letter-of-intent to play college softball for Division II Fairmont State in West Virginia. She's “very excited” to play college ball at Fairmont State, but she also knows that her more immediate focus is the current basketball season and the softball season, which will be here before you know it.

“I'm thinking about my high school season and my senior year first,” she said. “That's what's most important right now. Then I will focus on Fairmont and what I have to do to get ready to play in college.”

While she's a multi-sport athlete, Cortazzo comes from a family that's “softball first.” Her mother, Dee Cortazzo, is also her head coach at Jeannette. Her sister, Kirstie, is a star player with Gannon University.

Not surprisingly, softball is also Delaney's best sport. During her three high school seasons to this point, she has a .442 batting average. Last year she hit .467 with 21 hits (including nine extra-base hits), two home runs, 18 RBIs and 20 runs scored.

She's played primarily shortstop at Jeannette, but Fairmont recruited her as an outfielder. And that's just fine with Delaney.

“I play outfield for my traveling team and I actually like outfield better,” she said.

Her coach feels the outfield is a better fit.

“I know where she's going to be a better asset and I know she'll be able to go and help that team in the outfield,” said Dee Cortazzo. “She's going to be able to go and contribute in the outfield right away.”

Delaney picked Fairmont over Gannon and West Liberty.

“I fell in love with Fairmont's campus, she said. “Then, I went back for another visit, and I saw how close the team was.”

Delaney playing college ball is great for the Cortazzo family. That means, next year, both Delaney and Kirstie will be playing collegiately. That does create one problem.

“I'll have one up north and one down south, so that's going to be awful,” said Dee, who explained that her duties as Jeannette's coach means catching Kirstie play has already been tough enough. “My husband and I will have to split games.”

But, if Gannon and Fairmont could only square off … “They have a chance to play each other in the WVIAC-PSAC Challenge in March,” she said, adding that “I won't be rooting for one team over the other if that happens.”

DePalma winning early

Jeannette High School graduate Michael DePalma, a redshirt freshman on the Division I Edinboro University wrestling team, is racking up the wins early this season.

DePalma entered the holiday break 12-4 overall with two pins and three major decisions while competing at both the 149- and 157-pound weight classes this season. He was the champion at the 149-pound weight class in the University of Buffalo Invitational and finished third at 157 in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference championships and the Michigan State Invitational.

Young also winning

Jeannette area native Shane Young is also winning on the wrestling mat for Division I West Virginia. Young, a senior 125-pounder and Penn-Trafford grad, is 5-1 for the Mountaineers.

Cook contributing

Jeannette grad Kayla Cook, a junior guard on the Division I Coastal Carolina University women's basketball team, is currently sixth on the team in scoring with a 5.3 points per game average.

She tied for the team lead with 10 points in the Chanticleers' 50-30 against Presbyterian on Saturday. They are now 6-6 overall and 1-1 in the Big South Conference. Next up is a home game against Charleston Southern this Saturday, Jan. 5. The game will be broadcast live at GoCCUSports.com.

Brian Knavish is a freelance writer.

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