By John Torenli
LIU-Brooklynsoftball coach Roy Kortmann moved on quickly from last Friday night’s 9-0, five-inning loss to defending national champion Arizona State in the opening round of the NCAA Regionals in Tempe, Ariz.
“We are past this loss already and we are going to come out and try to win the game tomorrow,” insisted Kortmann, who this year guided the Blackbirds to their ninth Northeast Conference title during his 13-year tenure at the helm of the blossoming program.
Much as they have done throughout this season, Kortmann’s players responded to his brushing off of the defeat to the powerhouse Sun Devils.
But unfortunately, they came up just short of advancing to play another game after a heartbreaking 5-4 loss to Long Beach State on Saturday that ended the latest in a long line of successful seasons for the Downtown Brooklyn school.
Junior Megan Sheaf pitched 5 1/3 solid innings and delivered a pair of hits and freshman Paris Shipp went 2-for-3 with a homer, triple and three RBIs, but the Blackbirds ultimately lost a nine-inning thriller to the 49ers.
Kortmann implored his unit to keep looking forward throughout the campaign, creating mantras such as “Don’t Touch the Money” to remind them that they were only going to be as good as their next game.
The coach even resorted to calling Blackbird opponents Twizzler State in order to prevent his squad from getting caught up with the other team’s credentials.
But after staff ace Cassie Vondrak was reached for six earned runs on six hits over 3 1/3 innings in the opener against ASU, the Blackbirds certainly looked like a small NEC program compared to the powerhouses from the West.
Undaunted, they fought tooth and nail with the 49ers, taking the game to extra frames before Leilani Tupua-Tautalatasi ripped a walk-off RBI double off the right-field wall to send the Blackbirds back to Brooklyn.
LIU, which captured its 13th NEC title overall this season, won a pair of games at the 2010 NCAA Regionals before being knocked off by ASU, which has won two of the last four national championships.
“We are really young. Our experience level is low on the totem poll,” Kortmann told the Eagle last week, citing that only three of his 19 players were seniors.
That bodes well for an LIU team hungry for a return trip to the NCAAs, this time with hopes of advancing beyond the Regional round.
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LIU-Brooklyn’s Jordan Wilcox was named the NEC Freshman of the Year this week by the College Sports Madness website.
The first-year right-hander from Long Beach, Calif., went 3-1 with a 2.81 ERA in 14 outings, including 11 starts, for the Blackbirds this past season. He finished the season in impressive fashion, tossing eight innings in a 14-0 shutout of Fairleigh Dickinson in the team’s season finale.
Sophomore outfielder Pete Leonello, who led the NEC with 71 hits this year, received First-Team All-Conference honors from the website, while Wilcox and LIU catcher Tyler Jones made the second team.
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Over at St. Francis College, the school’s trailblazing director of athletics, Irma Garcia, received the latest in a series of honors last week from the Women’s Sports Foundation.
Garcia, a St. Francis alum with a master’s degree from Brooklyn College, made the foundation’s prestigious 40 for 40 list of women who have made a significant impact on society after playing sports in high school or college during the 40-year Title IX era. She made history in 2007 by becoming the first-ever Hispanic woman to run a Division I NCAA athletics program.
Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 paved the way for female student-athletes to be provided the same opportunities as their male counterparts. Garcia has clearly made the most of the chance Title IX gave her.
“I am touched to be associated with a group of distinguished women who have pioneered and paved the way for equality not only in athletics but in the work force,” said Garcia, who came to St. Francis as a women’s basketball player in 1976 before coaching the team in the late 1980s.
“These women and many before us are an inspiration and continue to be great female role models,” she said. “Since the inception of Title IX, it is clear how the opportunity of playing a sport has impacted women not only in the world of athletics but in other leadership roles. Without Title IX there is no female secretary of state, there would be no women anchoring the news. I will remain passionate in my commitment to make continued strides in ensuring gender equality in the world of athletics.”
Others making this year’s list include: Comedienne and writer Tina Fey, rapper turned actress Queen Latifah, former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and television journalist Robin Roberts.
The honorees will be recognized on June 21 at the JW Marriott in Washington, DC.
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Junior first baseman Corine Fitgibbons of the NYU-Polytechnic softball team was named to the National Fastpitch Coaches Association Second Team out of the Atlantic Region.
The Fontbonne Academy graduate was the only player selected from the entire Skyline Conference after helping the Lady Jays to a perfect regular season in league play.