Cortland softball has been very successful with Julie Lenhart as the head coach for the past 22 seasons. To break down even a small bit of the success, let us look at some numbers of the past 7 years:
- 6: SUNYAC Championships
- 6: SUNYAC Player of the Year winners
- 5: SUNYAC Tournament MVP’s
- 4: SUNYAC Pitcher of the Year winners
- 2: World Series Appearances
- 1: National Championship Appearance
I wanted to find out what goes on in Coach Lenhart’s mind and how she always leads her girls to a successful season. That is why I sat down with two of the seven seniors on the roster, second basemen Rosie Phillips and first basemen Mikayla Shade, to find out how coach plans to lead this year’s group to victory.
Coach has a different saying each year and, “Team, Teammate, Self.” is the one for 2017. It’s all about putting the team before anything else. As Mikayla explained it, “It’s just the focus of team as a whole. it’s not about you. There may be times that you can be a star player or the starter, but if you need to get pulled for a game, it’s okay. Put yourself last for the team.” Continuing on with doing everything you can for the team, coach always says to the girls,”win each inning”. It is not just the runs scored or given up each inning, it’s all the small things that go into each run scored that coach focuses on. Rosie further explained that by saying, “we want to be the ones that hop on the first pitch, the ones that don’t make any mistakes in the field and we want to have more hits, more runs, less errors per inning than the other team.” If they accomplish that, then they will win the game.
They go up against ranked teams to start the season and in their conference, any team can come away with a win any given day. However, when asked which teams they have their eye on, the following were named:
Oneonta: 22-17 (2016 Overall Record), 11-7 (2016 Conference Record), lost to Cortland in SUNYAC Tournament last year
Geneseo: 25-17 (2016 Overall Record). 14-7 (2016 Conference Record), lost to Cortland in SUNYAC Tournament last year
Rowan: 42-11 record in 2016, beat Cortland in Regionals and appeared in World Series last year
Cortland won the series in Oneonta last season and also eliminated them in the SUNYAC Tournament. All three games were decided by two runs, which shows these two teams match up pretty well. The girls say that Oneonta always has good players that come out to play every game. Look for this to be a competitive and well-played series, especially because it will be played during the second to last regular season weekend on April 22nd. That only means the teams will be at a point of the season where each player knows their role and have figured out how they win games.
The first thing the girls said about Geneseo is how they “pull out wins”. When teams, especially softball teams, can pull out wins when they need to, it can be dangerous. Nonetheless, Cortland swept Geneseo in the regular season last year, with one game being a 4-0 comeback won by a walk-off hit by third basemen and current senior, Kaleigh Churchill. Then they went on to beat them in the SUNYAC tournament to advance to the finals. Considering they face off in Geneseo April 29th, the last weekend before the conference tournament, expect it to be an exciting series to finish off the regular season.
Rowan sent Cortland packing last season on their home field during the Regional finals. That loss is still fresh in the mind of the remaining Cortland players. However, Cortland did beat Rowan once in regionals, and that motivates them to be able to do it again. These two faced off in the Red Dragon’s second game of the 2017 season and Rowan came away with the one-run win. One run outcomes against this team are common and this will only motivate them for the rest of the season and if they meet again, Cortland will be ready to compete and win.
Shortstop: Erin Wolstenholme (.361 BA, 6 HR)
Outfield: Diane Cork (.340 BA, 10 HR), Jamie Bucci (.415 BA, 46 runs scored)
Rosie says the difference this year, “is going to be getting used to a lot of different people in the field, because last year when we returned, we had pretty much our entire starting field back.” Erin, Bucci, and Cork were four-year starters who were an integral part of a fantastic run to the National Championship game in 2012 and key contributors to this program’s success the past four seasons. Bucci was a walk-on who earned a starting position and left the program ranked second in stolen bases. She also won SUNYAC Player of the Year, as well as set a single-season record with 24 stolen bases in her final season. Cork was awarded Rookie of the Year in 2012 and left the program as the leader in home runs with 35. Erin was a two-year captain who led the team in assists from shortstop and was a three-time All-SUNYAC honoree. With those three leaving, the team will lose speed, experience, and power. However, there are freshmen coming in and returners coming back that could step up and fill in what has left.
Outfielders: Kelly O’Gorman
Catchers: Hannah Thornhill, Victoria Brown
Utility: Ericka Sadowski
With two outfielders graduated, there is lost speed and quickness both in the field and at the plate. However, it looks as though two freshmen might be able to help right away with that. Kelly O’Gorman has a really good arm, quick bat and is fast, therefore, she is pegged to be playing center field. Ericka Sadowski, a lefty slap hitter, will take over the designated player position, which was filled last season by another slap hitter in junior Andrea Schoonmaker. Last season, Schoonmaker was awarded third-team All-Region for her role as the designated player, however, becoming the starting shortstop, her role is even more important on the field this year. Mikayla said, “having the two (Schoonmaker and Ericka) together in the lineup will be pretty interesting. They are really quick.” A couple more freshmen, Hannah and Victoria, are catchers who have been working with their assistant coach and has Mikayla impressed, saying, “I feel like you can put any one of them into the game and they can do well.”
As we know now, Coach Lenhart focuses on the little things. Rosie also explained coaches season goal and focus perfectly, saying “she always focuses on conference first. So she says win conference, then we move on to regionals and then however far we get. So that’s our focus right now.” Mikayla added on by saying, “one thing I never realized before was how coach said no SUNYAC team ever has won three (championships) in a row. So we have two down, so it’d be nice to get the third.” They are hungry to end their career on top and from what I gather, they feel they have the right pieces in place to reach that goal.
If they get pitching and hitting, two parts of their game they feel are a strength, clicking at the same time, it looks like this years team could do some damage and make a postseason run. I look forward to watching them compete and capturing the moments along the way. Good luck to the Cortland Softball team this season!
If you would like to support the girls, whether in person or online, check out their schedule.