By John Torenli
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
When LIU-Brooklyn softball coach Roy Kortmann is in the midst of a hot streak, he insists on letting it ride.
“Don’t touch the money!” Kortmann implores his players when the going gets good. “Don’t touch the money!”
Moments after watching his Blackbirds capture the school’s 13th Northeast Conference softball championship Sunday afternoon in Moon Township, Pa., the seven-time NEC Coach of the Year finally could collect his winnings.
“Ok. Now you can touch the money,” he said.
With a 10-5 triumph over Quinnipiac in the tournament final, Downtown’s Blackbirds gave Kortmann his ninth NEC title and earned the right to meet No. 3 Arizona State in Tempe, Ariz., on Friday in the opening round of the NCAA Regionals.
Long Beach State and Syracuse will also be competing with LIU in the four-team bracket, with the Blackbirds’ first game against the Sun Devils scheduled for 9:30 p.m. ET.
Though they scuffled a bit down the stretch during the dog days of the regular season, losing three of their final four contests to squander a slim first-place lead, Kortmann’s crew was at its best when it mattered most.
“I’m really proud of them,” Kortmann said. “They just grew up in front of me in the last month and a half or so and we saw the result today. We played every game under pressure, but they kept their poise. It was great to watch.”
Last Thursday’s 5-0 blanking of the Bobcats set the stage for a weekend of brilliant pitching by staff ace Cassie Vondrak and the clutch hitting of Emily Kakuska and tournament MVP Sterling Hoham.
As reported in Friday’s Eagle, Kakuska backed a five-hitter by Vondrak in the tournament opener by blasting a clutch two-run homer in the top of the sixth inning against Quinnipiac ace Heather Schwartzburg to snap a scoreless deadlock.
Hoham, who hit .545 during the three-game run to the title, provided the only run Vondrak needed in Saturday’s 1-0 triumph over Robert Morris, belting a memorable solo blast in the seventh.
Vondrak, only a sophomore, tossed her second consecutive five-hitter while striking out three without issuing a walk. In the final, the right-hander from Carson City, Nev., finally ran into some trouble, yielding five runs – only two earned – on six hits and two walks with five strikeouts.
“She didn’t let go of the baton for a long time,” Kortmann said of Vondrak, who went 3-0 with an 0.74 ERA in the tournament. “It was finally time to give it up.”
Fortunately, the LIU offense finally caught fire, putting up three runs in the third inning and seven over its final two at-bats to pull away from the Bobcats for good. Megan Sheaf provided two innings of scoreless relief before the Blackbirds could celebrate.
“I knew we were going to hit at some point,” noted Kortmann.
Kakuska drove in a pair of runs to give her five RBIs for the tourney, and Hoham went 2-for-4 with an RBI while playing like the title-hungry senior she is at shortstop, as LIU returned to the NCAAs for the first time since 2010.
Two years ago, the Blackbirds nearly made a storied run through Regionals, beating Umass and Boston College before bowing out with a 9-1 loss to none other than Arizona State – its first-round foe on Friday.
As far as Kortmann is concerned, the bid for a national championship will begin with the same mantra his squad used this past weekend.
“The [modus operandi] doesn’t change,” he noted. “We just don’t touch the money. We come back [Friday] and try to win one.”
Why mess with a good thing?
Though they failed to qualify for the NEC Championships, the LIU-Brooklyn baseball squad went out on a high note Sunday afternoon at LIU Field, blanking Fairleigh Dickinson, 14-0, behind a four-hit shutout by NEC Rookie of the Week Jordan Wilcox.
The freshman right-hander out of Long Beach, Calif., carried a no-hitter into the fifth inning before the Knight’s Riley Moonan delivered a two-out single. In eight scintillating innings, Wilcox struck out four and did not issue a walk, allowing only three baserunners while firing 86 pitches.
Wilcox (3-1, 2.81 ERA) became the second Blackbird to earn NEC Rookie of the Week honors this season. Classmate Chance Fuglistahler got the nod on April 16.
LIU went 22-33 overall this season, including 13-19 in NEC play, but completed the campaign on a three-game winning streak.
The LIU-Brooklyn men’s and women’s track squads competed in the ECAC/IC4A Championships over the weekend in Princeton, N.J., with several Blackbirds posting strong times in a number of events.
On the men's side, junior Nickolei Mahlung finished third in the 100-meter dash with a time of 10.55. The Bishop Loughlin product raced to an even better time in the finals, with a 10.53.
Mahlung partnered with senior Jarenn Stewart and juniors Brian Richards and Jamal Roberts for a sixth place finish in the 4x100-meter relay, with a time of 41.08.
In the long jump, senior Corryl Boyd took second with a leap of 7.63 meters. Stewart was seventh at 7.36 meters.
On the women's side, senior Jazmin Waller, the Northeast Conference Championship Most Valuable Track Athlete, placed fourth in the 100-meter hurdles with a time of 13.95. Classmate Torrie Saunders was right behind her with a time of 14.11.
Fresh off their first NEC title since 2005, the LIU-Brooklyn women’s golf team took part in the NCAA East Regionals at Penn State on Saturday, with freshman Brianna Maynard posting team-best scores of 74-77-84 during the three-day event.
The Auckland, New Zealand native finished tied for 93rd. Northeast Conference Rookie of the Year Cristina Felip finished 112th after firing an opening round of 79 and a second round of 84. Felip improved on the final day, recording a 79.
Senior Anna Palsson rallied on the second day, shooting a 77-85 to close out the tournament and tie for 117th. Freshman Alice Boothroyd and senior Julia Rappa also competed for the Blackbirds.
South Carolina held onto the team title throughout the tournament, and Katerina Ruzickova from Texas A&M earned the individual title.
The Regionals completed a dream first season for first-year Blackbirds coach Natalie Desjardins, who guided LIU to tournament wins in the Lonnie Barton Invitational and the MU Hawk Invitational before a stirring come-from-behind triumph at the NEC Championships in Daytona Beach, Fla., on April 29.
Former St. Francis College basketball star Ricky Cadell is taking his game to another level in Portugal.
The Remsen Street school’s all-time leading scorer this week signed a professional contract to play with F.C. Porto of the Portuguese Basketball League – the top men’s circuit in the European nation.
Cadell will have a chance to make an immediate impact on Porto’s bid for a PBL title as the team will be competing in the league’s championship playoffs beginning in two weeks.
“It feels like a dream come true,” Cadell noted on the school’s web site. “It's not the NBA, but it’s still professional, organized basketball. I am just thankful and blessed for this opportunity. I'd like to thank all my family and coaches who have helped me throughout this journey.
“There are many challenges that I will face,” Cadell continued. “It's a matter of making the necessary adjustment, which I have done and I feel it's nothing that I can't handle. I'm just looking to have fun, enjoy this opportunity that I have been blessed with and take advantage of it.”
A native of Manhattan, Cadell made St. Francis history on Feb. 26, 2011, when he hit a 3-pointer from the right corner on Senior Day to become the Terriers’ most prolific scorer in the program’s century-long history.
“We are very excited that Ricky will have an opportunity to further his basketball career”, said Terriers head coach Glenn Braica, who enjoyed having Cadell on his unit during his first season at the helm. “He's worked extremely hard on his entire game and we wish him the very best of luck in Portugal.”
A two-time Second-Team All-Northeast Conference selection, the sharp-shooting guard also finished second on the school's all-time list with 222 career 3-point field goals. His 319 free throws made rank third on the all-time school list. In addition, he also finished his career with 377 rebounds, 246 assists and 133 steals.
The Brooklyn College women’s softball squad saw its season come to an unceremonious end last Thursday evening with a 5-0 loss at SUNY College at Old Westbury in the opening round of the Eastern College Athletic Conference Division III Metro Championships.
The sixth-seeded Lady Bulldogs completed the campaign with a 19-20 mark, but will lose only one player from this season’s squad due to graduation, raising hopes for a bid for the CUNYAC Championship in 2013.
BC center fielder Kim Konklewski, a 2012 CUNYAC All-Star First Team member, went 2-for-4 for the Bulldogs, who were limited to three hits by Old Westbury starter Alyssa Clancy.
Brooklyn native Marie Oneto, a sophomore, received Second-Team All-CUNYAC honors as did classmate Allison Donovan. Oneto, a product of James Madison High School, yielded all five runs in the season-ending defeat, but was one of the best pitchers in the league this year, going 16-11 with a 2.48 ERA.