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LIU-Brooklyn’s Kortmann is Mr. 600

Long-Time Blackbirds Softball Coach Nabs Milestone Victory

April 27, 2016 By John Torenli, Sports Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Roy Kortmann and his players celebrated his 600th career win as head softball coach for LIU-Brooklyn last Saturday afternoon in Emmitsburg, Maryland. Photo courtesy of LIU-Brooklyn Athletics
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Faith and family first.

Academics second.

And, of course, softball third.

Those have been the tenets of Roy Kortmann’s philosophy during an illustrious 21-years-and-counting run as LIU-Brooklyn’s head softball coach.

“As long as one, two and three stay in that order, we hopefully have a good balanced kid here,” Kortmann said, after posting his 600th career win for the Blackbirds during a doubleheader sweep of Mount St. Mary’s last Saturday in Emmitsburg, Maryland.

“The game itself is the ultimate teacher,” he added. “The lessons we learn from the game.”

Those lessons have produced mind-boggling results for the longest-tenured coach at the school.

Kortmann’s reign has produced a record 13 Northeast Conference titles, more than any coach in any sport in the league’s history, and nine subsequent trips to the NCAA Tournament, 10 regular-season NEC crowns, eight NEC Coach of the Year awards and 100 All-Conference players.

Oddly enough, Kortmann wasn’t even aware of women’s collegiate softball when he first interviewed for the job back in 1995.

“I had no idea where to find a girl playing softball,” the Manalapan, N.J., resident revealed. “I got the job, and 20 something years later it’s been a lot of fun and very rewarding. I’m so glad I’ve had this experience.”

“I don’t think he ever coached girls,” added Margaret Alaimo, LIU’s deputy director of athletics, who hired Kortmann all those years ago  

“I kind of just knew right away [after interviewing him].”

Kortmann even ceded that he wasn’t quite sure how to approach his new position, hitting ground balls in practice softer than usual to his new players upon accepting the post.

“You can hit them harder than that,” assistant coach Bill Gehrke, who has been with Kortmann every step of the way during his two decades-plus on the job, insisted.

And so Kortmann hit them harder, coached them to give all they had in the classroom as well as on the softball diamond and, ultimately, left his players with something much more valuable than individual awards or team championships.

“He pushed me and I pushed him back and we both got the most out of each other,” said Jenny Giles, an All-Conference pitcher from the Class of 2009.

“He’s done a lot for us, not just in softball, but in life,” added Class of 2010 alum Mariesha Marker.

And he keeps doing it, year in and year out.

After suffering a heartbreaking extra-inning loss to Central Connecticut in last year’s NEC Championship Game, the Blackbirds (22-24 overall, 10-2 NEC) are right back in contention to vie for Kortmann’s 10th title during next month’s NEC Tournament.

They rode a nine-game winning streak into Wednesday’s home game against non-conference foe Rutgers, and will host Sacred Heart for a doubleheader here at LIU Field on Saturday, hoping to make up the half-game difference between themselves and first-place St. Francis University.

But for Kortmann, his greatest success has been developing better people, not ballplayers, for LIU-Brooklyn.

“Our girls have a special opportunity to not only play competitive Division I softball at LIU, but they are doing it in the heart of New York City, where there will be countless opportunities for them after they graduate,” he said before embarking on Season 21 in Downtown Brooklyn.

“Education always comes first, and with that, the need to balance academics and their responsibilities on the softball diamond.”

That balancing act has been pulled off to near perfection by the Blackbirds’ coaching sage, who has been as much of a father figure to his players over these years as he has been a coach.

“I think what Roy really expects from his players is that character is the most important thing,” said former Blackbird Chris Devivo.

“I think what Roy did to this program is to say, ‘Hey listen, love the sport, love the people you play for and love yourself.’”

* * *

After grabbing their first CUNYAC men’s basketball title since 2010 back in February under second-year head coach Rich Mcallef, the Brooklyn College Bulldogs will be honored once again on May 26 as recipients of the annual Schoenfeld Sportsmanship Award, presented by the Collegiate Basketball Officials Association.

The honor is the most prestigious of the awards given every year by the CBOA, and is received by the squad that best exemplifies “the highest degree of sportsmanship, character and ethics among their players, coaches and spectators.”

The Bulldogs last received the honor back in 1987-88, when Micallef was playing for then-head coach Mark Reiner.

This year’s team went 22-7 overall, 11-5 in conference play and knocked off Baruch College, 76-67, in the CUNYAC Championship Game to reach the NCAA Division III Tournament.

Though they ultimately fell to NYU in the opening round of the NCAAs, the Bulldogs appear to have a bright future.

“We have a lot to look forward to,” said senior forward and Brooklyn native Jamel Gist.

“A great coach running the show. We set a trend, a mold, for the team next year to get back here and fight every night. Brooklyn College will definitely dance again in the future.”

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