Jeannette softball pitcher Hall has big week
Nicole Hall, a junior at Jeannette High School, is the starting pitcher for the Lady Jays.
The team has had few opportunities to play — or even practice outside — in the cold early days of this season, but in one of those games, Hall scored a grand slam.
“Practicing in the gym, in the beginning, it's not bad, but it gets annoying,” she said. “The balls you hit in the gym are not going to bounce the same way on the field.
“We're just ready to play, I think,” said Hall.
The chilly temperatures of March presented Hall and her teammates with an unusually long wait to get the spring season started. Even when games were held, the girls were quite cold at the start of the games.
“You do have to warm up longer,” she said. “Once you're warm, it's not as bad, but it's so cold in the beginning.”
Hall will share the mound this season with Mary Katherine Paulone. When Hall isn't pitching, she's hoping to play first base as her secondary position.
She's been playing softball since the age of 5 when she was introduced to T-ball.
“When I started pitching, I didn't really think I'd stick with it because I was absolutely terrible,” said Hall. “You have to do good for your team.”
She is playing with team members who she has played with for most of her life, which is something she enjoys. Hall also plays on a travel AAU softball team and will play in a tournament in Myrtle Beach in June.
She also plays on a Jeannette Baseball Association recreational team coached by her father, Roy Hall, who is also head coach of the Jayhawk football team. That 18U softball team will feature many members of the high school Lady Jays team.
Hall focuses on softball exclusively these days and said she enjoys the sport because “I like the fact that you can be up by five runs and they can score five runs like it's nothing. You have to be on your game at all times.”
Head coach Dee Cortazzo helps Hall and the team work on the skills they need and specifically helps Hall with her pitches.
“Everyone gets along with her and respects her,” said Hall. “She gives me the signs in the game and we have to work together.”
This year's team is “very talented and good players. This year we should come together as a team. We really need to help players who get down, get back up. That's important.”
The team's goal is to win sections and Hall said this should be the year.
“We have dedicated our season to Chris Cortazzo,” Hall said of Dee Cortazzo's husband, who passed away earlier this year. “It gives us the motivation to work hard and give 100 percent for him. It's very important to Dee and Delaney (Cortazzo) and it's important to the rest of us because we are a team.” Delaney Cortazzo is the daughter of Chris and Dee Cortazzo and is a senior on the softball team.
Hall's personal goal for this season is to play the best that she can for her team.
“The pitcher is not the most important player, but in order for the rest of the team to do good, the pitcher needs to step up and that's something I want to do because the rest of the team has potential.”
After graduation, Hall is considering majors in either pharmacy or engineering — two very different career paths that share one important component in mathematics skills. Hall said math is her favorite and best subject.
“I have a few schools I'm looking at and for pharmacy, you need to apply by August (the year prior to graduation).”
Hall said that while she may not have settled on pharmacy or engineering by August, she will apply to pharmacy schools to be sure her ducks are in a row regardless of her final major selection.
Because both majors are demanding on students, Hall doesn't believe she'll be able to play softball in college. If a good scholarship regarding softball comes her way, she said she will reconsider that position. If the scholarship were to be too good to pass up, Hall said she would dedicate herself to sharing time with her studies and athletics.
Either way, Hall does not plan to give up the sport of softball and will continue to play recreationally.
Hall is thankful to her parents, Roy and Patty Hall, for helping her find the motivation to pursue pitching.
“As a pitcher, you have to practice so much I probably wouldn't have done it without my parents pushing and motivating me,” she said. “I want to thank my team because you can't be successful on your own. I know we can do it this year.”
Kristie Linden is an editor for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 724-838-5154.