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Jeannette softball makes school history with first-ever playoff win

| Tuesday, May 28, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Brianna Crawford catches an infield fly ball.
Brittany Williams scores on a two-run RBI hit by Sarah Pitzer in a Jeannette game.
PHOTOS: John Howard | The Jeannette Spirit
Delaney Cortazzo is poised to hit a fly ball to left field in a Jeannette game this season.
Jeannette Head Coach Dee Cortazzo enjoys her final home game as coach. She plans to retire following this season.

Jeannette softball did not win the WPIAL Class-A championship in 2013, it just felt like they did for a special group of players and their outgoing head coach to whom they dedicated this season.

Dee Cortazzo, in her 15th and final season at the helm in Jeannette, accomplished something in 2013 that no head coach in the more than 30 years of Jeannette softball has ever accomplished — she managed the Jayhawks to a playoff win.

Jeannette made history last Thursday when they came from behind to beat Sewickley Academy in the first round of the WPIAL Class-A playoffs — the first-ever softball playoff win in school history.

“Nobody can ever say again that Jeannette has not won a playoff game,” said Cortazzo. “The players on this team can point to 2013 and nobody can ever take that away from them.”

Jeannette fell behind 3-0 and 5-2 before tying the game in the sixth inning. The top of Jeannette's lineup had been quiet all game while the bottom of the order was productive — something Cortazzo expected.

“When I saw (Sewickley Academy's) pitcher warming up she was slower than we anticipated,” said Cortazzo. “Right there I knew it would be the bottom of the order that would pull us through because the top of our lineup likes faster pitchers.”

Batters five through nine were a combined 11-20 with three doubles and five runs batted in. Junior Brianna Crawford had four hits in five trips to the plate and the Jayhawks pitched and fielded well in the latter stages of the game to close out Sewickley Academy, 11-5.

Jeannette could not capitalize on the momentum of the school's historic first-round win, though, as they ran into a superior opponent Monday in Charmichaels, Class-A's third-seed coming into the playoffs. Charmichaels collected 18 hits and allowed just one, a Delaney Cortazzo double, on their way to a 15-0 victory over Jeannette.

“We knew they were going to be very good, and they were,” said Cortazzo. “We didn't hit the ball and they hit the ball. That was the story of that game.”

The story of the season, however, was far different for Jeannette. The Jayhawk players decided early on to dedicate the season to their head coach who suffered personal tragedy in the offseason when her husband Chris suddenly passed away. The goal was to make history in some way and Jeannette came through for their coach.

“It is a special group of girls and I love them all. I am so proud of them all,” said Cortazzo. “It is very hard to walk away from the game. I eat the game, drink the game, breathe the game. It has defined who I am.”

Dave Moio is a freelance writer.

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