Cortazzo proud to help Jeannette softball make history in senior season
Delaney Cortazzo, who has been playing softball since she was 4 years old, has finished her final season as a Lady Jay. In the fall, she'll become a Fighting Falcon at Fairmont State University in West Virginia.
This final season — final for both Cortazzo and her mother and head coach Dee Cortazzo — has likely been a roller coaster of emotions. Cortazzo's father, and travel softball team coach, Chris Cortazzo, passed away suddenly early this year.
Softball is a family affair for the Cortazzos. Both parents have been coaches for many years and Cortazzo and her older sister, Kirstie, have played since they were old enough to be on the softball field. Kirstie Cortazzo plays softball at Gannon University, where she will be a senior in the fall.
As the Cortazzo family dealt with their heartbreak, their Jayhawk softball teammates and extended family rallied around them. The team dedicated this season to Chris Cortazzo and the result of that dedication was the team's first-ever playoff win in the history of Jeannette softball.
“I really appreciate it,” said Cortazzo. “He would be really happy. He would have been proud of everyone of those kids on that field. There are kids on that team that have been through the same thing and that helped me get through it a lot.”
Having grown up with not one but two parents as coaches, Cortazzo said it can be very hard to be coached by parents —mainly because relationships with coaches and parents are very different.
“You always talk a certain way to your parents and a different way to your coaches,” said Cortazzo. “And, they push you harder than the others.”
In mid-August, Cortazzo will get a new coach —Falcons' head coach Rick Wade. In high school, she has played shortstop for many years but in college she hopes to move to center field because she believes that the outfield will be more action-packed thanks to the power hitters at the Division II level.
“And, outfield wins games,” she said. “That's the last line of defense. Shortstop was a good fit at the high school level because I'm quick and have a strong arm.”
In that role this year, Cortazzo and her team entered the playoffs for just the second time and won the first-round game — something no other Jeannette team has done.
“I'm very proud of the team. I didn't have the best season this year, but the younger kids stepped up and I'm very proud. That's why we got there, because of my teammates,” said Cortazzo.
The team will lose five seniors to graduation, but “they're going to be fine next year. They only need an outfielder and they'll be perfectly fine. I think they'll do good next year.”
She fell short of some personal goals this season. For example, Cortazzo had hoped to beat her sister's batting average. “I didn't get there, but I could have.”
Luckily, Cortazzo's competitive nature won't have to wait long before getting back into action. Her tournament team, the Renegades, will be traveling all summer including a weeklong trip to Virginia Beach. The team, based largely in Belle Vernon, is made up of athletes ages 18 and younger.
Over the summer, Cortazzo will also be following a workout program set by her soon-to-be college coach to help her prepare for playing at the next level.
“I'm really excited. I'm very competitive and the college level is very competitive. I'll be a better fit there. Jeannette is the smallest town with the biggest heart,” Cortazzo said, explaining it's hard to imagine playing elsewhere. “But I know they'll do good and I'll be watching.”
At Fairmont State, Cortazzo will study pre-med and after completing her four years she'll transfer to another school to continue toward her goal of becoming a physician's assistant.
“I love everything about the human body. I love to help people figure out what's wrong and how to fix it.”
After school, she feels softball will remain part of her life. In high school, Cortazzo has also played basketball and soccer, but softball is the sport that is such a large part of who she is.
“It's what I know. It's what I'm good at,” she said. “It's going to keep the connection with my dad because he loves it so much.”
Her father coached her in two tournament teams, the Hurricanes and the Renegades. She can picture following in her parents' footsteps and becoming a softball coach as an adult.
For now, she's just ready for the next step.
“I'm so excited. It's going to be a reality check when you go to college, but you get to start all over and get a fresh start.”
Cortazzo is thankful to her team and her coaches and to everyone who helped this year's team to do what it did.
“And I'm thankful to my dad for being one of the best coaches I've ever met,” said Cortazzo.
Kristie Linden is an editor for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 724-838-5154.